OF RELIGION Field Guide to the

Worldwide Church of God


Family Tree

The Passing of the Mantle


For over fifty years, the Worldwide Church of God and it’s forerunner, the Radio Church of God, had reflected the absolute control of one man, Herbert Armstrong. All doctrines, policies, and practices within the organization had been developed directly by him–or directly under his supervision. Any doctrine, policy, or practice not approved by him, and which was contrary to his wishes, that anyone tried to insert into the organization had a very short life. Any member or minister whose actions made it obvious that they were not  totally loyal to the leadership of the man who, in his later years, referred to himself bombastically as God’s Apostle, would promptly find themselves on the outside looking in.


By 1986, almost all discontent in the organization caused by earlier controversies had been quelled … by ejection of any discontented people. Loyal members had been taught to totally avoid any contact with, and any information coming from, “dissidents.” Losses from previous defections has been replaced and the organization was up near its top attendance numbers, perhaps around 150,000, in about 1985.





And then Herbert Armstrong died, in January 1986. In earlier years evangelist-ranked minister Gerald Waterhouse, Armstrong’s main “roving representative,” had thundered from WCG pulpits around the world, “If Mr. Herbert Armstrong dies before Jesus returns, God is a liar, brethren!” Waterhouse and most of the members of the church expected Armstrong to lead them to a “Place of Safety” just before the Great Tribulation, where each would be in “training” and receive final instructions on how to be a “leader” themselves in the coming Millennium on Earth that Jesus would inaugurate. This was expected to be in the ancient ruins of the city of Petra in Jordan in the Middle East.


But by 1985 it had become somewhat evident that Armstrong, now approaching age 94, just might not make it to a rendezvous in Petra. His health had been deteriorating for several years, and he was obviously more and more frail. In fall 1985 he failed for the first time in the history of the organization to appear in person at one of the sites for the Feast of Tabernacles.


This meant questions arose about a successor to his position as Pastor General/De Facto Dictator of the organization. The governmental system of the church made no provision for anyone to “vote” the next Pastor General into office, so he was expected to name his own heir. Up to 1978 it had been obvious to everyone that this would be his son Garner Ted Armstrong, who had already inherited his dad’s bombastic personality and speaking style, as well as most of the work of doing broadcasting in the organization, and being the chief administrator of the day to day operations of the organization.


But the family feud of 1978 left Garner Ted disinherited and cast out of the Armstrong Empire. By 1986 he was settled in as leader of his own small sect in Texas, and no longer a contender for the Mantle of his father. That was the term many people privately used to describe the situation (although not used by Armstrong himself) … Herbert Armstrong was viewed by many if not most in his organization as the embodiment of a modern version of Elijah the Prophet. The original Elijah had passed from the scene in ancient times, carried away into the heavens by a “chariot and horses of fire” in a whirlwind. As he was lifted up, his “mantle”–a cloak which was a symbol of his prophetic office–fell to the ground to his younger companion Elisha. Elisha picked it up, put it on, and thereby became the next primary prophet of Israel.


So the burning question of the day in late 1985 was … who would be designated by Herbert Armstrong to get his mantle? At first it appeared as if Armstrong would leave without naming a successor, which would have forced some “council of advisors” or some such to pick one themselves. But the person chosen by such a method would not be able to command the sort of mindless loyalty that someone hand-picked by Armstrong would.


Most expected that the choice would be one of the men who had been around the longest in the organization, those among the earliest graduates of Ambassador College. There were a number of those who had filled top positions in the church hierarchy for many years, including Raymond McNair and Roderick C Meredith.



But when it came down to it, nine days before his death Armstrong chose a man who had attended classes at Ambassador but didn’t have a degree from there, and whose name was so obscure in the history of the WCG that those who had been out of the WCG for only a few years reacted to the news with the question, “Joe WHO??”  His name was Joe Tkach Sr., and he had come up through the ranks of the hierarchy only recently, being ordained as an evangelist in 1979, 27 years after the first evangelists had been ordained.




But the system of church government in the organization made questioning this decision impossible, and Tkach immediately picked up the mantle… and the reins of the Church.




Dis-mantling An Empire



What happened next was, in the words of a  prominent US evangelical leader named Ruth Tucker, “truly historic.”


In the first year of his administration, Tkach calmly allowed the status quo to remain. But starting in early 1987, he began making “adjustments” to the doctrinal base of the WCG. The first was a total change in the “healing doctrine” as it had been promoted by Armstrong. Members were not only permitted but encouraged to seek medical help for any ailments, while looking to God as their ultimate healer. Most members and members looked at this as a positive step, so it caused little discontent within the organization. Another edict removed the prohibition of makeup for women. Armstrong himself had changed his mind on this particular doctrine several times over the years, so again this caused little concern within the ranks.


But it wasn’t long before Tkach began tinkering with much more basic tenets of the WCG’s doctrinal base.


…Tkach continued to implement additional changes in thinking including:  the deemphasis of observing world events primarily through the lens of prophetic interpretation; the removal of the prohibition of interracial marriage; the allowance of work on the Sabbath; the acceptance of the trinitarian doctrine; the acceptance of the validity of other Christian denominations; among many other changes. Older Armstrong publications that supported the church's once unique doctrines were allowed to go out-of-print. (Wikipedia article on Joseph Tkach Sr.)


The speed with which these changes were introduced did become cause for concern… and alarm… among many of the members of the WCG. At first the changes were introduced carefully with extended “teaching” from the pulpits of the organization about the scriptural and logical reasons for the changes. The emphasis seemed to be on “persuading” the members to understand and accept the changes with heart and mind. And indeed, with the changes in some of the  more practical doctrines that affected the physical daily lives of members, such as accepting medical care, the majority of members were easily persuaded.


It was the attempts to change scriptural understandings on more theoretical doctrines that were much less persuasive. Christian daily living was one thing. “Heavy theology” and “Bible Prophecy” were quite another.


When it became obvious that many were balking at such a radical departure from every theological idea they had held dear for decades, there was a shift in tactics by the Tkach administration. The one doctrine that was never changed by Tkach (and his successor, Joseph Tkach Jr.) within the organization was the doctrine of “top down church government.” And it was soon brought into play to deal with dissent about the changes being introduced. If gentle and cheerful persuasion wouldn’t work, then harsh measures would be imposed. As the saying went in the Star Trek series of the time, “Resistance is Futile.”


Large numbers of members and ministers were threatened with being disfellowshipped if they resisted in any way.  Many continued their resistance, and indeed were thrust out of the organization. Others avoided this by leaving of their own accord, with a variety of organizational rivals being formed from 1989 on. Some of those are described below.


Quite a significant number of dissenting WCG members and members held on for as long as they could, keeping their dissent private and carefully talking only among themselves. They believed–or at least fervently hoped–that God would at some point intervene and restore the organization to its roots miraculously.


Their hopes were dashed in late December 1994.


The doctrinal changes in the church occurred gradually, but by 1994, most of the concepts of Armstrongism had been largely modified or discontinued. However, the major bombshell was dropped during what is now called the Christmas Eve Sermon.Tapes of Tkach's sermon (dated January 7, 1995) were delivered to local congregations for viewing. In this sermon, he publicly declared that the Worldwide Church of God was a New Covenant church and, therefore, not bound by the terms of the Old Covenant. Christian theology defines the Old Covenant as the Mosaic Law embodied in the Torah. Hence, by making this statement, Tkach officially dropped all doctrines based on Mosaic Law (i.e., the keeping of the Sabbath, the Holy Days, and the dietary laws), making observance of such practices an individual choice.  (Wikipedia article on Joseph Tkach Sr.)



This was the proverbial last straw.  A large number of ministers and members left en masse in early 1995 and formed the largest branch to spread from the old WCG, the United Church of God (UCG). (Covered later in this Family Tree profile.)




Joe Tkach Sr. Died in the fall of 1995, naming his son Joe Tkach Jr. as his successor as Pastor General/De Facto Dictator of what was left of the WCG. Joe Sr left quite a legacy:


The impact of Tkach’s tenure as the head of the WCG was notable. Church income dropped from a high of over $200 million in 1990 to $50 million by 1996. By then the church could only count 49,000 as members, less than half from its peak. The circulation of The Plain Truth, distributed free by subscription and via newsstand distribution around the globe, fell from a peak of 8,000,000 to less than 100,000 before it switched to a paid subscription status. Eventually the magazine was spun off into a separate, independent, evangelical ministry.The number of employees at the church headquarters fell from 1,000 to about 50. Ambassador University, as the college had become after earning regional accreditation in Texas, ceased operations in 1997 as the church could no longer provide its annual operating subsidy. The Pasadena campus was finally sold in 2004.




In spite of all this, Joe Tkach Jr continued on the same program of revamping the organization. The efforts of his father, and his own finishing touches, had so totally reconstructed the Worldwide Church of God that it was accepted as a member of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1997. This was amazing, since the organization under Herbert Armstrong had long been viewed by the other members of the NAE as a “cult.”






Well-known evangelical Ruth Tucker wrote of the “new” WCG in Christianity Today in 1996:


The "changes"—as they are referred to by insiders—are truly historic. Never before in the history of Christianity has there been such a complete move to orthodox Christianity by an unorthodox fringe church. (ibid)


It wasn’t just religious leaders who were impressed with the make-over. Secular humanist author Vern Bullough wrote:


The shedding of almost every doctrine the Worldwide Church of God once clung to is a story almost without parallel in American religious history. (Ibid)



In its rush to become “one of the guys” in the Protestant Christian world,

the Worldwide Church of God under Joe Tkach Jr finally changed its name in 2009

to Grace Communion International (GCI) and cut off all ties with its past.



At that point it was reported to have about 42,000 members left. It’s not quite clear why any remained … since the GCI was at that point no different from any other Protestant denomination, most members could have just as easily joined a NAE-style church in their local neighborhood, instead of driving an hour or more to their closest GCI congregation. A wide variety of groups, from the charismatic Assemblies of God to the more sedate Christian Reformed Church, are members of the NAE.



In the years since these events, many former WCG members and ministers have speculated on how all of it happened so quickly. Some have been strongly suspicious that Joe Tkach Sr and his son had privately held the beliefs that they eventually imposed upon the church for many years while serving under Herbert Armstrong. And that “church politics” maneuvering  behind the scenes  in the last years of Herbert Armstrong’s life allowed Joe Sr to position himself to be the recipient of Armstrong’s mantle.


Some have even suggested that letters issued over Armstrong’s signature in the last weeks of his life weren’t written by him, but by others behind the scenes. After all, he had been legally blind for many years by the time of his death, and reports indicated he was very frail,  in constant pain, and receiving shots of morphine as needed toward the end. Perhaps he could have been persuaded by trusted associates to sign just about anything … including the “passing of the mantle” letter naming Tkach his successor.


Others have speculated in particular that Joe Tkach Jr and his younger generation of friends had always rankled at the rigidity of the WCG during their years growing up in the church as “preacher’s kids,” did not really believe in most of the church’s doctrines, and would have had every reason to want to not want to waste any time in busily making the organization over into their own ideal of what a church should be when they found themselves in power!  


Some think that they may also have really resented for years being part of a church denomination that was looked down on by almost all “orthodox” Christian groups as a despised “cult.” The thought that they could be accepted as “one of the family” if they just made lots of changes, and maybe even become “popular,” could have been a strong incentive for speed. There is, of course, no way to establish whether these speculations are true or not. Tkach and Company are the only ones who would know for sure … and they aren’t talking.




Much of the “Christian world” was all agog about the Tkaches and the amazing transformation they made in the WCG. They were praised widely for making their church “Orthodox.” It is unfortunate that the outside observers didn’t take as big an interest in why it may have become Orthodox … but was still a “cult.”


Most religious authorities tend to reserve the term “cult” to refer to any group that does not adhere to their own definition of “historical orthodoxy.” But that is only one definition of the term cult. Another wide-spread use of the term has to do not with specific theological beliefs, but with specific sociological and psychological characteristics of a group. It is sometimes clarified by such adjectives as “abusive” or “harmful” or “toxic.”


Under this definition, the old WCG under Herbert Armstrong did, indeed, have many of the characteristics of a harmful cult. The leadership had total dictatorial control, and all dissent or questioning of any decisions was forbidden. Members were admonished not to read materials from any “outsiders.” Former members were to be shunned, even if no evidence was offered of anything unbiblical or unchristian they were alleged to have done. A double standard of behavior allowed those in top leadership positions to “get away with” such problems as sexual immorality that would have immediately resulted in permanent disfellowshipment for the average member or even lower-level ministers.


Some checklists of more characteristics of such groups, such as this one,  show the WCG under Armstrong to have fit well over 50% of the characteristics. This had nothing to do with church “doctrine,” but everything to do with how members were treated.


What most “outsiders” failed to realize about the changes made by the Tkaches is that their administration used all the cultish powers inherited from Herbert Armstrong that were related to one-man-rule in order to make their changes. Members were treated harshly and all dissent of any kind was squelched, with disfellowshipment if needed. Congregations were left in turmoil during the period of change, with members who had formerly been loving spiritual sisters and brothers ending up at each others’s throats.


What outsiders also seemed to not have noticed is that the Tkaches and a few of their associates at the top of the organization managed to be left in control of a gigantic pile of assets that had been acquired by Herbert Armstrong and the WCG over the years, through the extremely sacrificial giving of the members. As the church membership dwindled in the years after the death of Armstrong, those assets were quietly liquidated. With no accounting for the disbursement of the millions upon millions of dollars they would have been worth. For after all, the government can’t pry into the inner workings of religious organizations!



Joe Tkach Jr is still both Pastor General and De Facto Dictator. It’s just that now he is De Facto Dictator of an Orthodox Denomination. A shrinking denomination, but one that provides him and a few cronies with a very comfortable standard of living.


Yes, according to the standard religious definition,

the WCG/GCI shed its identity as a cult.

But according to other standards,

many people feel that it is merely a …

cult in sheep’s clothing.  


For a more in-depth look at the process that led to the total transformation of the WCG to become the GCI, see:


Research Letters Concerning Worldwide Church of God Changes

“These letters give an excellent chronology of Worldwide Church of God's history and agenda, including the deceit surrounding the new doctrinal changes.”




Scattering the Empire to the Winds



Philadelphia Church of God: PCG   1989


As the Tkachian changes became more and more blatant, the first major defection from the WCG after the death of Herbert Armstrong occurred in 1989 with the formation of the Philadelphia Church of God by Gerald Flurry.



Flurry had been a WCG pastor in Oklahoma. He and his assistant pastor, John Amos, were disfellowshipped from the WCG for challenging the changes. Reports indicate about 3000 disgruntled WCG members quickly left the WCG and joined the new group. By 1998, membership was put by some reports at 7000.


There have been many ups and downs within the organization since that time, so it’s not clear how many members are involved as of 2011. A PCG report in 2003 put the membership at just over 5,000, which would have indicated a drop in the five years since 1998.


The PCG website section on “Our People” has a bar down the side titled “Numbers” tha mentions how many congregations it has in the US and Canada (94), how many countries in which PCG members live (50), and how many literature requests the organization had received in 2010 (466,740). Other pages on the site have similar side-bar Numbers sections, with other stats. But in all of it, there is no mention of the actual number of members involved. Guesstimates put it likely less than the 1998 figure of 7000.


Flurry’s main claim to fame was his insistence that he had inherited the mantle of Herbert Armstrong, and was destined by God to lead the Philadelphia COG to finish the work that Armstrong had started. His initial outreach effort was a glossy magazine, a clone of the WCG’s Plain Truth, which he dubbed the Philadelphia Trumpet. Since then he has made every effort to create a scaled-down, junior version of every aspect of Armstrong’s ministry.


The WCG’s Ambassador College is reincarnated as Herbert W Armstrong College at the PCG HQ in Edmond, Oklahoma. The HWAC campus boasts a $20 million version of the WCG’s spendiferous Ambassador Auditorium called the Armstrong Auditorium. When the WCG liquidated a large number of items from its campus and auditorium, Flurry made sure to buy up some representative items to feature on his own campus.


The WCG’s World Tomorrow TV program is reincarnated as The Key of David program featuring Flurry. The WCG’s SEP (Summer Educational Program) youth camps became the PYC (Philadelphia Youth Camp.) The WCG’s “cultural and charitable” outreach called the AICF (Ambassador International Cultural Foundation) is reincarnated as the AICF (Armstrong International Cultural Foundation.) The original AICF supported archaeological digs and other activities in the Middle East, and Flurry has made every effort to find ways to establish similar efforts.


All of these projects are paid for, just as were Armstrong’s huge projects, by the faithful tithes and the additional sacrificial offerings of the church’s members. And much of the sacrifice, just as it was under Armstrong, has been fueled by never-ending messages of fear drummed into them by Gerald Flurry of the imminent beginning of the Great Tribulation. For, of course, only totally loyal, sacrificing members will be protected during the horrible times coming soon.


In order to keep these loyal, sacrificing members from developing any doubts about Flurry and his claims, he eventually realized that he needed to keep such members from ever hearing or reading anything questioning the PCG. So in 2005 he sent a letter out to all his members ordering them to cut themselves off from any contact with friends or family members who had ever been part of the WCG or any WCG splinter group, and who were not currently members of the PCG.


Although many members found this very troubling, most obeyed … to the point that elderly parents, even on their deathbeds, were cut off from their own children and grandchildren. Reports of the emotional devastation to families affected by this edict have been mind-numbing over the past six years.


Flurry’s megalomania has become proverbial over the years. He fancied himself originally the only prophet to the End Time world, and now has announced he is an Apostle as well. His book Malachi’s Message first issued in 1989 is touted as being the “Little Book” (or scroll) mentioned in the Book of Revelation. He has the role of the End Time Elisha, the inheritor of Herbert Armstrong’s proclaimed role as the End Time Elijah.



For a sampling of how Gerald Flurry’s teachings have devastated the lives of his followers, see:


Letters from Those Impacted by Philadelphia Church of God


Letters from those with experience at the Philadelphia Youth Camps





Global Church of God: GCG   1993


As the pace of doctrinal changes instituted by Joseph Tkach Sr picked up in the WCG after the departure of Gerald Flurry, more ministers became disturbed at being required by the church administration to preach and teach doctrines about which they weren’t convinced themselves. The next minister to jump ship over these issues was Roderick C Meredith.


Meredith had been around the hierarchy of the WCG just about “forever.” He had begun attending Ambassador College in 1949, and had been ordained as an “evangelist-ranked minister” in the first batch of ordainees in 1952. Over the next 35 years, up to the death of Herbert Armstrong, he had been in a variety of senior executive positions in the Church and College. In Herbert Armstrong’s waning years, some folks, including no doubt Rod himself, had wondered if he might be picked by Herbert Armstrong as the heir to Armstrong’s role as Pastor General of the WCG.


He wasn’t.


So in December 1992 he found himself fired from the WCG ministry by Jospeh Tkach because he was resisting the changes. Within weeks he had founded a new denomination that was dubbed the Global Church of God. Starting with 42 for its first Sabbath service, the first week of 1993,  by fall 1993 it had about 1,500 members.


A “Church of God Timeline” on the website of The Journal–News of the Churches of God chronicles what happened next. Under the entries for the year 1998 it says:


Ongoing growing disagreements between Global Church of God (GCG) founder Roderick Meredith and the church's board, primarily over church government, will come to a head in November.


When Rod formed the GCG five years ago, he set up bylaws that created a church structure whereby the organization would be governed by a consensus. Now however, instead of governance by consensus of board and council of elders, he strongly felt (as reported in August 1998 issue of The Journal) he should be the sole "unquestioned leader" of the church.


Conflicts over "who is in charge" coupled with the sadly common desire among Ex-WCG ordained men to possess unaccountable control, are by far the chief catalysts behind the majority of WCG splits.


The church board passes a resolution on Nov. 20th affirming that membership lists and mailing lists/files are the sole property of the Global Church of God and use of them without written consent of the executive committee was strictly prohibited. Although still employed by GCG, Rod Meredith dates and sends a letter on Nov. 21st to members using unapproved church lists. The letter makes several accusations and requests members NOT to send their tithes/offerings to GCG, but instead send their checks to Rod personally made out to him. On November 25th, the board fires Rod after he refuses to resign.


Rod Meredith soon forms the Living Church of God (LCG). It is estimated 70% to 80% of brethren leave the GCG for the new group. The GCG would continue as an organization until September 1999. Due to a lawsuit won by a LCG member against the GCG, the church is in effect bankrupted. The Church of God, a Christian Fellowship (CGCF) is formed by former GCG members. The CGCF starts with 34 elders, 25 congregations and about 1,000 brethren around the world. Around June 2001 most of the CGCF merges with the United Church of God, an International Association. Before the merger some CGCF members leave and form the Church of the Eternal God.



Living Church of God: LCG   1998


The Living Church of God, founded in 1998 by Rod Meredith, is run as a De Facto Dictatorship by Meredith, and this system is totally supported by the members of the LCG. It is believed to be the “Bible form of government.”  


The original “Canons of Evangelistic Discipline of the Living Church of God” which were connected with its Bylaws documents back in early 1999, made this very clear. A former associate of Meredith, Norbert Link, posted a copy of these Canons on the Internet back at that time, interspersed with his own commentary on the significance of the Canons to the membership of the LCG. This document by Link is still available. Below are a few brief excerpts that are most relevant to understanding Meredith’s position within his organization. Norbert Link added his own comments throughout within brackets [ ] . The ALL CAPS sections of the Canons were evidently in the original.  Meredith’s mentor, Herbert Armstrong, was addicted to the use of long sections of ALL CAPS for emphasis in his writings, and thus it is not surprising that Meredith would follow this style.



Article VII of the Canons states:


"The Presiding Evangelist shall be the spiritual and the hierarchical leader of the Church through the living Jesus Christ. The Presiding Evangelist's actions WITHIN THE CHURCH are perceived to DERIVE FROM CHRIST'S DIVINE GUIDANCE AND BLESSING, and are THEREFORE ENTITLED to respect by both the Board of Directors and the Council of Elders." [Note, there is NO exception here. Whatever "actions within the Church" there are, they are ALL, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, "perceived to derive from Christ's Divine guidance and blessing." (!!!)]

Further, the Article continues, "The Presiding Evangelist has the POWER to DISFELLOWSHIP a participant in the Church, INCLUDING ANY MEMBER of the BOARD of Directors and ANY MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS." [Here we see that the Presiding Evangelist can get rid of ANY Director or Council Member by just disfellowshipping them. If it should ever happen that the Council would be willing to remove the Presiding Evangelist for cause, he could prevent even that from occurring by just disfellowshipping all or some of the Council Members. So all the other "safeguard provisions" listed above have no meaning].

Further, Article VIII of the Canon states, "The Church has adopted God's form of government, which includes the fulfillment of unity [!] in the Church. In the spirit of true Servant Leadership [!], the Presiding Evangelist shall have the power to APPROVE CANDIDATES FOR THE OFFICE OF DIRECTOR AND FOR THE OFFICE OF ELDER, and SANCTION REMOVAL OF A DIRECTOR OR ELDER FROM SUCH OFFICE."

The same Article continues, "Any desired amendment of the Church's Bylaws and the Cannons [sic] shall FIRST RECEIVE THE CONSENT AND APPROVAL of the PRESIDING EVANGELIST." [This means, NO PROVISION could be changed at all, if the Presiding Evangelist does not want to.]



Again, the members of the LCG seem to be aware of that this is the nature of the organization with which they are affiliated, and are comfortable with it. Or at least they are comfortable when they first become members. After a time, some begin to realize that the fruit of this approach is not necessarily what they expected. And there is attrition from the ranks.




Meredith and three other “presenters” host a weekly TV program titled Tomorrow’s World, closely modeled after Herbert Armstrong’s World Tomorrow program. A companion Tomorrow’s World magazine is published by the LCG.


The doctrinal base of the organization attempts to follow the teachings and emphasis of Herbert Armstrong as closely as possible. Meredith was unable to get Armstrong’s endorsement as the inheritor of his mantle, but he has created a system in which he is viewed by his supporters as the legitimate heir to Armstrong’s ministry. Rather than Armstrong’s “Apostle” or “Pastor General” titles, Meredith is referred to as the Presiding Evangelist of the organization.


The primary emphasis of the organization is speculative prophecy. Since the beginning of the LCG, Meredith has regularly issued warnings to his flock, and to his public audience, that the Second Coming is imminent, and that it will be preceded by the Great Tribulation… which is slated to begin perhaps in only


Check out, for instance, this bombastic declaration by Meredith in a magazine article:


WHERE ARE God’s true prophets today?… Listen! This work has been  warning America of definite and tremendous events to come for many years! The popular, denominationally supported evangelists often… use the words ‘may,’ ‘could,’ or ‘might.’ They are afraid to be definite and specific! The truth of the matter is that they DARE NOT be specific about the future because they just DO NOT KNOW what the Bible says is going to happen! But on the … broadcast and in this magazine we have dared to unlock the Bible prophecies and apply them to specific nations and events that are NOW being affected.


You might as well wake up and FACE FACTS! The world you live in won't be here 15 years from now!"


The problem is, the first declaration above was made clear back in 1957 by Meredith, writing for Herbert Armstrong’s Plain Truth magazine! The broadcast he was referring to was Herbert Armstrong’s World Tomorrow broadcast, not Rod Meredith’s much more recent Tomorrow’s World broadcast. At the time, Armstrong and “This work” that Meredith referred to, which he was deeply a part of, was proclaiming that Jesus would return by 1975, and that the members of their organization would be whisked to a Place of Safety by 1972 before the world was plunged into 3 and a half years of hellish famines, wars, pestilences, and more.  


The second quotation above was from an article by Meredith in December 1963.


Not one of the “specifics” which Meredith or any of the other WCG writers or speakers proclaimed (nor any of the specifics Herbert Armstrong had proclaimed since 1934) had ever come to pass. By Meredith’s own criteria, readers should have concluded he and his associates were NOT “God’s true prophets.” In fact, Meredith himself should have realized this.


He didn’t. In 2005 he wrote in his own Tomorrow’s World Magzine:


But, as a servant of the living God, I do know the basic outline of what God says will happen to our peoples at the time of the end. We are definitely now in the prophesied "last days!" We need to be willing to heed the direct words of the Bible in a way we have never done before!


If you are willing to genuinely listen and understand, please take seriously the warnings we give you in the pages of this magazine! For you will definitely see these events unfolding over the next several years of your life in a way that "mainstream" religions do not remotely understand—and certainly that mainstream news writers and columnists do not remotely understand, either! For, human as we are, we in this Work are true servants of the great God who is working out an awesome purpose here on earth. Are you "listening"?


Of course, according to Rod Meredith, “we” were definitely “in the prophesied last days” in 1957. And you could know that he and the Work he was part of back then were the “true servants of the great God,” the “true prophets,” because they were telling you the Plain Truth … that your world would be gone within fifteen years of 1963. All you needed to do was wait and watch it happen. But it didn’t happen.


In spite of all this, Rod Meredith still fancies himself the prime prophetic voice in the End Times. And enough people accept his delusions of grandeur that he has enough finances to spread his false prophecies indefinitely. Well, not indefinitely. Meredith turned 81 in 2011. I have absolutely no doubt that his time will run out before the End Times run out–and before they even begin.


In 2011 the LCG is reported by the Wikipedia LCG article to have over 8,000 members. As with most WCG splinter groups, it is not clear if this figure indicates bona fide “baptized adult members,” or the total attendance (including children and non-baptized adults) at the annual Feast of Tabernacles convention sites. (Most of the groups do not report membership figures based on local church membership rolls, but do make public the total attendance figures for their Feast of Tabernacles gatherings.) In either case, the tithes and offerings of 8000 people are enough to support Rod Meredith’s prophetic pretensions for a while longer.  




Restored Church of God: RCG   1999




One of the Global Church of God leaders who voted to fire Rod Meredith from his leadership position in the GCG was long-time WCG minister David C Pack. Within 6 months of this, Pack himself chose to leave the GCG and start his own organization, which he dubbed the Restored Church of God (RCG).





Although Pack did have some folks follow him out of the GCG, that was a bit surprising for many people.

Here is how the Ambassador Report put it back in 1985 when Pack was still a minister in the WCG:



"For a number of years now, no WCG minister's name has  appeared more often in letters written to the Report complaining of  ministerial abuse.  A group of members was even so brazen as to  circulate an open letter detailing his abuses and calling for his  removal.  According to this group, he "intimidated members, used threats  and mind control, was given to emotion outbursts, disfellowshipped  members for trivial faults, prescribed diets while playing M.D., put  down women," etc., etc.


The letter quoted Pack as saying, "Everyone who has challenged me has  either died, been seriously injured or has been eliminated from the  work...God backs me even if I am wrong."



Someone who had been an insider in the Global Church of God, before Rod Meredith left to form the Living Church of God, confirmed to me that Pack's reputation was identical within that organization at the time, with numerous complaints from people coming in about his tactics all the time.  


In spite of all that, Pack did gather a following. Over the years since then there have been numerous defections from his ministry, but he has also gained more supporters, both from other WCG splinter groups and from the public via the Internet.


Like Gerald Flurry before him (whose claims Pack mocks) David Pack claims to have inherited Herbert Armstrong’s mantle. He also claims that his organization follows the teachings of Herbert Armstrong more closely than any other WCG splinter group.


Also like Flurry, he has modeled the aspects of the RCG ministry closely after the old WCG. Rather than waste money on conventional broadcast media, The World to Come (Pack’s clone of Armstrong’s The World Tomorrow programs) is produced to go directly to Internet distribution. A weekly video and daily audio versions are provided.


An Ambassador Center (AC) is a junior version of Ambassador College (AC). An Ambassador Youth Camp (AYC) is a clone of the WCG’s Summer Educational Program (SEP).


Real Truth magazine, cloned from Armstrong’s The Plain Truth magazine, is available in hardcopy and online versions. Amstrong’s Good News magazine … that carried “meatier” articles aimed directly at church members rather than the general public … is cloned into The Pillar magazine for RCG members and serious potential recruits.


Pack seems to have closely re-written most of Herbert Armstrong’s main booklets and books and turned them into RCG publications. For instance, Armstrong’s Mission Dimension in Sex has become Sex–Its Unknown Dimension. The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last! has become Revelation Explained at Last!  The Wonderful World Tomorrow–What it Will Be Like! is now Tomorrow’s Wonderful World–An Inside View!  Sometimes he hasn’t even bothered to change the name of the booklet, such as Who or What is the Beast of Revelation?


Pack’s earliest claims were relatively modest. He was just going to preserve the teachings of Herbert Armstrong. As the years have gone by, though, his megalomania has finally come to the surface.


As of an astonishing sermon given in February 2005, he declared himself to be the only Apostle of our time, and insisted that he will be personally "training" those two individuals who will end up being the “Two Witnesses of Revelation.” You can see a detailed overview of that sermon on the Exit and Support Network website. Below is a short excerpt from that overview.


[Indented material below is quotes from Pack. The non-indented material, and any wording within brackets [ ], is commentary by the writer on the ESN website.]


Some day Christ will pick two prophets from this church. It will be obvious who they are. They have to be trained here. We knew they would be coming from the church…[Begins to SHOUT] They certainly aren’t going to come from an era that’s wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked, lukewarm, lacks zeal on Tuesday, and they start their ministry on Thursday. On Tuesday, they’re attending some splinter, fouled up in doctrine, don’t even understand the body of Christ, and on Thursday, they’re breathing fire out of their mouth against their enemies, drying up the heavens, when necessary, bringing plagues--holding the second highest office in the New Testament or in the Old. And I would add, that’s the second highest office in the body. I Cor. 12:27-28. It’s in the body, not outside the body, that’s what Christ said. Performing the greatest Work any prophets ever performed. They’re going to come from the sickest church era in all history? Who’s kidding whom?? Think about that! They’re not going to come here at the last minute. They may be here or they may not be here--yet. I don’t know. But they’ll be here loooong before they begin their duties. And Christ isn’t going to tell them Wednesday night: "By the way, you’re the two witnesses, take off tomorrow morning at sunup for the 3-1/2 years." What?!? They’re going to need to be trained!!


Then you have this great problem, brethren. The two prophets--all prophets--so said Mr. Armstrong in multiple places--have to report to a living apostle. So how do we figure that?....They have to have absolute, miraculous power--power never given, ever in history. Are those going to be given to people who didn’t even understand who and what the church was? Didn’t understand the rank of the prophet because they’re out in the splinters where they’re confused about that and everything else? Didn’t understand they report to a living apostle? Didn’t understand any of the offices in the body or that Christ gives them? It absolutely makes no sense.


The set-up is complete. According to Pack, all prophets must report to a "living apostle" (which he will soon reveal is him). He invokes the "Korah threat" toward those who engage in online chat rooms and talk about their "knee-jerk feelings." He continues with the two witnesses, stating that even they would have to yield to the 21st century apostle:  


If two men, somehow, think they’re prophets, they would have to yield to whatever the apostle taught--not in the 1st century, but the 20th century. And if there’s one in the 21st century, to that man. .... Now HWA taught, "God has to choose and designate by fruit." .... [Goes on to say that HWA used the words "look back" and "fruit" when he came to understand his office].  


Now Pack begins to magnify his past achievements as proof of his qualifications:

You look at the growth, you look at the fruit, you look at the miracles, you look at open doors. Are demons cast out? Are there healings? Extraordinary protection we could add in this age; even the fact that the church survived. Explosion of income… [Talks about HWA and Peter Waldo, and that nobody ordained Waldo to his office, and that nobody ordained HWA to his office of apostle. From these examples, Pack will conclude that he does not have to be "ordained" by anyone to ascend to this office].


Brethren I am teaching this as I understand the doctrine and looking at the fruits. I would ask, "Do I have the authority to take the gospel to the world?" Either I do, or I don’t. Do I not have authority? I look and the evidence is clear. The tools are in place. No one else is doing the Watchman or Messenger roles--they’re both "sent" positions. I have to ask, “Why would I NOT qualify as "one sent with authority"?


Later, on the second tape, he once again brings up his achievements and special powers that he insists are undeniable signs of his apostolic status:

Why did I pastor 19 churches? I don't know if any man pastored 19 churches--I may have baptized more people in the last century than any man in the ministry of God--over 600. Was there anybody who baptized more than that? I've raised up literally scores of churches in the splinters.


Let's look at the matter of miraculous power...remember, an apostle carries miraculous power. When I was as young as 27 years old, ministers used to call me when they dealt with demons because they knew I had experience in it. Casting out demons--apostles do that. There are healings here. They flow from the presence of apostolic authority. An apostle is inseparable from miraculous power. [Talks about these miracles not occurring in the splinters] We've had people healed of every conceivable thing--instant healings--dramatic! [lists all kinds of serious and terminal illnesses, hurricanes changing course, and God sending $10,000 to him after praying for it]


I've been used to write more literature for the church and the world, including to two eras of the church, than any man that's ever done it before.



Pack’s RCG website claims that, as Pastor General of the Restored Church of God (no mention is made to the public of his “Apostolic” role, evidently!) he “oversees the world’s most extensive biblically based websites.”  It’s difficult to evaluate that claim. It’s possible that the “hidden assumption” is that only his sites are truly “biblically based,” so of course they are the largest such sites. In any event, the sites are indeed well-crafted and chock full of material.


A major section of the website titled Understanding the Worldwide Church of God Apostasy & “Splinters” has obviously been crafted to specifically draw members to the RCG from all the other WCG splinter groups. A link from there to a document titled An Open Letter to Every WCG Splinter: RCG Fruits–Phenomenal Growth Continues! is particularly notable for what the document doesn’t include. It gives a long list of stats and commentary for such things as how many pieces of literature the RCG has distributed, how many hits its website gets, how many households “inquire” every year about attending RCG worship services, and what percentage of growth in income the organization has experienced in recent years.


The two pieces of information glaringly missing are the actual annual income of the organization, and how many people actually are baptized members attending the RCG worship services on each weekly Sabbath.


Then again, the income likely made quite a jump in late 2007. On 11/3/07 Pack gave a sermon he titled Clarion Call–the Time is NOW! The webauthor of a popular exWCG website (the gentleman is affiliated with Rod Meredith’s Living Church of God)  excerpted, as best he could, approximately verbatim quotes from a recording of this sermon. Here is what he typed up. (Bolding has been added to the collection of quotes below to highlight the most poignant points.)


"Yeah, I know, one or two can leave and say, 'Hey, you stopped preaching and started meddling, now you're messing with my goods here on earth' "

"First Timothy 6 verse 17...'Charge them that are rich in this world'...If you were born in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, then you're rich"

"If you hold those riches, I'm telling you, you trust in them"

"Go get a big chunk out of your home. And put your money where your mouth is and send it here. And I'm not talking about one, two, three thousand either. How about ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, or one hundred thousand dollars? Go do it"

"Wives, you can be independent in this. You have 1/2 the worth of whatever you have in your house. I'm officially telling you this...Wives, legally you have the 1/2 the funds. What are you going to do about it?...Husbands...'well, my wife is not in the church'...tell her...'you don't have a voice woman' "

"Go get those assets and get them here"

"Don't sit on vast resources that we can use now"

"We are not a splinter"

"I do not covet your silver or gold...the gold and silver is God's and He will get it someway"

"We do not have the funds...plans...bookstores...We need to redesign our website...We need many hundreds of thousands of dollars to arrive at God's headquarters soon...the timing is now"

"This is different...ask Him for the faith to liquidate certain assets and give it to the work"

"I'll say it again, we are talking about liquidating existing assets...it all belongs to God and the brethren"

"We have a lot of plans so big going on in this office it would cause just this room to to rock and gyrate if you knew what was going on. We just need a lot of money and we need it post haste...I would give more if I had it"

"Herbert Armstrong wrote an article...'Prepare to greatly reduce your standard of living'...What he wrote by far, is more for us now than it was then...its all going to be taken away from us anyway brethren"

"There will be follow-up sermons. Time to bring in related points"

"Let us know how much you plan to send and when you plan to send it...You must be willing to communicate...If you do need to counsel, please do that...If you are not ready to distribute what you have...you don't believe the flow of prophecy"

"This is announcing the last blast, the clarion call as it were, to finish the work...Whether it is 4,5,7, 9 years to go, God knows...This is liquidating assets...I have the authority to tell you to do it...I have the moral and spiritual, and ecclesiastical authority to tell you to do what I have also done"

"Get it now when it requires faith...when you are dead you don't need it...if you named us in your wills, it can take us months or years to get it"

"The wives in the faith will say give everything you can...We don't have the luxury of waiting years...today, leaving everything in your will simply doesn't work"

"Now you just have a second mortgage...and frankly we flee before most of it ever becomes due"

"...some may think that they want to tap their 401k--maybe you want to let us know that...why would you want to tell us? We are starting to prepare a budget now, the needs are now...it would be nice to know now"

"Think big...Pull big triggers"

"There is only two positions you can take regarding all that I have mentioned, only two, there is no middle ground. You're either going to yield, to submit and to follow, the clarion call that the time is now or you're not. And postponing a decision is deciding not to do it...It's saying I'm going to wait until it gets closer because it is not there yet...Don't say that I'm going to wait until it gets closer, when I can see...The decision is that my treasure stays on earth or it goes to heaven. Period. I will not lay up for times to come or I will. And this is the real test of Laodicea...either hold on to your assets...or give it...God is in this decision, no question. Testing the church's faith"

"We live in the most materialistic age in the history of the world. People trust in physical things. They trust in bank accounts...If you have excess and don't need it, those verses mean you...That's the Laodicean attitude...Put your money where your mouth is...Empty your assets"

"There is only one place He works...Where the...work is...that's where God is working...one elder commented here at headquarters, if people can't be motivated by a clarion call to finish the work such as this, why will those same people somehow believe the internal signal given to the church of the 1335? Why would they believe it?"

"This is the Laodicean age...Be careful that you don't tell us how to spend your assets...It belongs to God..You don't tell God or His servants how to spend it"

"Your faith is being tested. Think about that"

"We will all fast on November 17th...I have to...ask you for a very special financial sacrifice for God's work"

"The purposes of the fast...

a. To fast for God's intervention...
b.Fast for personal faith and courage to follow what I am asking you to do...
c. Fast for personal strength...
d...Fast for faith and courage in others with more than you to give...Go get a big chunk out of your house...their assets, IRAs, and pension funds...
e. Ask God to move specific properties...that they have told us they want to sell. Pray that these properties move...that is part of what this fast is about"


Perhaps if David Pack posted sermons like this on Youtube, and highlighted links to them on his Restored COG website for the public’s convenience, the organization wouldn’t get quite so many inquiries on how to begin attending his church.



More information, documentation, and commentary about the Restored Church of God and David Pack, including testimonies from former members, is available on the Exit and Support Network website.





Those familiar with the never-ending splits of splits of splits of the splinters of the WCG often joke about the Alphabet Soup of Church Acronyms that has resulted. Almost every newly-formed group has to embed the term “Church of God” in its name somewhere. The trick is to find some new adjective or adverb or noun, or combination thereof, to add to the COG to create a unique name. And then figure out what Acronym to use for it.


This has been true of virtually every branch of the splits, but below is just a tiny representative sample, taken from the history of the Global Church of God (GCG) splits.


To refresh your memory … Rod Meredith created the Global Church of God. When he was fired by its board of directors, he formed the Living Church of God (LCG).  80% or so of the GCG went with him. The US corporation of the Global COG then went bankrupt and ceased to exist. Those remaining regrouped under the title Church of God, a Christian Fellowship (CGCF). Here’s how it went from there:


On July 1, 2001, eight ministers resigned from CGCF and formed the Church of the Eternal God (CEG), similar in name, but not related, to the Eternal Church of God (ECG--founded by a minister removed from the original GCG ministry for impropriety)


About a month later CGCF (USA) dissolved and most still with it ended up in the United Church of God (UCG).


One former GCG minister (Ronald Laughland) became pastor of the Wholeworld Church of God [WWCG].


One group that split from UCG (and never was part of GCG or LCG), then COGaic, called Church of God, Established in Modesto (COG-eim, Steve LeBlanc) has some former GCG members and maintains a relationship with the GCG Belgians (who had supported the original GCG takeover);


… in 2002, COG-eim split, and its leading minister (Don Billingsley) formed a new group called COG-Faithful Flock (COG-ff).


In 2004, Raymond McNair, having been in GCG, CGCF, LCG, then went on his own and formed Church of God, 21st Century (COG21).


Don Haney, once in GCG/LCG, formed the Church of God In Peace and Truth [COGIPAT?].


In 2005, Ben Faulkner, who was in GCG and LCG, formed the Church of the Sovereign God (CotSG).


In 2006, Charles Bryce who was in GCG and LCG left, and formed the Enduring Church of God (En COG).


This would all be hysterically funny… if it wasn’t so pathetic.


Years ago, even before the formation of the Global Church of God, I invented my own fictional church. I didn’t want to put God’s name on such a mockery of Christian unity that has been the legacy of the WCG, so I dubbed it a “Church of Man.”


It was the…


Atomic Church of Man (ACOM)   

“It splits regularly … and has a half-life of less than ten years.”



I was too optimistic. If I were inventing one today, I would change the slogan to read:



“…and has a half-life of less than two years.”




Continue on to the final listing of Branches of the Worldwide Church of God.



Unless otherwise noted, all original material on this Field Guide website
is © 2001-2011 by Pamela Starr Dewey.

Careful effort has been made to give credit as clearly as possible to any specific material quoted or ideas extensively adapted from any one resource. Corrections and clarifications regarding citations for any source material are welcome, and will be promptly added to any sections which are found to be inadequately documented as to source.

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This is the third part of a series of articles on the history of the development and breakdown of the Worldwide Church of God. Be sure to read the Introduction to the series first.