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The Worldwide Church of God

Original and revised beliefs & practices

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Original WCG Beliefs:

Church beliefs during the period when Armstrong was in control include:
bulletIdentification of the British and American people as descendants of two sons of Jacob: Ephraim and Manasseh.
 
bulletBelief that the term "British" is derived from the ancient Hebrew word "beriyth" (covenant).
 
bulletBelief that the term "Saxon" originated as "Isaac's Sons"
 
bulletAs the "lost" ancient Israelite tribe of Dan spread across Europe, they named many rivers, towns etc. after themselves (e.g. Danube River, Denmark, Donegal).
 
bulletRejection of the traditional Christian concept of the Trinity as being of pagan origin. Armstrong accepted a modified Arian view of the nature of God -- the teaching by Arius in the late third century CE. They believed that deity consisted of a dual divinity: The Eternal (their translation of the Hebrew name of God: Yahweh) and Jesus. He taught that that the Holy Spirit is a power, not a person. He promoted the concept of the "Family of God", which consisted of Jehovah, Jesus, and human believers in the WCG who became Gods.
 
bulletAt the crucifixion, Jesus' body and spirit died for three days and three nights. He was later raised by the Father and his human body was transformed into a spirit body.
 
bulletRepentance and faith in Jesus are necessary, but not sufficient requirements, for salvation. Many actions are required to obtain and maintain personal salvation, including:
bulletA water baptism
bulletContinuing obedience to God's commands "through his chosen Apostle," Armstrong.
bulletObserve the Jewish Sabbath
bulletObserve the feasts as specified in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament.)
Thus, a person had no absolute assurance that they would remain saved later in life.

bulletRejection of the conventional Christian belief in heaven and hell. The WCG taught that believers will spend eternity with Christ on earth. Hell exists, but is reserved for Satan and his demons. The wicked will be annihilated, and will not exist in any form.

bulletIdentification of the WCG with the "Philadelphia church" in Revelation 3:7.

bulletRejection of the concept of Hell as being pagan in origin. People who die without meeting the dual requirements (faith and works) for salvation will be resurrected, and taught Biblical truths. If they still do not accept the teachings, they will be cast into a lake of fire be annihilated, and cease to exist.

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Original WCG Practices:

bulletObserving the Jewish festivals of Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, the Great Last Day and the First Day of the Sacred Year.
 
bulletWorshiping on Saturday; the Sabbath was believed to start at sundown on Friday night
 
bulletThey observed three ordinances: baptism by immersion, Lord's supper, foot washing.
 
bulletThe church opposed divorce and remarriage.
 
bulletThe church discouraged medical treatment because only God was seen to cure illness.
 
bulletThe WCG was organized on authoritarian grounds. Armstrong appointed and ordained all ministers.

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Revised WCG Beliefs and Practices:

Under the current Pastor General, Joseph W. Tkach Jr., a major alteration was made to almost all beliefs and practices of the WCG. From their Statement of Beliefs (copyright ' 1995) they now accept:
bulletthe traditional Christian belief in the Trinity
bulletthe virgin birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
bulletthe Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity
bulletSatan as a fallen angel and ruler of this world

"Also abandoned was [exclusively] Saturday worship, the celebration of traditional Jewish holidays such as the Feast of Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement, and even the British-Israelite belief." 2

Over a period of less than a decade, the Church had eliminated its unorthodox beliefs, had converted itself into a conventional Evangelical denomination, and had joined the National Association of Evangelicals

Completion of this transition was recognized in a most unusual interview by Hank Hanegraaff of Joseph Tkach Jr and Greg Albrecht (editor-in-chief of the Plain Truth). The interview spanned three episodes of the radio program Bible Answer Man, on 1996-JAN-04, 05 and 12. This was particularly significant because that program is sponsored by the Christian Research Institute whose founder (Walter Martin) wrote a very popular book The Kingdom of the Cults in 1965 which branded the WCG as a cult. Mr. Hanegraaff quoted from an article by Mr. Tkach in the Christian Research Journal that the WCG has abandoned:
bulletAn "obsession...with the legalistic interpretation of the Old Testament;"
bulletBelief in "British Israelism;
bulletAn "insistence on the fellowship's exclusive relationship with God;"
bulletCriticisms of medical practices, the use of cosmetics, and the eating of certain foods;
bulletPaying of the triple tithe, which totals about 13% of ones income; and
bulletThe view that God is a family of many spirit beings into which humans can be born

Mr. Hanegraaff said that there is no precedent within Christianity "of the magnitude of what is happening within the Worldwide Church of God". He defined the WCG had changing from being a "major cult" into now "embracing [the traditional evangelical Christian interpretation of] Scripture.....submitting themselves completely to the Word of God." Mr. Tkach said "I have no reservations in saying that some of the things that Mr. Armstrong taught were in major error"

This major reversal in WCG teaching took an emotional toll on the membership. One believer who stayed loyal to the church, Camilla F. Kleindienst, wrote:

"Virtually every decision I have ever made had its roots in my fundamental religious convictions, from the friends I made, the clothes I wore, the classes I took in school, and the employment I applied for. The upheaval led to a re-evaluation of my beliefs, my motivations, my relationship with my husband, family members, and friends. It was hard to accept that my beliefs were being challenged by the same church that instilled them in the first place, which I'd attended for over 25 years. This was by far the greatest spiritual and emotional crisis of my life." 10

The WCG has evolved into a conservative Evangelical denomination:
 
bulletIt accepts traditional Christian beliefs, including the second coming of Jesus, the Trinity, the virgin birth, etc. 3
 
bulletChristmas celebration had been an "absolute no-no...perhaps the worse thing anyone could do"; it is now considered optional. Most congregations now observe both Christmas and Easter.
 
bulletIt discriminates against women in positions of power; none are permitted to serve as pastor, local elder or preaching elder).
 
bulletIt opposes access to abortion, except to save the life of the woman. However, it would not disfellowship a member who chose to terminate a pregnancy caused by rape or incest.
 
bulletIt supports the proper implementation of capital punishment.
 
bulletIt is dedicated to the elimination of racism. They conduct racial reconciliation workshops.

The WCG has abandoned the belief that churches are required to maintain Saturday as their main day to meet and worship. They said:

"We allow congregations to change meeting times, locations and days according to local needs. We encourage each congregation to meet on the day that serves its needs and purpose best. It is our intent to provide, as much as is reasonably possible, for the worship needs of our people ? whether that be congregations who want to meet on Saturday, Sunday or, in certain unusual situations, another day or evening of the week. 13

About 10 to 15% of their 400 congregations worship on Sunday.

They deviate from most Evangelical denominations in the teaching of:

bulletEvolution: They neither:
"...believe or reject the conclusions of scientists that the earth is billions of years old and that life has been on earth for billions of years. Similarly, the church sees no biblical reason to reject evidence that the diversity of life forms has been changing." 4
bulletHomosexuality: They recognize that homosexual orientation exists, and is in itself not sinful. Like almost all conservative Christian denominations, they condemn homosexual behavior, without exception, as sinful, irrespective of the nature of the relationship. More details

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References:

  1. The Worldwide Church of God maintains a WWW site at: http://www.wcg.org/ 
  2. Vern Bullough, "The Will to Believe Keeps the Worldwide Church of God Afloat," http://www.secularhumanism.org/
  3. "Alphabetical List of Worldwide Church of God Publications," WCG, at: http://www.wcg.org/lit/
  4. "A Brief List of Doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God," WCG, at:  http://www.wcg.org/lit/
  5. In Transition: News of the Churches of God is an independent publication which describes activities in "the Worldwide Church of God and its offshoots". It is published by Clearinghouse Press at P.O. Box 450 Monroe, IN 46772 USA
  6. "The Painful Truth" is a counter-cult group which targets the Worldwide Church of God and its splinter groups. See: http://www.herbertwarmstrong.com
  7. H.W. Armstrong, "The United States and Britain in Prophecy", The Worldwide Church of God, Pasedena CA (1980)
  8. Mather & Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult", Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI, (1993), P. 320-325
  9. W.L. Ingram, "God and Race: British-Israelism and Christian Identity" , P. 119 - 126 of T. Miller, Ed., "America's Alternative Religions" , SUNY Press, Albany NY, 1995
  10. Camilla F. Kleindienst, "When your church says it's wrong," The Worldwide News, 1996-AUG-27. Online at: http://www.wcg.org/
  11. "Garner Ted Armstrong," Telegraph.co.uk, 2003-SEP-17, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  12. Ivor Fletcher, "The incredible history of God's true church; Chapter 14," at: http://www.giveshare.org/
  13. "Should we hold our worship meetings on Sundays instead of Saturdays?" WCG, at: http://www.wcg.org/
  14. "Information About Grace Communion International," at: http://www.wcg.org/
  15. Obituary: Garner Ted Armstrong," ReligionNewsBlog, 2003-SEP-17, at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/
  16. "Gerald Flurry," S9 biographical dictionary, at: http://www.s9.com/
  17. Rick Miesel, "Worldwide Church of God: Christian or Cult?" Bible Discernment Ministries, at: http://www.rapidnet.com/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-JAN-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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