Worldwide Church of God


General Information

This group founded by Herbert W Armstrong has been made famous by his magazine, The Plain Truth, and radio broadcast, "The World Tomorrow." Its full name is the Worldwide Church of God, which has its headquarters at Ambassador College in Pasadena. Armstrongism is a blend of prophetic interpretation which applies a version of the teaching of British Israelitism to the American situation and a variety of other doctrines culled from Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. Recently Armstrongism has been shaken by internal disputes between Herbert W Armstrong and his son Garner Ted. These involve accusations of widespread immorality and corruption.

I Hexham

(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

R R Chambers, The Plain Truth about Armstrongism; M E Jones, ed., Ambassador Report; L F Deboer, The New Pharisaism; J Tuit, The Truth Shall Make You Free.

Worldwide Church of God - Armstrongism

Additional Information

The article above was written around 1990. Armstrong had died in 1986, and Joseph Tkach, Sr., then led the Church. In the succeeding years, the core Church has initiated a great number of changes, particularly in a number of its core beliefs. For this reason, Armstrong's original Church (since 1968 called the Worldwide Church of God) has separated itself from the beliefs of Armstrongism. The two must now be considered separate entities.

Armstrongism Now

Armstrongism still endures in a wide and varied assortment of splinter groups that have broken off of the core Church over the years. Two of the largest of these are Garner Ted Armstrong's Church of God International (1978) and the United Church of God (1995).

Most traditional Christians consider Armstrongism to be a cult. The reliance on a modern person to be a source of Prophetic insight (which Armstrong never actually claimed), the "triple tithe" (10% for regular giving; 10% for benevolent support; and 10% for an annual Feast), very rigid Sabbath-keeping attitudes, and an insularity from all other Christian Churches and organizations which are considered Satan-driven, are some of the reasons for this common opinion that Armstrongism is not truly Christian. In addition, Armstrong believed that there was not just one God but two, he did not believe in the Trinity, and he believed that all Church members will some day attain Godhood are similarly considered non-Christian. Many controlling attitudes toward behavior are also part of Armstrongism beliefs, specifying lengths of hair, styles of clothing, etc., no holiday celebrations, no divorce, no smoking

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The Worldwide Church of God Now

The core Church, the Worldwide Church of God, came to realize that many of Armstrong's teachings and beliefs were not Biblical. As a result, beginning in early 1995, those beliefs were rejected and more orthodox Christian beliefs accepted in their place. Strict examination of every aspect of belief and practice has been instituted, for compatibility with Scripture. As a result, many long-held, central beliefs have been reversed. The Worldwide Church of God has now entered a path much closer to true Christianity. The regular reference to it as a cult has disappeared and it is now generally considered on a path to become a solid Protestant Christian Church.

These changes in teachings have been enormous. The almost entire reversal of position on a number of core beliefs and practices has seriously shaken the Church. Many pastors and members have left as a result, often to form or join a splinter Armstrongism group. Where membership had been 145,000 worldwide (89,000 in the US) during the late 1980s, these numerous departures have resulted in a current Church of around half that size, around 75,000 worldwide (49,000 in the US). These reductions have greatly reduced the Church's income and cash flow, and it seems to be financially struggling now.

Joseph Tkach has even issued a broad apology on behalf of the Church collectively, regarding past errors in incorrect and misleading teachings. If, in the long run, this Church survives its changes, it will likely represent one of the most striking transformations in the history of Christianity.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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