A Serious Warning

TimeWatch Editorial
January 09, 2017

According to the GRACE COMMUNION INTERNATIONAL Website, “Ruth A. Tucker is visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the author of 12 books, including Another Gospel: Alternative Religions and the New Age Movement (Zondervan).” She published an article on the Christianity Today website on July 15, 1996 entitled “From the Fringe to the Fold.” Her article describes how the Worldwide Church of God organization transitioned from a Saturday Sabbath keeping, tithe returning, Millerite descendant church led by Herbert W. Armstrong to a Sunday keeping evangelical organization. Listen to how she tells the story.

“Armstrong was born into a Quaker family in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1892. At 25, he and his third cousin, Loma Dillon, were married in a Baptist church, and from that union four children were born. In those years, financial success was his driving vision, but his work in advertising sales was plagued by financial reverses. It was during one of these reverses that Armstrong, prodded by Loma, began looking into the issue of Sabbath (Saturday) worship. "And so it was that in the fall of 1926—crushed in spirit from business reverses not of my making—humiliated by what I regarded as wifely religious fanaticism that I entered into an in-depth study of the Bible for the first time in my life." This was the beginning of Armstrong's religious pilgrimage—a pilgrimage that took him from wanting "to accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior" to leading a vast religious empire.” Ruth A. Tucker, “From the Fringe to the Fold” Christianity Today, July 15, 1996

The article then began to take a look at some other beliefs embraced by the Worldwide Church of God.

“Armstrong's initial focus in religious matters had centered on the Sabbath. But as time went on, Sabbath-keeping became the least controversial of his biblical and theological "discoveries." From the earliest years he viewed himself as the apostle for this age and his movement to be the "true" church—uniquely designed to represent God's kingdom in the end times. Some of the doctrinal distinctives of the WCG that most Christians would deem nonessential became important points of separation between the "true" church and the churches of this world. Lifestyle issues also became key points of church identity. Like many other churches of past generations, "worldly" adornment precluded make-up and short hair for women (long hair for men). And divorce was not permitted, nor were people who had divorced and remarried allowed to join the church without separating. Smoking was likewise prohibited, and Sabbath-keeping was a must—with no "leisure" activities allowed.” Ruth A. Tucker, “From the Fringe to the Fold” Christianity Today, July 15, 1996

This is where they stood, a conservative Biblical position on many issues. Some of their biblical positions were unusual. Ruth Tucker makes the point for instance that they believed that “Jesus was crucified on Wednesday—not on Friday—and rose from the dead on Saturday.” This they believed consolidated the fact that Saturday was the Sabbath. But by the time Herbert Armstrong died in 1986, drastic changes began to take place.

“There had been previous reversals in church belief and practice—including a back and forth policy regarding women wearing make-up and a move toward leniency on the issue of divorce. And there had been earlier challenges to Armstrong's authoritarian control, during which time ministers and members drifted away or left to form their own splinter groups. (But) The most widely publicized split occurred in 1978, when Armstrong dismissed his son Garner Ted Armstrong from his high-profile position due to alleged sexual misconduct. Garner Ted then founded his own Church of God International, which he headed until 1995 when there were further charges of sexual misconduct. But never before had the church been rocked from its foundations as it has been in the decade since Armstrong's death, with the church under the leadership of Joseph Tkach, Sr. Many ask how such a turnaround could occur. And if it could happen with the WCG, could it also happen among the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses?” Ruth A. Tucker, “From the Fringe to the Fold” Christianity Today, July 15, 1996

It certainly could happen with the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and sadly also Seventh Day Adventists. The Great Controversy warns of a shift to occur in the church. It is the time of final warning, when things of a challenging nature begin to take place.

“As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position, and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath-keepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.” {E. G. White, The Great Controversy, page 608.1}

Joseph Tkach, Sr. quickly led the Worldwide Church of God in another direction after the death of Herbert Armstrong.

“By January of 1995, there was a clear consensus at the top—and among many pastors and laypeople as well—that there was no turning back. It was then that Tkach, Sr., issued a document on the "new covenant" that would enunciate for any still in doubt that the church had departed from Armstrong's teachings. Here, among other things, he focused on the Sabbath: (He is quoted as saying) "There is nothing in the new covenant that says we are required to keep the Sabbath according to the rules of the old covenant.... Being Sabbath-keepers does not make us more righteous than other Christians." Ruth A. Tucker, “From the Fringe to the Fold”font-size: 12pt; Christianity Today, July 15, 1996

Compare Tkach, Sr. approach with the warning found in E. G. White’s Manuscript Release, Volume 9, and page 132.

“Let not those who have been placed in responsible positions think that God has given them light to controvert the work of the faithful ones who have died in the faith. God wrought through these old pioneers of the cause, and no voice or pen should be brought into action to demerit their labor, which was full of self-denial and self-sacrifice. Their works were wrought in God.” E. G. White’s Manuscript Release, Volume 9, and page 132

Let us not ignore the events which have occurred in the Worldwide Church of God. These events could very well repeat themselves.

Cameron A. Bowen

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