Note: The latter part of this webpage is based on my and others' experiences with WWCG prior to the reforms which began after Armstrong's death and became dramatic in 1994-1997 when Joseph Tkach Jr. formally repudiated most or all of the peculiar beliefs of Armstrong and were accepted by mainline Protestant evangelical groups and the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (the latter may suggest that the group has traded Armstrongism for generic fundamentalism). Though there is still uncertainty as to how thorough these changes have been so far (and some continue to adhere to the old beliefs), there is an obvious change for the better. The WWCG has lost 75% of its members and the Plain Truth's circulation has plummeted (and is no longer free. The leadership is willing to deal with this, and has even apologized for former wrongdoing. Would that all cults could change like this.
  • Official (new, Calvinist) creed of Worldwide Church of God (Plain Truth Magazine)
  • The Worldwide Church of God: The Painful Truth
  • The Worldwide Church of God: The Painful Truth: Another Link
  • Transcript of the "Airtalk" Interview of Joe Tkach Jr. by Larry Mantle
  • WCG EXODUS -- Topical Contents
  • Associated Press Reports on WCG Theology and Cultural Change
  • Other Cults (that have not reformed)
    Information on the pre-1994 cult.

    This cult is the author of the Plain Truth magazine commonly seen in airports, trains stations, etc. Like many cults, it tries to present a respectable image, but the reality is that it shows many of the same characteristics shown by other well-known cults such as the Moonies and Scientology, such as:

    I first learned of this cult in 1984 when I found a copy of the Plain Truth on the PATH train that runs between New Jersey and New York. It seemed interesting so I sent in the card requesting a free subscription. Of course they don't leave you alone after that.

    At first it seemed like it was good, but they always had their little blurb at the end, their self-serving ads, their anti-Trinitarianism. Wierd ideas such as the British, Americans and other English speakers being the Lost Tribe of Israel and thus entitled to rule others as God's chosen autocrats (this belief, it turns out, was also held by other nationalist-fundamentalists in Britain in the nineteenth century).

    Their founder and leader Herbert Armstrong (who has since died and has been replaced by Joseph Tkach) was, according to his own rags-to-spiritual-riches story, a salesman who suddenly decided to found the one true church. His organization's major publication, the Plain Truth, though distributed free and "without any advertisements", is full of hard sells and implicit and explicit advertisements for "church" publications and courses. Every issue featured a preface by him that was notable for his rants in ALL CAPITALS and LOTS OF UNDERLINING, EXCLAMATION POINTS AND ITALICS!!!

    They did actually have a bit of influence on me in late 1985, when I was made to feel a little guilty about celebrating Christmas (they have lots of propaganda against it, being a pagan holiday, etc.), but this served (like other negative experiences with these kinds of groups) to "inoculate" me against their poison -- I thought, "why should there be anything wrong with celebrating the birth of Christ, whether or not we are explicitly told to do that in the Bible?". I celebrated Christmas with a clear conscience and never troubled myself with such garbage again, in fact I somewhat ceremonially disposed of those Plain Truths for the purpose of totally separating from them in late 1985 and early 1986.

    The theology of my own church (Greek Orthodox) was very helpful in resisting this cult. For instance, the contrast between the arbitrary and self-serving way that Armstrong picked out quotes from the Bible to serve his interests, as compared to the orthodox way of looking at the Bible in the context of the rest of the Bible and the Tradition of the historical church in which this Scripture was written. And of course, Scripture is divinely inspired. That does not mean there cannot be any typos in the scripture; it does not mean that the literal word must be worshipped. The Bible describes God and the Word of God; but it is blasphemy to say that the Bible is the Word of God (John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God").

    Divine inspiration is not something that takes over or possesses someone (as a demon would), obliterating one's personality; that's why Old and New Testament authors, Church fathers and other inspired writers still show their personality in their writings (even their mistakes and errors), but with the help of God we can chew it up and spit out what is not good ("Test the spirit, prove all things, and retain that which is good"). The opposite of that is the kind of channeling and automatic writing practiced by Aleister Crowley and others where the spirit takes over; if that's not possession it must be something close.

    When an alleged "inspired writing" takes the form of the rants of Armstrong, one can be quite sure that it is not divinely inspired.

    A major reason I have put up this page is the loss of a friend of mine, Jeffrey C., who I met in 1987 and who later roomed with a friend of mine. He knew how I felt about cults so he never told me he was going to Worldwide Church of God meetings until it was too late. He voluntarily accepted their awful burden. One of the things that entailed was disconnection, similar to what Scientologists do, though they of course don't call it that, and the rare times I am able to talk with him he always vehemently denies that they require any such action; that he's not even avoiding anyone, etc. His other former best friend has the same problems trying to contact him and communicate with him. He tries to put a positive spin on what the cult tells him to do and insists that everything he is doing he is doing voluntarily, but when pressed for details he admits that there still are some reservations he has about the cult, and it has not accomplished what it claimed to do.

    One things the cultists also take full advantage of is trying to identify any guilty feelings and take full advantage of that. Jeff is gay and never really fully accepted that, so they perceived that and made him feel that they'd "save him" from that. He can't leave because he feels that's the only way he'll get over his orientation and magically become straight, despite the fact that not only does human nature argue against that, but I've never seen any lives of the saints where someone goes straight by divine intervention; God could do anything He wants, so why doesn't that happen except in unsubstantiated cult fantasies and with unscrupulous "change therapists"?

    This "church" is highly selective in its acceptance of Scripture. For example, all the restrictions (the 600 or so mitzvot) in the Law of Moses are rejected totally -- except the prohibition on pork, which is strictly enforced. Armstrong frequently would go on and on in the magazine about how eating pork is going against God's Law because it is plainly in the Bible; the wages of sin are death, so one will utterly die from this sin. The exact formulaic response is used to refer to any violation of the WWCG's selective interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, whether it's eating pork, masturbating or daring to celebrate Christmas or Easter. Since they don't believe in a conventional hell, they threaten a total destruction and annihilation after death with no afterlife of any kind, good or bad.

    One rule they strictly enforce upon anyone who actually joins their "church" (as opposed to merely receiving the Plain Truth and trying in vain to get off their junk-mail list) is that ten percent of one's income must be given to the "church". In practice, they convince the victim to "donate" much more. Newspapers such as Newsday have reported mandated "donations" of 33% and more and troubles with the government.

    The "church" was very strict in matters of sex, strictly forbidding divorce, masturbation and homosexuality. However, the restriction on divorce was loosened after Armstrong divorced his own wife. It later became known that Armstrong was quite a playboy, and would make special stops with his private jet for sexual purposes.

    A related link (Armstrong drew many of his beliefs from Seventh-Day Adventists:
  • Bill Thompson's SDA Research

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    Last updated: December 31, 1997.