“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
—U.S. President John Adams
Millions of people around the world are familiar with the expansive humanitarian and evangelistic work of Herbert W. Armstrong, even though he died more than 20 years ago.
Tens of thousands—mostly people affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God, which Mr. Armstrong founded—are aware of what happened to that organization after he died, when Joseph W. Tkach rejected his predecessor’s teachings, deserted his worldwide mission, and reduced the church to a small, mainstream Christian denomination with practically no work.
Very few, however, know what really happened behind the scenes during the Tkach transformation. And there is a scandalous reason for that.
Of course, no one in the church would have suspected the new pastor general of any maliciousness. The reality of the betrayal and how it came about was so stunning that most members of the Worldwide Church of God refused to believe it was even happening.
But the real reason most people are so fuzzy on what happened was the sinister fact that the new administration concealed its intentions from church members for as long as possible.
As Joseph Tkach, with the prodding of his staff, set about the business of converting the church and transforming the work that Herbert W. Armstrong had entrusted to him, these men spun an unthinkably elaborate and increasingly convoluted web of deceit. Events detailed in the first half of this book in particular will have a sickening ring of familiarity to anyone who experienced these events with their eyes half open. Under cover of “Changes? What changes?” the new leadership systematically dismantled the church’s body of beliefs plank by plank. They destroyed doctrines and deceitfully forced new ones onto unwitting and unwilling members. They changed the church’s commission and gutted its faith. They demoted, deported and replaced the old guard. Those who continued to believe and live the way they always had, the new leaders lied to, abused, intimidated or—as in the case of my father—excommunicated. They shattered thousands of lives.
And in the process, they presided over the worst spiritual shipwreck since the first-century church splintered on the rocks of apostasy.
But the spiritual Head of the church didn’t go down with that ship. Beginning in 1989, the same God who raised up His church under Mr. Armstrong went to work raising the ruins. By 1997, the scattered remnant of those who held to their original faith had grown in number to support an exciting new phase of God’s work: reprinting and sending Mr. Armstrong’s literature—particularly his masterwork, Mystery of the Ages—to the largest audience possible.
Immediately, the same leadership that cut down Mr. Armstrong came gunning for this resurrected work, promising to bury the facts again, saying it was their “Christian duty to keep this book out of print.”1
A grueling, life-and-death, six-year copyright battle ensued in which the Worldwide Church of God and the Philadelphia Church of God went head to head over the beliefs outlined in Mystery of the Ages. The history of that amazing case and its wondrous outcome shines a stark light on what really happened inside the Worldwide Church of God.
Relying on a wealth of official wcg documents and depositions submitted in federal courts, this book reveals the truth behind the shipwreck of the Worldwide Church of God. wcg officials pleaded in court for many of these documents to be kept confidential and ultimately destroyed after the litigation ended. Why? Because, as their former in-house attorney contended in a declaration at the conclusion of the case, “such documents constitute the private, confidential and internal discussion of underlying religious decisions regarding the changes in church doctrine,” as well as “the discussion and decisions regarding the publication or non-publication of church doctrine.”2
After years of obscuring their actions, denying their motivations, and covering their tracks, that, as it turns out, was their final, desperate attempt to bury the facts about how they went about transforming the church. In this book, we exhume those facts and expose them to the furious light of day, as they should have been all along, for your scrutiny.