In order to be honest to the historical record of Herbert W. Armstrong, no account would be complete without including some material that documents how those who succeeded him have related to his system of beliefs and to his legacy. The best way to do so is to permit these people to speak for themselves as to the pace and openness of doctrinal changes and to why some of them came to view Armstrong's teachings as heresy. The material on this page lets you read and hear for yourself what those people and those who assisted them have to say about Armstrong and his teachings.
Just prior to his death in January 1986, Herbert Armstrong appointed Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. as Pastor General. On the afternoon of Saturday December 17, 1994 Mr. Tkach gave a sermon in Atlanta, Georgia which would later be regarded as the turning point in the church's "official" teachings and mark the beginning of the open and rapid process of repudiating the teachings of Herbert Armstrong.
In May of 1995 while undergoing gall bladder surgery it was determined that Tkach had pervasive and inoperable cancer. He appointed his son, Joseph W. Tkach, Jr. to succeed him upon his death which occurred at 2:20 PM PST on the afternoon of Saturday September 23, 1995.
The astute reader will notice that from the day the senior Tkach publicly repudiated the belief system expounded by Armstrong until he died was exactly 40 weeks, indeed almost to the very hour, given allowance for the time zones. One correspondent said of Tkach's condition, "[h]e died a horrible death. In the end there were horrible sores on his body and legs that could not be stopped from bleeding. People who came in to see him burst into tears at the sight."
This same sermon was repeated at the Church's college in Big Sandy, Texas on December 24, 1994 (see below). Coincidently, it was given on the two dates that also mark the beginning and end of the ancient pagan religious festival of Saturnalia. The editors cannot help but be struck by this, for these dates make a very improbable coincidence especially combined with the coincidence of the exact timing of Tkach's death. Indeed, these events are so improbable as to appear to be pure random chance, except for the utmost seriousness of their spiritual implications.
This section concludes with a few articles from Armstrong's critics on the changes made after his passing
Tkach's Atlanta Sermon given December 17, 1994
Click here to read Tkach's Atlanta sermon, where he introduced what came to be called the "new understanding", or "NU" of the church's fundamental doctrines. The editors downloaded this transcript from the WCG web site.
On December 24, 1994, Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. repeated his Atlanta sermon for church cameras and members at the church's college in Big Sandy, Texas. Starting at 5:04, this sermon matches the start of the official transcript of his Atlanta sermon, although the sermon appears to have been revised and expanded in places. The video of this sermon was then shown to many church congregations. The editors are pleased to have secured a copy of the soundtrack of this sermon.
1998 EMNR Conference
Joe Tkach, Jr. and Greg Albrecht spoke at the 1998 Annual Conference of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions. Comprising two sessions each lasting over an hour, this recording is the most comprehensive public statement available covering Post-Armstrong doctrinal decisions and church history.
Bible Answer Man
Joseph Tkach, Jr. has appeared several times on the radio program, The Bible Answer Man, hosted by Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute and who is noted for his anti-cult preaching. Tkach was often accompanied by another WCG executive, Greg Albrecht.
Other Audio Material
Soundbites from some of Tkach's 1994 sermons have been collected in a kind of "denial rap" in which he repeatedly labels the rumors of fundamental doctrinal change as "damnable lies." In light of the subsequent events, particularly his Atlanta sermon in December of the same year, this is a most revealing choice of words.
Click here for another example of an "out of the blue" denial of any major doctrinal changes. This selection is from the middle of Tkach's Ambassador University commencement speech from May 1994
On March 6 1998, Pastor General Joe Tkach, Jr. was a guest on the widely viewed television religious talk show, The 700 Club, hosted by Pat Robertson. These are two salient excerpts from that interview.
Christianity Today Article
Click here to read From the Fringe to the Fold, How the Worldwide Church of God discovered the plain truth of the gospel by Ruth Tucker. The article appeared in the July 15, 1996 issue of Christianity Today. Tucker is a leading figure in the "cult-watch" movement. This article is obviously endorsed by the WCG as it was reprinted in its offical member newspaper, the Worldwide News
The Worldwide Church of God: From Cult to Christianity
Click here, to read Appendix A from pages 471 to 473, of Kingdom of the Cults, by Walter Martin (Bethany House Publishers, 1997). The late Dr. Martin was founder of the Christian Research Institute, and original host of The Bible Answer Man radio broadcast. He was succeeded by Hank Hanegraaff. This updated appendix replaces the 1985 edition's chapter 12, "Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God--Anglo-Israelism."
Most telling quote from article (speaking of Joeseph Tkach, Sr.): "He reversed Armstrong's most damnable doctrines in full acceptance of the Trinity, Christ's divinity and humanity, the person and deity of the Holy Spirit, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and salvation by grace through faith alone.
The Worldwide Church of God: Acknowledging the 'Plain Truth' about the Trinity?
Click here, to read the article from page 29 of the Spring/Summer 1994 edition of the Christian Research Journal, a publication of Hank Hanegraaff's Christian Research Institute. This article describes the basis for the rejection of Armstrong's teachings about the nature of God.
Worldwide Church of God Update: Tkach Clarifies 'Sabbath' and 'True Church' Doctrines
Click here, to read the very detailed article from a 1995 edition of the cult-watch magazine, The Watchman Expositor about the history of doctrinal change.
Changes in WCG Doctrines of the Trinity and the Only True Church
Click here, to read another article on WCG doctrinal changes from The Watchman Expositor. Note the reference to correspondence dated August, 1992 which the Watchman called "a major shift from the teaching of the church's founder..." The Watchman dates the WCG's official acceptance of the Trinity from a September 23, 1993 letter from David Hunsberger, of the Personal Correspondence Department.
The Worldwide Church Of God: A Time for Sober Thought
Click here, to read an article by Phillip Arnn about the doctrinal changes of the Worldwide Church of God. The exact date of the article or its source are unknown, but it probably came from The Watchman Expositor.
Did WCG leaders have a doctrinal agenda?
Click here, to read the article Did WCG leaders have a doctrinal agenda? from the the Aug. 25, 1995, issue of In Transition, a publication that supports those who did not accept the doctrinal changes made by the WCG leadership after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong.
Approximately two years after Armstrong's death, his Mystery of the Ages (MOA) was quietly withdrawn from distribution. This would be around 1988, or one year before Joe Tkach, Jr. later admitted the church accepted the Trinity. It was also just after the church hired Dr. Greg Walburn, to conduct extensive demographic research into the impact on chuch membership and finances in light of possible WCG doctrinal changes (see "Did WCG leaders have a doctrinal agenda?" above).
The public reason for withdrawing the MOA was that Armstrong had stated the book contained some errors. This explanation is not consistent with Tkach's laudataury inclusion of the book in the Tribute broadcast, a broadcast in which a softcover edition of the book was offered free to any listener. (Some 1.24 million copies of the book were given away over time, not to mention how many millions of people read the serialized version in the Plain Truth magazine.) Nor did Armstrong himself find it necessary to mention the issue of errors during his own ten minute discussion of the book during the sermon he gave on April 16, 1985 (see: First Day of Unleavened Bread sermon, 1985 Side 2 here). Other sources say Armstrong told them that the errors could be addressed by making a few notes in the margins of their copies of the book, implying minor errors of typography rather than content. That is a far cry from a level of error requiring withdrawal. Most publishers just issue an errata sheet.
Joe Tkach, Jr. sheds more light on this issue during his presentation on October 4, 1988 at the EMNR conference (see above), as well as during his spring 1998 interview on Pat Roberson's 700 Club television talk show. (Click here to listen to excerpt.) There he said that the only doctrine Armstrong mentioned specifically by name that needed changing was the one about healing and the use of medicine and doctors. It is obvious that the issue of minor errors was used by the church leadership as a cover for their major disagreement with the theological concepts Armstrong expressed in the book. In court documents filed on December 6, 1999 in support of its legal action against a church found copying the MOA, the WCG stated it was its "Christian duty" to keep the book out of circulation.
The following is an excerpt from Judge Brunetti's dissenting opinion in United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Cicuit, Worldwide Church of God v. Philadelphia Church of God. Argued and Submitted December 6, 1999, Pasadena, California. Filed September 18, 2000.
... WCG, on the other hand, has renounced many of Armstrong's teachings since shortly after his death in 1986. Although it had previously distributed approximately 1.25 million copies of MOA in book form and 8 million copies in serial form, WCG ceased publication and distribution of MOA in 1988. WCG then destroyed all excess copies of MOA in its inventory, retaining only archival and research copies. WCG has not printed or distributed any copies of MOA since 1988 and has no plans for publication or distribution of the work as originally written.
WCG took this course of action, at least in part, because it believes that MOA contains historical, doctrinal and social errors. Armstrong's successor at WCG explained that WCG has kept MOA out of print based on a "Christian duty" to keep Armstrong's doctrinal errors out of circulation. WCG has described MOA as "not in conformity with biblical teaching" and "racist." Although WCG claims that it plans to publish an annotated version of MOA, as of 1998, a decade after it ceased publishing MOA, testimony of WCG leaders demonstrates that the annotation of MOA is "not something that is going to be decided or happen any time soon." Apart from determining whether an annotation is financially feasible, WCG would need to take surveys of its membership, assess its priorities, determine the format, hire an author and researcher, and secure a publisher before any such annotation of MOA could be published.
... In this lawsuit, WCG appears less interested in protecting its rights to exploit MOA than in suppressing Armstrong's ideas which now run counter to church doctrine.
Click here while online to read PDF version of the decision by the Court.