GCI: Introduction to Transformed by Truth
By Joseph Tkach
While I love to read books, this is the first one I have attempted to write. As the president and pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God [now named Grace Communion International], I am writing to tell you a story of God’s grace and the transformation that is taking place in our church. It is a transformation that can be characterized as moving from darkness to the light of God’s truth. That’s right, the Worldwide Church of God—the church, sect, cult, or whatever term is going through your mind, that was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. We publish The PIain Truth and have reached out through the radio and television ministry of The World Tomorrow. We have branded evangelical Christians as false or worse. But, by God’s grace we are changing. We are seeking God’s will and wisdom for everything we teach and examining all that we do and say in the light of Scripture. We have grown and changed a lot in the last few years.
I want to tell you our story. It is a story of the power of prayer. It is a story of Christians reaching out to us as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is also a story of mistrust and suspicion. And, sadly, it is also a story of rejection and separation. Those who would not continue on the journey that God was taking us on have left. Family and lifelong friends have rejected some of us. But we have found new brothers and sisters who support us. Some have put their reputations on the line to say a good word for us.
I also want to tell you about my father. He was the successor to Herbert W. Armstrong. The providential grace of God caused Mr. Armstrong to entrust the future of the ministry to my father. My father was a courageous man who faithfully led us in studying the Scriptures to see where we were right and where we needed to change. He entrusted the leadership of our church to me when he died, and his struggle to follow God as a shepherd of His people has become mine.
I will tell you about the beliefs we examined and the changes that our study of God’s Word brought. I will also write about Herbert W. Armstrong. He was a mentor to my father and me. I spent decades under his teaching. He was a skillful leader, and we would not be where we are today if it were not for him. Finally, I will also talk about our future in the Body of Christ. Our pilgrimage is not over. The lessons are not finished. Our exciting spiritual renewal continues.
The Worldwide Church of God (WCG) is a small denomination with a large name. In the course of its short history, there have been nearly half a million people who have passed through its doors as members. Even though the denomination never had an attendance larger than 150,000, nearly everyone has heard of The PIain Truth magazine, The World Tomorrow television program, or the Ambassador Performing Arts Concert Series in Pasadena, California. Many remember the name of Herbert W. Armstrong.
Virtually every cult-watching organization in the U.S., Canada, and Europe has devoted resources to criticizing the ministry and teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong and the movement that he started. He became famous for The World Tomorrow radio and television programs. His son, Garner Ted Armstrong, became the voice of these programs until he left the organization and started his own ministry in 1978.
Lacking any training in hermeneutics, epistemology, or apologetics, Herbert Armstrong began his media ministry in the early 1930s with a warning that the end of life as we know it was imminent. He was a gifted communicator. He and the ministers he trained focused on dates of the tribulation, the return of Christ, and Christ’s millennial reign. Like other ministers of his time, he pioneered the use of radio in preaching about the kingdom of God. Unlike other preachers, he created hooks to capture people’s attention that resulted in people’s believing the marketing hooks with as much conviction as they believed the doctrines.
Herbert Armstrong’s dynamic personality and work ethic led to the development and growth of his powerful, worldwide ministry. Unfortunately, the gospel message was subsumed under the prophetic predictions of a coming European “beast” that was expected to take the United States and Britain into captivity.
While many have exited the Worldwide Church of God over the years, some still cling to Herbert W. Armstrong’s teachings, and others have been transformed by the truth. Some are happy to continue believing errors, while others can’t find closure on how they could have fallen for a conspiracy theory of church history and uninformed teachings. Some feel the current leaders of the Worldwide Church of God are courageous disciples of Christ, while others view them as demon possessed.
As you might imagine, some people look upon their experience in the Worldwide Church of God as nothing short of wonderful. Others reject totally the validity of what has happened. This is true with any organization—but not every organization claims to be the one and only true church of God. And herein lies the story.
In His sovereign mercy, God has moved to transform the Worldwide Church of God, and for some people, this is just too good to be true. For this reason, I felt it necessary to write this book to give my perspective on just such a story.
This book will give a behind-the-scenes look at what God has done to transform this denomination. It is my hope that I can reach out and provide a measure of closure to those who desire it.
I express my special gratitude to all those who have been supportive in our journey of transformation, as well as in the writing of this book. I am indebted to my wife, Tammy, and friends and family in Christ for their contribution of prayers and financial support. Most
of all, we are appreciative of the grace of Jesus.
Author: Joseph Tkach