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Worldwide Church of God: A Miracle of God

  • Richard Abanes Author, Journalist
  • 2009 21 Apr
  • COMMENTS
Worldwide Church of God: A Miracle of God

"...with God all things are possible." —Matthew 19:26

* * *

In 1934 a small cult was born under the leadership of Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)—i.e., the Radio Church of God. By 1968, after gaining thousands of converts, this new church became the Worldwide Church of God (WWCG). Its doctrines were anything but orthodox. Armstrong and his followers, for example, flatly denied the Trinity, the full deity of Jesus Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit.  Armstrong also taught that individuals, if they proved themselves worthy of the blessing, could eventually “become God as God is God.” And salvation, not surprisingly, was by works of righteousness, rather than by grace through faith.

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Armstrong had also made a number of end-times-related false prophecies that brought great fear to many of his trusting devotees. For example, "Armstrong wrote, 'this drought will be even more devastating than he foresees, and that it will strike sooner than 1975 - probably between 1965 and 1972! This will be the very beginning, as Jesus said, of the Great Tribulation!' What specifically will happen as a result of the beginning of the Tribulation? Armstrong stated, 'Here is exactly how catastrophic it will be: One Third Of Our Entire Population Will Die in this famine and disease epidemic!" (1975 in Prophecy, pp. 10, 12, quoted in A History of False Prophecies, Watchman Fellowship).

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But after Armstrong died, something both unexpected and remarkable happened. The church began to re-examine its doctrines, teachings, & practices. For a full-blown cult to take such steps is nothing short of miraculous. Nevertheless, that's exactly what the new church president—Joseph W. Tkach—started doing with the help of  various Christian leaders, including Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute (CRI).

Eventually, Tkach and other leaders in the WWCG fully repudiated Armstrong's false teaching and embraced without reservation the historic, orthodox, Christian positions on all of the theological issues they had previously rejected! And then, in an effort to make the truth known, Tkach told the incredible story of his church's unbelievable transformation in "A Church Reborn," which appeared in the Winter 1996 issue of the Christian Research Journal. Tkach then wrote an entire book devoted to telling the tale of how God took a cult and made it orthodox (see Transformed by Truth).

And now, April 20, 2009, the change has been made complete with the official announcement that the Worldwide Church of God has changed its name to Grace Communion International. The decision to change the church's name has been in the works since 2005, according to the announcement, which also stated the following:

"The church's message now centers on Trinitarian, Incarnational theology and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. By 1995, the church had abandoned its former legalistic doctrines, exclusivist teaching, and prophetic speculation and has been warmly embraced by the Christian community. The church sees itself in full communion with the greater Body of Christ and a participant in the collective effort to proclaim the gospel of grace.."

President Tkach explains that the new name is a better reflection of the group's commitment to the core of the gospel, which is "God's grace extended to humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ." Tkach also offered the following sentiments, with regard to the new name:

"Grace lies at the heart of our values and mission as a transformed church. Our spiritual unity with God and with one another is reflected in the word Communion. The word International identifies us as a unified body of believers who span the globe, sharing a common history and journey of faith. . . . We are a church that God radically transformed. Our new name is consistent with that transformation and aptly describes what God has made of our fellowship."

This is no small event to note since Grace Communion International currently has approximately 42,000 members spread throughout 900 congregations worldwide!

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So, let the Christian world rejoice! Like the parable of the Prodigal Son, the entire Worldwide Church of God (formerly) has come home to Christ: "For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate" (Lk. 15:24).

(NOTE: Currently Grace Communion International is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and Tkach serves on NAE's board of directors.)

peace in him,

RICHARD ABANES
"...with God all things are possible." —Matthew 19:26





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