Worldwide Church of God

by James Bjornstad

I. History

A. Herbert W. Armstrong
  1. Herbert W. Armstrong was born in 1892 in Des Moines, IA.
  2. In 1927 his wife Loma brought the teachings of her church, the Church of God - 7th Day, to his attention. He, claiming to have studied their beliefs thoroughly, finally accepted them. After a split in the Church of God - 7th Day in 1933, he was ordained a minister in the segment that established its headquarters in Salem, WV and became the pastor of the Church of God - 7th Day (Salem, WV) church in Eugene, OR.
  3. He purchased radio time and began the Radio Church of God in 1934. That same year, hepublished the first issue of The Plain Truth magazine.
  4. His ordination was revoked in 1938 because he proclaimed that the Jewish feast days were binding on the church. He continued his ministry by radio and magazine.
  5. In 1947 he moved his organization to Pasadena, CA and founded Ambassador College. In 1968 the name of his organization was changed to the Worldwide Church of God.
  6. Herbert W. Armstrong was the Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God. He claimed to be the God-enlightened prophet for these latter days and the only true interpreter of Scripture. He died in January 1986.
B. Joseph W. Tkach, Sr.
  1. Shortly before his death, Herbert W. Armstrong selected Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. to succeed him as the Pastor General.
  2. During Tkach’s tenure many doctrinal changes were initiated, including the adoption of a Trinitarian view of God and statements promoting salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ rather than by good works and law-keeping.
  3. There has been great resistance to these changes within the Worldwide Church of God. Some dissenters have left, but many remain in the church, refusing to accept the new doctrines. The latter are often referred to as those under the “Old Covenant.” Those who have accepted Tkach’s teachings are those who are under the “New Covenant.”
C. Joseph Tkach, Jr.
  1. Succeeding his father who died in 1995, Joseph Tkach, Jr. became the new Pastor General.
  2. His theology is virtually the same as his father’s.

II. Theology

A. God
  • 1. Under Armstrong [”Old Covenant”] - There is one true God Who exists as a family. Originally God was two persons, the Father and the Son. God’s intent was to reproduce Himself. In the end God would be a family consisting of the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and all human beings who also become His sons through spiritual rebirth. The doctrine of the Trinity was denounced as heresy because it reduced God to three persons.
    “God is a family, a growing family with more sons and daughters begotten every day - to be born again into a spiritual body at Christ’s second coming. The God family is not closed to just three members. It is open to all who will qualify” (Gary L. Alexander, “Five Doctrines Which Identify God’s Church,” Good News, July 1974, 7).
  • 2. Under the Tkachs [”New Covenant”] - There is one true God eternally existing in three “hypostasis” - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    “The Bible does not teach that God is a family name, with two God beings in that family right now, and billions to come later. The Bible teaches that the one and same God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Pastor General’s Report, July 27, 1993, 4).
  • Re “hypostasis” - “[The Worldwide Church of God] teaches the full divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - but it does not argue whether God is an essential, a personal, or a supra-personal being, in the way these terms are used by theologians” (K. J. Stavrinides, Reviews You Can Use, January-February, 1991).
  • B. Creation
    1. Under Armstrong [”Old Covenant”] - God created the heavens and the earth from non-existence.
    2. Under the Tkachs [”New Covenant”] - God created the heavens and the earth from non-existence.
    C. Holy Spirit
  • 1. Under Armstrong [”Old Covenant”] - The Holy Spirit is a divine force - the love of God. It is neither a person nor the third person of the Trinity.
    “The Holy Spirit is divine, spiritual love, the love of God flowing into you from God Almighty” (Just What Do You Mean . . . Born Again?, 19).
    “The Holy Spirit is not a person . . . it is the power and the mind of God” (You Need God’s Holy Spirit, report no. 752, 1).
  • 2. Under the Tkachs [”New Covenant”] - The Holy Spirit is the third “hypostasis” of God.
  • D. Jesus Christ
    1. Under Armstrong [”Old Covenant”]
  • a. Originally Jesus Christ was the second person of the God family.
  • b. In the incarnation, Jesus Christ ceased to be God and took upon himself a fallen human nature.
  • c. Jesus Christ died, thereby ceasing to exist for three days. Obedient to the commandments of God (including keeping the Sabbath and the festivals of God), God raised him from the dead. “Born again” at his resurrection, he again became part of the God family.
  • 2. Under the Tkachs [”New Covenant”]
    “The Son of God is one of the three hypostases of the one God. Therefore, the Son of God hypostasis is eternal” (Pastor General Report, January 22, 1991).
    E. Salvation
    1. Under Armstrong [”Old Covenant”]
  • a. Salvation (the “new birth”) is a process consisting of the following steps:
    (1) Repentance
    (2) Faith in Christ
    (3) Baptism by the Worldwide Church of God
    (4) Reception of the Holy Spirit
    (5) Obedience and overcoming sin
    (6) Resurrection into a spirit being - “Born again”
  • b. The “new birth” has nothing to do with spiritual change in this life. It relates instead to the new life as spirit beings into which God’s children are born through resurrection.
  • 2. Under the Tkachs [”New Covenant”]
  • a. Elements which were previously believed to be requirements which effected one’s salvation appear to have been removed.
    “When a person believes, he or she is ?in Christ,’ sealed with the Holy Spirit” (Reviews You Can Use, November/December, 1993, 21, 22).
  • b. Yet at least one “old element” remains: that believers can lose their salvation by not being overcomers and enduring to the end.
    “Salvation is one thing, but overcoming is another. And if we are not interested in overcoming, you can rest assured that salvation is not going to be there. Salvation is a present possession. However, it does not mean once saved always saved in any way, shape or form. You have to overcome and endure to the end” (Joseph Tkach, Sr., Feast of Tabernacles, Sept. 30, 1993).
  • III. Summary - At this point,

  • A. Members of the Worldwide Church of God who are part of the “New Covenant,” i.e. those who have had a personal experience with Jesus Christ and have truly accepted the doctrinal changes initiated by the Tkachs , all things being equal, should be considered our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • B. Those members who are part of the “Old Covenant,” who have rejected the doctrines taught by the Tkachs, should be considered as unbelievers. They need to hear again and accept the truth about the nature of God, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
  • IV. Helpful Resources

  • Gomes, Alan W. And Kurt Van Gorden. “Special Report: The Worldwide Church of God in Transition,” Christian Research Journal, Spring 1992, 35.
  • Summary of Doctrinal Statement and Recent Changes With the Worldwide Church of God. 1991 Tanner Lectures. Fall 1992 edition.
  • Watchman Expositor, vol. 10, no. 7 (1993).