Questions and Answers (Pt. 2 of 3)
Questions About Worldwide Church of God (now known as Grace Communion International):
During their doctrinal changes, WCG added more contradictions to the confusion by saying that HWA was a "sincere Christian," "made some mistakes," "didn't completely understand the Bible," had a "lack of theological education" (Charisma and Christian Life Magazine, 1996) which led to "wrong interpretations," held "unusual beliefs," "unusual views," and "unorthodox doctrines" but...."was a minister of Jesus Christ" and "devoted to Christ." (March 7, 1995 Worldwide News, Vol. XXIII, NO.5, p. 3). In April 1995 the leaders said that they "regarded HWA as a minister of Jesus Christ" and "do not believe he needs to be condemned." ("MacGregor Ministries, News & Views," p. 4) Then on 4-30-96 and 5-1-96 Joseph Tkach, Jr. was interviewed on D. James Kennedy's Christian radio program "Truths that Transform" and stated that Herbert Armstrong was a "very sincere Christian who was dedicated to Christ." (WCG's 1998 book Transformed by Christ: a Brief History of the WCG [title now changed to A Short History of Grace Communion International - Transformed by Christ] includes such statements. Read ESN article: Transformed by Christ (A Review of Worldwide Church of God's Book.) WCG stated: "Mr. Armstrong's greatest legacy is his commitment to live by every word of God - to believe the Bible and faithfully obey its teachings." ("Where We Have Been; Where We Are Going," Welcome to our Fellowship, 1995, 1999.) Joseph Tkach, Jr. said: "Herbert Armstrong, in spite of errors he taught, had a high view of Scripture." (Interview of Joseph Tkach at the January 1997 National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention.) Joseph Tkach, speaking to an audience from the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches in Quezon City, Philippines in 2006 said, "Mr. Armstrong, a sincere Christian, unwittingly made some mistakes."
Yet Herbert W. Armstrong stated, "Christ is not the gospel. Believing on Christ is not believing the gospel." (Voice clip of HWA giving a Bible Study and marking Buck Taylor; heard on tape two, pt. 2 of: "My Story" by C. Wayne Cole, 5-19-79.) He also wrote, "It is faith--not in Christ--but in God's coming world government, man's only hope! And it's faith in that and not faith in Christ that saves." ("What is The Good News?" The Good News, March 1963) [Note: This last quote by HWA was taken from a transcript in the 1960's by J. Vernon McGee. The article is not found in the 1963 GN online (also page 1 appears to be missing); therefore, we do not know which publication Dr. McGee was referring to, or if something was removed.] Also, HWA proclaimed, "Christ, the person, is not the gospel!" and, "it is necessary to believe that precise identical gospel in order to be saved!" (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 18, "What is the True Gospel?").
In order to be discerning, one needs to look not only at the roots and fruits of an organization and its leaders but the methods used in making their changes, and the direction they are headed. If we see that it is necessary for the leaders to cover up the sins and hypocrisies of the founder, focusing mainly on his "doctrinal wrongs," to whitewash him by using history revision and twisting of facts, to discount and denigrate any who would speak up and expose these things, including blaming the members for believing what they did, then we are seeing the same abusive methods that the old WCG has always resorted to. It should also raise a big question in our minds as to why any would want to stay connected to such a "church" and not instead remove themselves as far away as they can. This is not to say that there are not individual congregations who are unaware of the facts about WCG (CGI) and who believe they are sincerely trying to serve Jesus Christ and their brethren. But a question again is, why do they find it necessary to remain tied to a HQ that has the job of imparting to their members their belief system, their discipleship training, their direction, etc., and with no financial accountability? Why have the congregations not broken free and formed completely independent Christian churches? Why are they still sending their tithes and offerings to HQ? Would it have anything to do with their feeling comfortable staying in the same place and being instructed as to what to do? Do these members still see Worldwide Church of God/GCI (HQ) as "their church"? Have their leaders somehow made them believe that "God did something special with us"?
Along with all this, WCG (GCI) is now embracing New Age Teachers and philosophies and is part of the Emerging Church (although in their double-talk and ambivalence they will deny it). (See: Grace Communion International - New Age and Ecumenical Connections and this part in OIU 2, Pt. 1: Getting Politically, Religiously Correct and ready for the NEW AGE.)
While we have covered these issues in many places on our site, it is important for members to think for themselves instead of going along with what they've always been told by their leaders. It is also important for them to understand that mind control (thought reform) was used on them in order to control and exploit them financially.
Deception Surrounding Worldwide Church of God Changes (covers how Joseph Tkach, Jr. said the source of the changes were Herbert Armstrong himself and also how Tkach, Sr. said that HWA "changed his mind" before he died in regard to what he previously taught)
There have been reports/testimonies (even since 2009) that there are still problems with cultic mentalities and mindsets (several are posted on our site). This has especially shown itself in regard to how former members have been treated when they attempted to confront WCG leaders or ministers with abuses or errors. Edgardo Meneses, who wrote hundreds of letters to HQ and to many WCG ministers, is a case in point (Read: Last Wake-up Call to Joseph Tkach, Jr.)
In addition, there are still members in WCG, especially overseas, who are secretly holding to HWA and his dogma (with an accompanying cultic mindset), and who say they are "waiting until God changes the church," and many other congregations in Europe are still "traditional." Other WCG members we have been in touch with in the U.S. continue to talk about "changing their attitude," "praying about their attitude" (i. e., if they get angry) and "acting out behavior which is the opposite of how they feel." These are some of the same mind manipulating methods members were taught to use on themselves before the new changes.
Questions About Herbert W. Armstrong:
It doesn't stand for anything because he didn't have a middle name. Most of the explanations on the web about this appear to be nothing but spin and misinformation, such as saying that Armstrong told someone he added the "W" because there were too many Herbert Armstrongs in Pasadena, CA (or Oregon) and also, since there was another man with the same name across the street from Ambassador College it caused problems with the mail delivery. This is almost ludicrous.
While there is no way of knowing exactly how many "Herbert Armstrongs" were living in Pasadena at the time he was there (unless a census can be checked), a recent search for those with the name Armstrong living in Pasadena, CA today brought up only three names and none of them started with Herbert!
The most valid answer is most likely that which is found in Ambassador Report #36, August 1986, "HWA remembered" and which follow: [excerpts]
Many who knew him personally say that HWA didn't have a middle name. He adopted the W at some point (at least as far back as 1915) simply to add dignity, dimension or dressing to what he apparently thought was too ordinary a name. And why the W rather than some other letter? We really don't know. But former WCG minister Gary Arvidson has theorized:
"First of all, as an advertising man HWA must have known that of all the letters in the alphabet W is visually the largest, phonetically the longest, and with its three sharp angles, symbolically assertive. Second, W was the middle initial of Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most famous and influential preachers in American history. I have wondered, frankly, if HWA was not unconsciously or even consciously modeling himself after Beecher."
Henry Ward Beecher...had a large following, was rich and politically influential, traveled widely abroad, claimed to be a friend of U.S. presidents and European royalty, constantly sought the public limelight, has been called an opportunist and hypocrite, and made national headlines when he was put on trial for adultery in 1875. David R. Robinson, a devoted student of British and American history, and the author of a revealing book on HWA [Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web], told us:
"Henry Ward Beecher and Herbert Armstrong had much in common. The definitive biography of Beecher is Henry Ward Beecher. An American Portrait by Paxton Hibben. That biography, which can still be found in many libraries, first appeared in 1927, shortly before Herbert embarked on his career in religion. I really think Herbert read that book, or at least knew of Beecher's life story. There are just so many similarities in their two lives."
This is an excuse which certain ministers in some of the WCG splinter groups (i.e., Church of the Great God, Philadelphia Church of God, The Church of God-PKG, etc.) use. The argument is that, given enough time, all the prophecies (or "predictions") which HWA gave will eventually come to pass. It was HWA himself that first said only his "timing was wrong"--and this after giving 21+ prophetic failures during the 1930's and 40's. (I supposed we could say Ellen G. White's timing was off also--by 150 years plus.) What these ministers do not tell their members is that the prophets in O.T. times not only prophesied what was coming in the future, but they told what was going to happen locally in the immediate future. This was how people knew whether someone qualified as a true prophet of God. The local event had to transpire exactly as it was predicted. When it did, the people knew it was a true prophet compared to a false prophet.
Did Herbert Armstrong Set Dates? (includes several of his false prophecies)
Memories of Petra (shows how false prophecies were excused away)
Herbert Armstrong was known to say that certain churches (or organizations) had "some" of the truth, but not all of the truth (which only he had). Many of his followers still believe this today. But none of these groups had "the truth" in the first place. HWA plagiarized, borrowed and copied from several cultic groups, put it all together, and then simply added his own spin. This made it look like he had all the answers. This also served the purpose of controlling others in order to exploit them financially (which was what most of these other cultic groups were already doing).
Herbert Armstrong's Religious Roots (The origin of Herbert's unique doctrines)
Questions About Philadelphia Church of God:
"Government of God" are words which are intended to connect with the group's leader and its headquarters, which members are to unquestionably obey in all matters and at all times. Those who don't are said to have "a government problem." This total obedience opens the member up to the mind control abuse of the system.
While the leader of the group will state that members are not "forced to obey," but "choose to obey God's government," their minds are, in fact being influenced and programmed through fear to submit
"Those involved in a totalistic Bible-based group become enmeshed in the government of that organization." (See: Recovering After Exiting a Deceptive, Abusive Group)
Members in PCG (as in all high demand groups) believe that to question Gerald Flurry is the same as questioning God. They believe they are building more and more of the "character of God," when, in reality, they are only becoming more submissive to the government of the organization.
The words, "government of God" are not mentioned in Scripture. In fact, there is no military model of government even found in the New Testament. (See chap. 9 of Damaged Disciples by Ron and Vicki Burks [no longer in print; check interlibrary loans, e-bay; used book stores]). Although PCG will try and use 2 Peter 2:10: "...despise government.." to try to correlate this somehow with "God's government" (which translates in their minds to PCG headquarters), the verses 10 through 16 are describing false teachers in the first century of the church. The word "government" in II Peter 2:10 really means "dominion" and occurs few times in the Bible.
PCG's teaching about the "government of God" comes from Herbert Armstrong who hammered this home. Those in the group who were disobedient to the "government" were considered rebellious and were disfellowshipped and/or marked. HWA even stated that in the "World Tomorrow" rebellious mortals would be forced into a life of obedience and submission as a result of this government. He called this "compulsory joy." (AC Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 4) However, the Bible shows that God never forces anyone into anything.
Did Christ Reorganize the Church? (1939 Good News article by HWA showing he condemned hierarchal church government in the early years) [offsite link]
Read January 17, 2003 email to ESN: "A Class Action Lawsuit Could Put PCG Out of Business."
Questions About Members:
If You Have a Loved One in a Deceptive, Exploitive Group (Includes what to do and what not to do)
A person in any of these groups may not be able to leave until they start having doubts and/or questions. You should never try to force them out. Their decision to leave could come about by seeing a contradiction in what the leadership says in contrast to with what they are actually doing (hypocritical behavior, etc.), discovering the real history of the group, including the history of WCG, or by being abused by the leadership. Hearing from others that have left the group, and getting them to question many things is important. It is only through awareness and education, and learning the facts that they didn't have upon joining, that an individual can regain his critical thinking skills. A thinking person can then make decisions to leave. Research in the United States has shown that if members have been away from the group for a period of time; i. e., three weeks or more, most of them tend to leave without exit counseling.
Members that are passive, positive, agreeable, lacking in critical thinking skills, having a need to be led, and who never cause any trouble to those in authority, are valuable assets to mind-controlling groups. The ones that speak up, or start asking too many uncomfortable questions, are soon gotten rid of. Those who are individualistic and inquisitive are more likely to leave.
People rarely come out of the deceptive and exploitive Armstrong groups because they discover the theology is wrong (although some do). It is rather when they are so abused by the leadership that they finally say to themselves, "this all cannot be of God." But if they do leave still believing the leader or founder was "a tool in God's hands" and that "God's true church" exists out there somewhere, they will most likely start looking for a suitable offshoot. Furnishing information on the methods used by high demand groups can often help.
Anyone can be susceptible to sophisticated thought reform methods. Leaders of deceptive, totalistic groups are skilled in coercive persuasion and mind control techniques. A number of them may exhibit the behavior characteristics of sociopaths and have no conscience or scruples whatsoever in regard to exploiting others. Setting themselves up as "spiritual authorities," they take advantage of people's vulnerabilities. Those who have carefully studied the literature of these groups will see that it is saturated with fear. This type of manipulation is called "fear phobia induction." Once the person is fear phobic, they become submissive to the authority in the group.
All human minds are open to influence and persuasion, including intelligent people that are simply looking for answers to the many problems they see in society. Some may be going through a difficult time in their life and the group's literature appears to provide answers. Other people may be idealistic and naïve.
Are You Being Recruited into a Totalistic Group? (Twenty-two Differences in Content, Emphasis, Methods, Church life and Lifestyle)
Wolves in Sheep's Clothing [offsite link]
Many who are recruited into abusive groups are often emotionally distraught at the time, or searching. The group promises black and white answers. But those that join were not given all the facts upfront or informed ahead of time of all that will be expected of them once they become a member. If people knew all that was behind the exciting and informative literature that they become immersed in, they wouldn't go in. Recruitment is very subtle; therefore, if someone doesn't research the history of the group, or its founder, and be sure all their questions are answered ahead of time, plus understand how controlling, exploitive groups work, they can fall prey to this kind of deception. Once they read many of the group's free booklets, start sending in money to the organization, and finally come to distrust all other literature, churches, and other sources of information, they come to believe the propaganda that they need to ask a minister of that group to baptize them and to begin attending services on a regular basis. This last step may take years as the organization wants to make sure the person is thoroughly indoctrinated in the belief system and is sending in money on a regular basis. The end result is exploitation, abuse, and promises that never materialize.
How Did Herbert W. Armstrong Recruit People? (the step-by-step process)
Members in the high demand, totalistic groups form what is known as a "cult personality," or new personality, which is different than their personality before joining. (Refer to the book, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change by Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman.) This is also known as "doubling" and it can happen quickly or take approximately 3 l/2 years. They can also behave quite differently with the group (happy, upbeat), but switch and be totally different at home. They often become negative, sarcastic and judgmental toward "the world" and those outside their religious frame of mind. After exiting, the personality begins to re-organize itself. Reading some of the books on our Booklist will help you understand how these groups work and how people are being harmed psychologically and spiritually in such systems. Members become, in most cases, "religious addicts." While very sincere in their desire to follow and obey God, their trust has been used against them in order to exploit and control them.
There is no unconditional love in these groups, only "love-bombing." This is a manipulative technique where the new recruit is showered with positive attention and reinforcement which helps them to feel that joining is in their best interests. This "loving atmosphere" also enables the recruiters to access the psychological needs, fears, dependencies, and resistance of the person who is thinking of joining. Methods of shame and guilt are also used to keep them in line.
To be happy and contented with one's faith is entirely different than being tricked into believing (as a result of fear and coercion) that one is in "God's one true church," and all others outside of it are lost and headed for the Great Tribulation or eternal death. Totalistic (authoritarian) groups have done great damage to individuals by causing them to hold to the belief of unconditional submission to a man that claims to be "God's representative." For anyone to manipulate another person's mind for one's own gain is a great evil.
They stay because they are held by certain fears: fear their mind will be taken over by Satan; fear of the Lake of Fire; fear of the Great Tribulation; fear of being cut off from family and friends in the group; fear they will cut themselves off from "the vine" and wither and die; fear of losing their salvation; fear of being cursed by God, fear of nowhere to go if they leave (they believe it is "the one true church") and fear that they will "cease to exist" if they find themselves on the outside, since their existence is in the group.
When taking on a new identity and new belief system after becoming a member (refer to the previous Q&A), they will become what the group leader desires--submissive, powerless, yet highly devoted and offering undying loyalty and servitude. In this state of mind, they discard and avoid all information which disagrees with what the leader teaches. They are taught to tell themselves and others (concerning whatever problems they see or experience as a result of their allegiance) that "God will take care of it" or "I'm leaving it in God's hands." Therefore they dismiss any thoughts that something may be amiss. Outside their awareness, they are being exploited and controlled for the leaders' purposes.