Review of the WKG

221 looks back at the wkgIn January 1986, Herbert W. Armstrong died at the age of 93 years. The founder of the Worldwide Church of God was a remarkable man, with an impressive speech and writing style. He has convinced more than 100.000 people of his interpretations of the Bible, and he has built the Worldwide Church of God into a radio / television and publishing empire that at its peak reached more than 15 millions of people each year.

A strong emphasis on the teachings of Mr. Armstrong was the belief that the Bible has more authority than tradition. Subsequently, the WKG adopted its interpretations of Scripture wherever its views differed from those of other churches.

After Mr. Armstrong died in 1986, our church continued to study the Bible just as he had taught us. But we gradually discovered that it contained answers other than the ones he had once taught. Again, we had to choose between the Bible and the tradition - this time between the Bible and the traditions of our own church. Again, we chose the Bible.

It was a new beginning for us. It was not easy and it was not fast. Year after year, doctrinal errors were discovered and corrections made and declared. Prophecy speculation has been replaced by preaching and teaching the gospel.

We used to call other Christians unconverted, now we call them friends and family. We lost members, colleagues, we lost our radio and television programs and almost all our publications. We lost a lot of things that used to be very dear to us and we had to "crawl over and over" over and over again. Why? Because the Bible has indeed greater authority than our traditions.

The doctrinaire changes took about 10 years - 10 years of confusion, of tremendous reorientation. We all had to reorient ourselves, rethink our relationship with God. The most traumatic change for most members happened about 10 years ago - as our continued study of the Bible showed us that God no longer requires His people to keep the seventh-day Sabbath and other Old Testament laws.

Unfortunately, many members could not accept this. Of course, they had the freedom to keep the Sabbath if they wanted, but many were not happy to be in a church that did not require people to keep it. Thousands left the church. The church's income fell sharply for years, forcing us to cut programs. The church was also forced to drastically reduce the number of its employees.

This required a huge change in the structure of our organization - and again it was not easy and it was not fast. In fact, the restructuring of our organization took about as long as the doctrinal revaluation. Many plots of land had to be sold. The sale of the campus site in Pasadena will soon be completed, we pray, and the church headquarters employees (approximately 5% of the former workforce) will relocate to another office building in Glendora, California.
Each community has also been reorganized. Most have new pastors who work without pay. New services have evolved, often with new ladders. Multi-level hierarchies have been flattened and more and more members have taken an active role as communities engage in their local communities. Community Councils learn to work together to make plans and set budgets. It is a new beginning for all of us.

God wanted us to change and he pulled us in as fast as we could through thickets, winding canyons and raging streams. It reminds me of a caricature in an office some eight years ago - the whole department had been disbanded and the last employee was pasting the cartoon on the wall. It showed a roller coaster, in which sat a person with eyes wide open, who clung anxiously about her worth living at the seat. The title under the caricature was: "The wild ride is not over." How true that was! We still had to fight for our lives for several years.

But now it looks like we are over the top of the hill, especially with the sale of the properties in Pasadena, our move to Glendora and the restructuring that has given the local communities responsibility for their own finances and services. We have left the traces of the past and now have a new beginning in the ministry to which Jesus called us. 18 independent communities have joined us and we have established new communities for 89.

Christianity brings a new beginning to every human being - and the journey is not always gentle and predictable. As an organization, we had our turns, turns, false starts and turns. We had times of well-being and times of crisis. The Christian life is usually similar for the individual - there are times of joy, times of worry, times of well-being and times of crisis. In health and illness we follow Christ over mountains and through valleys.

The new magazine attached to this letter reflects the unpredictability of Christian life. As Christians, we know where we are going, but we do not know what might happen along the way. "Christian Odyssey" (the new journal "Christian Odyssey") will provide biblical, doctrinaire and practical articles for Christian life to members as well as non-members. Although such articles appeared earlier in the Worldwide News, we decided to separate church news from biblical doctrine by creating two magazines. In this way, "Christian Odyssey" will be able to serve people who are not members of our church.

News from the church will be published in the magazine "WCG Today" ("WKG Today"). WKG members in the US will continue to receive both journals, along with a letter from me. Non-members (in the US) can subscribe to a subscription to "Christian Odyssey" by phone, mail or the Internet. We encourage you to share Christian Odyssey magazine with your friends and invite them to order their own subscription.

by Joseph Tkach


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