GRACE COMMUNION INTERNATIONAL (GCI), formerly the WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF
GOD (WCG) and the RADIO CHURCH OF GOD, is an evangelical Christian
denomination based in
Originally based in
Within a few years of Armstrong's death in 1986, the succeeding church administration conducted a thorough review of many of Armstrong's doctrines, in the light of New Testament teaching; though many members and ministers left and formed other churches that conformed to many but not all of Armstrong's teachings. In 2009, the church changed its name from The Worldwide Church of God to its current name. The GCI is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals , and has 50,000 members in 900 congregations in about 100 countries.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Beginnings
* 1.2 1970s
* 1.2.1 Ambassador International Cultural Foundation * 1.2.2 Scandal and conflict * 1.2.3 Receivership crisis
* 1.3 Armstrong\'s death and doctrinal changes * 1.4 Women\'s ordination
* 2 Beliefs and practices
* 2.1 Current teachings * 2.2 Historical teachings under Armstrong
* 3 Structure
* 3.1 International * 3.2 Regional and local
* 4 Finances * 5 Related denominations
* 6 References
* 6.1 Citations * 6.2 Sources
* 7 External links
The Radio Church of God began with Herbert W. Armstrong, who in 1931
was ordained by the Oregon Conference of the Church of God
(Seventh-Day) , an Adventist group, and began serving a congregation
Although his views were rejected by the local congregation, he gained
a growing following of his own, chiefly through his World Tomorrow
broadcasts and the Plain Truth magazine. Armstrong moved to
The broadcast of The World Tomorrow went into Europe on Radio Luxembourg on January 7, 1953. In 1956, Armstrong published the booklet 1975 in Prophecy! , which predicted an upcoming nuclear war and subsequent enslavement of mankind, leading to the return of Jesus Christ . He explained that the book was written to contrast the spiritual condition of the world to the modern inventions that scientists were promising for the year 1975.
In 1971 Armstrong criticized teachings that Christ would return in 1975 and that the church should flee to a "place of safety" in 1972, as no man knew the time of Christ's return (Matthew 24:36 and 25:13). Armstrong wrote that 1975 would be the least possible year for Christ's return.
Because of his strong emphasis on these prophetic dates, the church grew quickly in the late 1960s and, on January 5, 1968, was renamed the Worldwide Church of God .
Garner Ted Armstrong
Armstrong's church was both authoritarian and totalitarian in its treatment of the membership. To maintain the membership's loyalty, Armstrong's ministers indoctrinated them to believe that they had been "called" by God into the only true Christian church on Earth and that all other Christian churches were Satanic counterfeits. If a called member were to question church doctrines, the member would be in peril of losing salvation and of being cast into the lake of fire on Judgment Day. Furthermore, ministers could arbitrarily disfellowship members who were suspected of any type of disloyalty. Disfellowshipping was openly announced in Sabbath services on a weekly basis but the reasons for it were rarely given. Still the church grew on a worldwide scale.
Armstrong taught a strict doctrine of tithing to the members. Ten percent of a member's gross income was to be given to the church, and yet another ten percent was to be saved for traveling to one of the church's annual feast days, the Feast of Tabernacles. Every third year, members were commanded to give a third tithe, slated to care for the "widows and orphans" of the church. Finally, the church observed seven high holy days throughout the year, on which members were asked to give offerings while baskets were passed. Every month Herbert Armstrong would mail out a co-worker letter to millions of non-members, as well as to his members, in which he would claim that the church was on the verge of financial collapse. In reality, the church headquarters in Pasadena rested on prime real estate and had been modestly estimated to value $300,000,000. Armstrong's mansion was on Orange Grove Boulevard, on the route of the annual Rose Parade. The church possessed several mansions in that area, known as Millionaire's Row, and it had built other large facilities on the thirty-acre property, leading up to the building of a spectacular concert hall dubbed Ambassador Auditorium .
Armstrong spared no expense in the building of his Auditorium. Its external walls were made of emerald onyx . The walls in the outer lobby were made of a rare pink onyx, and they contained expensive chandeliers, including two that had been owned by the Shah of Iran , hung from the gilt ceilings. In the concert hall, the walls were decorated with rosewood , so delicate that visitors were forbidden to take flash photographs.
In 1970, the first of many groups to splinter from the Worldwide
Church of God were founded. Carl O'Beirn of
When the fall of 1972 came and the time to flee to a place of safety
did not occur, there was yet another exodus of members. However,
church leaders created a red herring in order to divert members from
believing that the prophecy had failed. They blamed the members
themselves for not being faithful enough; then they proclaimed a new
gospel—that Armstrong was to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to
every nation and kingdom on Earth, as commissioned in the last chapter
of Matthew, before Jesus would return. Armstrong set about to do this
with the help of some public relations aides and King Leopold of
Ambassador International Cultural Foundation
During the sixties "Armstrong had sought to put into stronger action
what he later termed God’s way of give ". To Armstrong and his
students, this was generally said to include "the way of character,
generosity, cultural enrichment, true education: of beautifying the
environment and caring for fellow man." He began undertaking
humanitarian projects in underprivileged locales around the world,
which sparked the creation of the church-run Ambassador International
Cultural Foundation (AICF) in 1975. The Foundation’s efforts reached
into several countries, providing staffing and funds to fight
illiteracy, to create schools for the disabled, to set up mobile
schools, and to conduct several archaeological digs at significant
biblical sites. The church auditorium hosted, at highly subsidized
ticket prices, hundreds of performances by noted artists such as
Quest was a periodical that was published monthly by AICF from July 1977 to September 1981. Originally published under the title Human Potential , the project was directed by Stanley Rader as a secular outreach of the church-funded AICF. Quest publishers hired a professional staff unrelated to the church to create a high-quality, glossy publication devoted to the humanities , travel, and the arts . The original name and design of Human Potential were conceived in the aftermath of Armstrong's poorly received 1975 in Prophecy! , a publication which caused accusations of false prophecy to spread like wildfire. (The use of the year 1975 was defended by church ministers as a device to explain Biblical prophecy, by contrasting it with the scientific world's declaration of 1975 as the year of technological "Utopia".)
The AICF had become secular in its approach and thinking. Thus, the church began to cut back on its funding. Eventually, because the AICF was perceived to have strayed from its original goals, it was discontinued by Armstrong and its assets were sold to other interests.
Scandal And Conflict
Many members were disappointed that the events predicted in Biblical
prophecy, expounded and preached about by Herbert Armstrong, have not
come yet to pass. Most were unaware that Herbert Armstrong had been
preaching about Revelation and Bible Prophecy on the radio as far back
as World War II, when he had proclaimed Hitler and Mussolini could
have filled the roles of the Beast and False Prophet of the Book of
Revelation . After the war ended, Armstrong attended a meeting in San
Francisco in which a proposal was made to create the United Nations.
He had also read a quote from
Herbert Armstrong began to speak openly and critically of his son.
Garner Ted spoke of greatly expanding the church's media ministry on
the model of the Church of Christ, Scientist with its widely read
Christian Science Monitor to which
Herbert W. Armstrong
In a report in the May 15, 1972, edition of Time magazine, Herbert Armstrong was reported to have said that Garner Ted was "in the bonds of Satan." The elder Armstrong did not elaborate, but it was speculated that Herbert was alluding to Garner Ted's alleged problems with gambling and adultery with Ambassador College co-eds, and to serious doctrinal differences. Garner Ted Armstrong was soon relieved of his star role within the church.
While Garner Ted Armstrong was removed, Stanley Rader was orchestrating the church's involvement in a number of corporations which Rader and Herbert W. Armstrong established. Critics saw Rader's moves as an attempt to seize control of the church. Rader characterized his involvement as that of an adviser and claimed that his advice was opening doors for Armstrong that a strict theological role would not have allowed for. Herbert Armstrong claimed that he did not approve of the establishment of the AICF, which Rader set up ostensibly to give the elder Armstrong a role as the "Ambassador for World Peace without portfolio".
Despite the scandals of 1972, the church continued to grow in the 1970s, with Herbert Armstrong still at the helm. In 1975, Armstrong baptized Stanley Rader, who until then had been a practitioner of Judaism despite his association with the church.
After being left a widower by the death of his wife, Loma, eleven
years earlier, Armstrong married Ramona Martin, a woman nearly fifty
years younger, in 1977 and moved to
Garner Ted Armstrong began his own church in 1978 in Tyler, Texas,
after the rivalry between the younger Armstrong and Stanley Rader
intensified. As the accusations of Garner Ted's past resurfaced,
Herbert W. Armstrong started giving more responsibilities to Stanley
Rader. This action was infuriating to the younger Armstrong, who
thought it his birthright to take over as the leader of the Church.
The adultery problems that reportedly had previously driven Garner Ted
from the church allegedly continued unabated. In 1978, after a failed
attempt to seize control of the Church from the Elder Armstrong,
Garner Ted Armstrong was disfellowshipped a final time. Garner Ted
Garner Ted Armstrong blamed Stanley Rader for his two-time ousting
from his father's church. Several members in good standing with the
Worldwide Church of God at the time, prompted the State of California
to investigate charges of malfeasance by Rader and Herbert W.
Armstrong. In 1979,
California Attorney General
The matter gained the attention of
In the meantime, Herbert W. Armstrong switched the Worldwide Church of God Inc. corporations to "Corporate Sole" status, making him the sole officer and responsible party for the affairs of the corporations. All income, tithes and checks were then made payable to the personal name of Herbert W. Armstrong and sent to his home in Tucson, Arizona.
In referring to the investigation of the California Attorney General, Rader wrote Against the Gates of Hell: The Threat to Religious Freedom in America in 1980, in which he contended that his fight with the Attorney General was solely about the government's circumventing religious freedoms rather than about abuse of public trust or fraudulent misappropriation of tithe funds.
The California Second Court of Appeals overturned the decision on procedural grounds and added as dicta, "We are of the opinion that the underlying action and its attendant provisional remedy of receivership were from the inception constitutionally infirm and predestined to failure."
Stanley Rader left his positions within the church in 1981. While remaining a member, he left the public spotlight as an attorney, retired, but continued to receive payments from The Worldwide Church of God on his lifetime contract, Three Hundred Thousand Dollars per year, until his death from acute pancreatic cancer on July 2, 2002.
ARMSTRONG\'S DEATH AND DOCTRINAL CHANGES
On January 16, 1986, Herbert Armstrong died in Pasadena, California. Shortly before his death, on January 7, Armstrong appointed Joseph W. Tkach Sr. to succeed him "... as pastor general, in the difficult times ahead".
As early as 1988,
Joseph W. Tkach
In general, Tkach Sr. directed the church theology towards mainstream evangelical Christian belief. This caused much disillusionment among the membership and another rise of splinter groups. All these changes, the church admits, have organizationally brought about "catastrophic results," though they believe that it is spiritually the best thing that ever happened to them. During the tenure of Joseph Tkach Sr., the church's membership declined by about 50 percent. His son, Joseph Tkach Jr., succeeded him after his death in 1995.
Eventually all of Herbert Armstrong's writings were withdrawn from print by the Worldwide Church of God. In the 2004 video production Called To Be Free , Greg Albrecht, former dean of WCG's Ambassador College, declared Herbert Armstrong to be both a false prophet and a heretic .
In 2007 the Worldwide Church of God decided to allow women to serve as pastors and elders. This decision was reached after several years of study. Debby Bailey became the first female elder in the Worldwide Church of God in 2007.
BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
After Armstrong's death, the church's new leadership began a process of theological revision. The church now claims that it is considered to be within the evangelical mainstream as shown by its acceptance into the National Association of Evangelicals . Its doctrinal summary highlights mainstream Protestant beliefs such as the Trinity , the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that faith in him is the only way to receive salvation, and that the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God.
HISTORICAL TEACHINGS UNDER ARMSTRONG
Main article: Armstrongism
Until Armstrong's death, the Worldwide Church of God adhered to its
founder's teachings. The most notable feature was Armstrong's version
of British Israelism , which was based on reading the account of Jacob
blessing his sons (Genesis 49) as end-time prophecy. Armstrong saw in
it a description of national characteristics of contemporary
descendants of Jacob, and he deduced that the United States , the
Armstrong rejected the doctrine of the Trinity , regarding it as a pagan concept that had been absorbed into mainstream Christianity. Armstrong contended that God was not a closed Trinity but was instead building a family through the Holy Spirit, which Armstrong considered to be God's powerful unifying essence guiding and bringing to remembrance those things which Christ taught. Armstrong contended that the Spirit is not a distinct personality like the Father and the Son. Armstrong also taught that members of the church would actually become members of the God family themselves after the resurrection. Armstrong rejected as unbiblical the traditional Christian views of heaven , hell , eternal punishment and salvation.
The church strictly observed the Saturday Sabbath , annual festivals described in the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus , and strongly advocated the clean meats listed in Leviticus 11. Members were encouraged to tithe and to follow a dress code during services. They were discouraged from marrying outside the church. In fact, these practices are still observed in several of the Church's remaining branches today. Herbert W. Armstrong summarized his teachings in his book Mystery of the Ages , published shortly before his death. This book was the centerpiece of a titanic struggle between the Philadelphia Church of God and the remnant of the Worldwide Church of God under Joseph Tkach Jr. The battle went as far as the United States Supreme Court. At that point, however, the leaders of the WCG decided to drop the case and give over not only Mystery of the Ages, but also several other works originally written by Armstrong.
Under Armstrong's leadership, the Worldwide Church of God was accused of being a cult with unorthodox and, to most Christians, heretical teachings. Critics also contended that the WCG did not proclaim salvation by grace through faith alone, but rather required works as part of salvation. The late Walter Martin , in his classic The Kingdom of the Cults, devoted 34 pages to the group, claiming that Armstrong borrowed freely from Seventh-Day Adventist , Jehovah\'s Witnesses and Mormon doctrines. Armstrong contended that all Church doctrine could be proven simply and effectively through the Bible , and that one did not need to "accept on faith" any of the Worldwide Church of God's doctrinal beliefs.
Grace Communion International has a hierarchical polity . Its ecclesiastical policies are determined by the Advisory Council of Elders. Members of the Advisory Council are appointed by the President. The President, who also holds the title of Pastor General, is chief executive and ecclesiastical officer of the denomination. A Doctrinal Advisory Team may report to the Advisory Council on the church's official doctrinal statements, epistemology , or apologetics . The President may pocket veto doctrinal positions he determines to be heretical . However, the President is also a member of the Doctrinal Advisory Team, and so he is aware of and involved in the activities of that committee. Historically, Presidents, as chairmen of the board of directors, have appointed their own successor. This and the President's power to appoint and remove members of the Advisory Council have remained areas of concern even among those who applaud the church's doctrinal changes.
The Church maintains national offices and satellite offices in
multiple countries. Pastor General Joseph Tkach, Jr. periodically
travels worldwide in personal appearance campaigns to congregations in
diverse intercontinental areas, such as Great Britain,
REGIONAL AND LOCAL
In the United States, denominational contact with local assemblies or local church home small group meetings, i.e., cell churches , is facilitated by district superintendents, each of which is responsible for a large number of churches in a geographical region (such as Florida or the Northeast) or in a specialized language group (such as Spanish-speaking congregations).
Local churches are led by a senior pastor, pastoral leadership team (with one person designated as a congregational pastoral leader), each of which is supervised by a district pastoral leader. Some senior pastors are responsible for a single local church, but many are responsible for working in two or more churches. Salary compensation for the paid local church pastor, if available, is determined by the local church.
Most local church groups retain the long-standing traditional policy of meeting in leased or rented facilities for meetings or services. The trend since 2000, however, has been to adopt a local church setting blending into the local milieu with headquarters retaining administrative oversight functions. As of 2005, the church established a new computer system of financial checks and balances for church budgets at the local level. Also, GCI now mandates a local Advisory Council, which includes a number of volunteer ministry leaders (some of whom are also called deacons), and often additional elders or assistant pastors.
The early Worldwide Church of God used a three-tithe system, under which members were expected to give a tithe or ten percent "of their increase," usually interpreted as a family's income.
* The first tithe, 10 percent of a member's total income, was sent to church headquarters to finance "the work", which was all operations of the church, as well as broadcasting and publishing the church's message. * The second tithe was saved by the individual member to fund the member's (and his family's) observance of the annual holy days, especially the 8-day-long Feast of Tabernacles. Unlike the first tithe, these funds were not sent into the church but retained by the member. * A third tithe was required in the third and sixth years of a personal seven-year tithing cycle, and it was also sent to headquarters. The third tithe was used to support the indigent, widows, and orphans - distribution was decided privately at the discretion of the ministry.
In contrast to many other churches' religious services, the practice of the WCG was not to pass around offering plates during weekly church services but only during holy day church services (seven days each year). These funds were considered "freewill offerings" and regarded as entirely separate from regular tithes. The church also gathered funds in the form of donations from "co-workers," those who read the church's free literature or watched the weekly TV show but did not actually attend services.
Under Joseph W. Tkach Sr., the mandatory nature of the church's three-tithe system was abolished, and it was suggested that tithes could be calculated on net, rather than gross, income. Today, the GCI headquarters has downsized for financial survival. The denomination sold much of its property, including sites used for festivals, campsites built for teenagers, its college campuses, and private aircraft. They discontinued publishing all the books, booklets and magazines published by Armstrong.
To further economize, the church sold its properties in Pasadena and purchased an office building in Glendora, California. Formerly, the church's membership—meeting in rented halls on Saturdays such as public school buildings, dance halls, hotels and other venues—sent all tithe donations directly to the denomination. Under the new financial reporting regime, local churches are permitted to use 85% of funds locally for ministry, including constructing local church buildings for use by the congregations. As of 2007, 85 percent or more of all congregational donations stay in the local area, with 15 percent going to the church's headquarters in Glendora for ministerial training and support, legal services, and denominational administration.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, several of the Sabbatarian Churches of God that still adhered to some of Armstrong's teachings separated from the WCG. Due to the significant doctrinal changes which occurred within the WCG throughout the 1990s, the largest percentage of ministers and members left the WCG during this decade. This resulted in the formation of many denominations. There is significant overlap in their teachings with those of Herbert W. Armstrong. Most claim to teach "all" of the truths restored through Herbert W. Armstrong, most notably the Philadelphia Church of God (1989). The "PCG" purchased the copyright to several of the books and booklets of Herbert W. Armstrong and systematically changed both the wording, content and meaning of what Armstrong wrote. They maintain that Armstrong was right and that they are preaching and teaching the very same teachings and are in fact a continuation of the parent WCG.
Worldwide Church of God organizational splits resulted in the
establishment of the
Global Church of God
, the Living Church of God
(1993, 1998), the
United Church of God
* Church of God International (org. 1978)
* Philadelphia Church of God (org. 1989)
* Church of the Great God (1992)
* Global Church of God (1992)
* United Church of God (1995)
Living Church of God
Restored Church of God
Church of God, a Worldwide Association
Most teach that they are the continuation of the WCG and many have also rewritten Armstrong's books and booklets. Some have altered them in order to make them fit the splinter church's particular church doctrines.
* ^ Albright, Mary Ann (2 July 2011), "Cartoonist drawn to sharp views", The Columbian , retrieved 30 June 2016 * ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/books/review/McClain-t.html * ^ A B Prytz, Anna (22 May 2011), "Former Neighbours actor pens cult book", Manningham Leader |access-date= requires |url= (help ) * ^ http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/july/14.22.html * ^ https://www.gci.org/aboutus/history * ^ A B Tucker, Ruth (1996), "From the Fringe to the Fold", Christianity Today * ^ "Worldwide Church of God Announces Name Change". Worldwide Church of God . Grace Communion International. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ "Our Story". Grace Communion International. * ^ "HWA Preached to Students in 1971 Why 1975 Could Not be the Year of Christ\'s Return". The Radio Church of God . COGTV. Retrieved 2 January 2014. * ^ "1968 Certificate Of Amendment Of Articles Of Incorporation Of Radio Church Of God". The Radio Church of God . The Painful Truth. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ Flurry, Stephen (October 30, 2006). Raising the Ruins:The Fight to Revive the Legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong . Philadelphia Church of God. pp. 23–24. ISBN 978-0-9745507-1-8 . * ^ Flurry, pp. 25-26 * ^ http://www.gcww.org/herbert w armstrong the final elijah.htm * ^ "Religion: Garner Ted Armstrong, Where Are You?". Time Magazine Monday, May 15, 1972 . TIME. 15 May 1972. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/madison/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/vol1ch5.pdf * ^ "Stanley Rader on "Sixty Minutes" with Mike Wallace". 60 Minutes . The Painful Truth. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ PEOPLE EX REL. DEUKMEJIAN v. WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD , 127 CA3d 547 (Court of Appeals of California, Second Appellate District, Division Two December 9, 1981). * ^ "A Call for Tolerance on Christmas and Easter". Grace Communion International . Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ "Who Is "Babylon"?". Grace Communion International . Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ "Anglo-Israelism and the United States & Britain in Prophecy". Grace Communion International . Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ "Is Leviticus 23:3 a Command to Have Worship Services on the Weekly Sabbath?". Grace Communion International . Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ "Armstrongism". Apologetics . Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. Retrieved 1 September 2012. * ^ " Called To Be Free ". (video, point 61:57) by Living Hope Video Ministries * ^ A B "When churches started to ordain women". Religioustolerance.org. Retrieved 2010-11-19. * ^ WCG has gotten around to ordaining its first woman according to its Jan 31 update * ^ "The GCI Statement of Beliefs". Grace Communion International . Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ Kellner, Mark A. "Worldwide Church of God Joins NAE". Christianity Today Library . Christianity Today. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ Covington, David. What is the Worldwide Church of God? Quoted at http://www.apologeticsindex.org/w01.html, accessed 03-13-2007 * ^ "Worldwide Church of God (WCG)". Apologetics Index . Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ Tucker, Ruth. "From the Fringe to the Fold". 7/15/1996 . Christianity Today. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ "U.S. Church Administration Manuals". Grace Communion International . Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ "Worldwide Church of God Organizational Splits". Grace Communion International . Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved 15 September 2012. * ^ Christianity Today, July 15, 1996.
* Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood, Handbook of
Denominations in the United States . Abingdon Press, 2001. ISBN
* J. Michael Feazell, The Liberation of the Worldwide Church of
God . Zondervan, 2003. ISBN 0-310-25011-0 .
* Gerald Flurry, Malachi's Message to God's Church Today . "A
thorough explanation of how and why the Worldwide Church of God
rejected Herbert Armstrong's teachings, and how to hold fast to
Herbert Armstrong's teachings."
* Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults . Revised and Updated
Edition, Bethany House, 2003. ISBN 0-7642-2821-8 . See Appendix A, pp.
* Larry Nichols and George Mather, Discovering the Plain Truth: How
the Worldwide Church of God Encountered the Gospel of Grace .
InterVarsity Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8308-1969-X
* Joseph Tkach, Transformed by Truth . Multnomah Publishers, 1997.
* Tarling, Lowell R. (1981). "The Armstrong Churches". The Edges of
Seventh-day Adventism: A Study of Separatist Groups Emerging from the
Seventh-day Adventist Church
* Grace Communion International official website * Statement of beliefs * Archive of the Ambassador Report publication published from 1975 through 1999 * Exit ;background:none transparent;border:none;">v * t * e
* Seventh-day Adventist Church
General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh-Day)
Adventist Worldwide Church of God offshoots
* Church of the Great God * Living Church of God * Philadelphia Church of God * United Church of God * Global Church of God * Grace Communion International * Church of God International (USA) * Church of God, a Worldwide Association * Restored Church of God * Church of God Fellowship
Seventh Day Baptists
Observe both Saturday and Sunday