Recent Church History After Herbert Armstrong
Dear Brethren in Training for Christ's Government:
What is God's Church, Worldwide?
This letter is to acquaint you with the origins of God's Church Worldwide and its purpose today.
This is given in the context of the confusion wrought on the people of God after the spiritual melt down of the Worldwide Church of God, after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong in January 1986.
Just before Mr. Herbert Armstrong died, he chose Joseph Tkach, Sr. to succeed him as Pastor General of God's Church. Since, as Mr. Herbert Armstrong stated in his last book, Mystery of the Ages, he had completed his commission of taking the true gospel of Christ's coming kingdom to the nations, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong instructed Mr. Joseph Tkach to prepare the Church for Christ's imminent return. Mr. Tkach started out on the right track by reminding God's people that “we are family.” Later, with the introduction of the Trinity doctrine, he was to deny that indeed God (Elohim) is a family. Changes to Mr. Herbert Armstrong's healing booklet and the introduction of false doctrine in the form of the nature of God, being born again at baptism, and the Trinity, soon had God's people heading back into the world, instead of coming out of it as commanded (II Cor. 6:16-18). The door was closing on the Philadelphia era and the transition into the final Laodicean era had begun.
From 1989 to 1995, various ministers broke away from the Worldwide Church of God, to establish their own organizations, with the intent supposedly of holding fast to the doctrines Mr. Herbert Armstrong had established in the Church for over fifty years. As time passed, in fact, these groups have succeeded in distancing themselves from many of his teachings. They refuse to accept his word that the taking of the gospel to the world as a witness and warning is complete. Today their concept of taking the gospel to the world more closely resembles the Protestant view of saving humanity. Many have repudiated government from the top down in the Church, to some form of democracy, or no government administered by ministers. Most show little or no respect for Mr. Herbert Armstrong personally and are not prepared to admit that he was the Elijah sent before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, who would restore all things.
Few people today realize that we are now in the final era, the lukewarm Laodicean era of the true Church. An era of people so vile in Christ's view, that He states in Revelation 3, He is about to vomit them out of His mouth into the terrible tribulation. The majority are mistaken in viewing the era we now live in as the Philadelphia era, with an open door to take the gospel to the world. This is most dangerous, because it puts those who believe this in a time warp unprepared and without any sense of urgency. The reality is that time is short and instead of examining themselves for any vestiges of Laodiceanism, they complacently think that the Worldwide Church of God is now the Laodicean Church. The Worldwide Church of God is wrongly named today, for it is nothing more than a tiny Protestant denomination. God is not in it and Christ is not head of it! However, Laodiceanism is alive and well among those who think they stand because they believe they are still “doing the work.” As a result of this delusion, most are not examining themselves with the intent of routing out Laodiceanism which Christ hates. Soon their leaders will have to bear much of the responsibility for this. They have forgotten, or perhaps never took seriously Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's warning that there was too much Protestantism in the Church.
By contrast, God's Church, Worldwide, as an organization, clearly understands that we are in the final era and are actively fighting against lukewarm self-satisfaction and any vestiges of Protestantism. We know time is short, that we have much to overcome, that to please Christ we must be more united as a godly family and that we have much yet to learn from the scriptures. In God's Church, Worldwide there is a sense of urgency which is of great importance, since, as noted, time is growing short to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ, Jesus.
This organization began in a much different way than others we have investigated. Let's look at out history as it developed from my transfer to Pasadena in the spring of 1986. In that year I was sent from Canada to revive the Plain Truth newsstand program. While waiting for a visa, I conceived a new approach to magazine distribution, which later was given the name, the Plain Truth Blitz Program. I felt the Church could utilize its newsstand resources more effectively by focusing on five or six major cities at a time and saturating each of them for a six-month period and then rotating the stands and magazines into another group of cities, rather than spreading them in small numbers across the entire United States as we had been doing.
This proposal was adopted and ran very successfully for two years in the United States and other countries around the world, at which point it was canceled by Joseph Tkach, Sr. The Blitz Program, which concluded in 1988, was the last effort to take the gospel forcefully around the world, as the door was closing on the Philadelphia era of God's Church. From 1988 to 1990 I was the associate pastor in the Imperial Schools morning congregation, in Pasadena. Both the pastor and I could see the direction the Church was going in, but both of us determined to stick to what we had been taught by Mr. Herbert Armstrong and had proved from the Bible no matter what. Obviously this did not endear us to the new administration, as they departed from the teachings of the Bible. We also recognized that it was probably only a matter of time before we were moved or fired. As of 1989 the Church was clearly off the track. The door was now tightly shut!
In 1990, I was transferred to Orlando, Florida. I found the Orlando Church in chaos, but soon became aware that the administration in Pasadena would not allow me to deal with the serious breaches of God's law in a proper manner.
In 1993 after great difficulty in securing an appointment with Mr. Joseph Tkach, Sr. in Pasadena, I laid out my concerns regarding the congregations across Florida, and pleaded with him to do something to stop the rot there and elsewhere. He heard me out, but no action was taken to rectify the situation. Shortly thereafter I was moved to Big Sandy, Texas. In 1995, just prior to Passover I was fired and almost immediately disfellowshipped.
By this time I had returned to Orlando and was looking for a way to support my family. My resume was a little dated and there did not appear to be any jobs for fifty-year-old ex-pastors! Yet, as I think back on it I didn't panic. I knew with certainty that God had called me and put me into His ministry, so why should I be worried? He had always provided and if I remained faithful He would continue to provide.
As a result, my wife and I started up a house cleaning service to support ourselves and our twin daughters who were in university at the time. To get the necessary training for this, we cleaned homes for free over a six month period, at which point my severance ran out and we began to charge for our services. God did provide and the bills got paid.
As this venture began, Passover was almost upon us. A group of about twenty-four members from the Orlando congregation came to me on a Saturday afternoon and asked me to conduct the Passover service for them. They said they recognized me as a true minister of God, that the Worldwide Church of God was no longer God's Church and would I pastor them. I said I would and that is how God's Church, Worldwide began.
Prior to this, I had contact with numerous ministers, disgruntled with the Worldwide Church of God, who were thinking of joining one or another of the breakaway groups. I counseled them against this, because it was already clear to me that rather than truly following Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, the leaders of these groups had their own agendas.
I believe they started their own works, I don't believe Christ raised any of them up, for the various reasons given above and because they do not truly honor Mr. Herbert Armstrong (Jn. 12:26). I advised my friends in the ministry not to join them, but to stay where they were, and continue to teach the truth and God's people would gravitate to them. None followed that advice. Throughout the years I had waited in vain for the Evangelists, the top echelon of ministers, to confront Mr. Joseph Tkach about the false doctrines. Sadly, some liked the changes, while the majority remained silent.
Brethren, when viewing the entire situation, it is critical to remember that God raised up Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and that Mr. Armstrong passed on the mantle of responsibility to Mr. Joseph Tkach; therefore there could be no justification for rebellion or for breaking away and starting up a rival organization.
The only proper thing to do was to follow the example of David with Saul. As is stated in I Samuel 18:14, “David behaved himself wisely in all his doings.” He would not raise his hand against the Lord's anointed and he would not foment any rebellion against constituted authority. This left only one avenue for me to follow: hold fast to the truth, teach it, preserve it, protect it, and grow in it until cast out of the organization.
When I was indeed cast out, I had to remind myself that I had been ordained through Mr. Herbert Armstrong with the responsibility of pastoring God's people. As it turned out, cleaning homes and pastoring people turned out to be very compatible until church responsibilities began to grow larger, at which point the home cleaning service was discontinued. Meanwhile we incorporated as a Church body.
Initially, this was not my intention. It only became a consideration when God's people required a place to send their tithes. By now we were meeting every Sabbath and observing all the Holy Days together. Incorporation seemed to be the best way to carry on Church activities in the United States.
Originally, we incorporated with the name, God's Church of Orlando, because we were a) God's Church, and b) meeting in Orlando. Later, as we developed contacts worldwide, the name changed accordingly.
Some have mistakenly thought re-baptism was a necessary requirement to meet with God's Church, Worldwide. If your baptism was in the Worldwide Church of God, and a minister of God in that organization laid hands upon you, then God granted you His Holy Spirit, which makes you a member, not of any corporate entity, but of the spiritual body of Christ, His true Church. As always, the key to a valid baptism is genuine repentance, which is necessary so God can grant His Holy Spirit. Remember the true Church is a spiritual entity, not a corporate body!
Because we honor and respect Mr. Herbert Armstrong, we have been accused of worshipping the man. Obviously this is ridiculous, but what is our view of Herbert W. Armstrong?
First, we recognize him as our father in Christ. We all came into God's Church as the result of the work God did through him. We believe that Mr. Herbert Armstrong alone was called by God, and specifically trained by Christ, to restore truths the Church had lost, forgotten, or neglected. There had to be a solid foundation of doctrinal truth to support the gospel message. It was on the basis of this restoration that it was possible to take the true gospel of Christ's coming kingdom to the world. The completion of that task ushered us into the end times, according to Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (NKJ).
Daniel the prophet was told that the prophecies given to him would only be understood completely in the end times, “And he said, `Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.'” (Dan. 12:9). Officially, the end times began after the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and since then, God has given God's Church, Worldwide much understanding held from the Church before January 1986. This is in accord with what the scriptures point out: but why has it happened to this organization? I believe because we have honored Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and because we were not afraid to continue to seek clarity in respect to end-time chronology. It had become fashionable in the Tkach administration to discount the value of prophecy or in the ability of the Church to get it right. This attitude is still prevalent among many ministers who left the Worldwide Church of God and are now with other groups. Sadly, others have made up their own prophecy with the idea of inserting themselves into Biblical prophecies to the point that one individual has taken to calling himself a prophet, and one of his booklets as being “the little book” of Revelation 10! This man has a following of some six thousand people who used to be in the Worldwide Church of God. What a tragic situation!
Since we see Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong as the Elijah who came to restore truth to the Church, do we consider him infallible? Not at all. No man is infallible. Peter, Paul, James and John thought and taught that Christ would return during the first century in their life times. This was incorrect; and similarly, Mr. Herbert Armstrong made mistakes when he speculated beyond his specific commission. He said of himself that he was not called as an authority on end-time chronology. This in no way diminishes our respect for Mr. Herbert Armstrong.
For those who have only recently come in contact with us and wish to research what we have come to understand since 1995, please access our Bible studies posted on our web site (www.gcww.org) and prove them for yourself from your Bible.
So what is the main purpose of God's Church, Worldwide today? Apart from holding fast to the truth first delivered to us by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, we will continue to study for more understanding of the scriptures, relative to the time we are now living in. We are here to help other Christians who are striving to be Philadelphian in a Laodicean age and who are still eager to learn and grow. We feel it is critical to emphasize as much as lies in our power to do so, that this is the last era of God's Church and that those who are serious about preparing to rule with Christ must know this for a fact; otherwise, they simply cannot get prepared. This is the spur that energizes us towards greater unity more godly love, more family involvement, more repentance, more concern for our brethren, more respect for God and Christ, their government and law. Overall more purpose in our daily lives, more Bible study, more prayer, meditation and fasting more appreciation for Sabbath services and Holy Days. A blessing for those who are alert now is special protection throughout the soon coming tribulation:
Because you have kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (Rev. 3:10-11).
One way or another, the Bride of Christ; His Church, will have made herself ready:
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying. `Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.' And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, `Write, “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb”' (Rev. 19:6-9).
Our goal is to help God's people to prepare themselves and to be ready, before the tribulation suddenly descends on this society. Don't let anything or anyone divert you from your duty to attain that goal. Christ requires us to be faithful to our calling.
In Christ's service,
Robert J. Elliott
Other Important Articles:
Recent Church History After Herbert Armstrong
God's Church, Worldwide