Herbert W. Armstrong was the Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). Those studying the Bible with a critical eye recognized him as restoring long lost biblical truths. He stood against traditional Christianity’s error and taught the plain truth of the Bible. Now he’s dead and his successors have effectively dismantled any semblance to what was originally, and correctly, taught.
The final separation of the new WCG from “all things Armstrong” occurred recently with their official announcement that the church’s name will now become “Grace Communion International.” I’m not sure how much closer they could get it to sounding like the Amway of Evangelical Churches.
The change was also picked up by another religious news source:
Worldwide Church of God Changes Name to Signal Inner Change: Religion News Service reports that the Worldwide Church of God, which re-examined and later rebuked the teachings of founder Herbert W. Armstrong after his death in 1986, has changed its name to Grace Communion International. “We are a church that God radically transformed,” said church president Joseph W. Tkach, who is a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals. “Our new name is consistent with the transformation and aptly describes what God has made of our fellowship.” Armstrong denied the Christian belief in the Trinity and took Old Testament law to heart and encouraged works of righteousness to earn salvation. The church lost half its members, 95 percent of its 1,000-person staff, millions of magazine readers and its college in Pasadena, Calif., when it officially repudiated Armstrong’s teachings and “prophetic speculation” in the mid 1990s. http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/11602619/
Changes in the WCG/GCI
WCG membership peaked in 1986, with about 150,000 members worldwide. However, the new leadership began systematically rejecting and destroying every teaching and tradition Mr. Armstrong established. Immediately, massive doctrinal changes swept the Church, initially concealed from the membership.
In 1989, Gerrald Flurry and John Amos were disfellowshipped for adhering to the original doctrines of the WCG. The Philadelphia Church of God was then established to most accurately, among all WCG offshoots, preserve the teachings and legacy of its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.
By 1990, numbers dropped to about 133,000, and in 1992, as income continued to decrease, a prominent minister and 3,000 members left to form the Global Church of God.
Perhaps the most traumatic change came in December 1994: Tkach announced that Christians do not have to keep old covenant laws. Many members did not accept these changes and in early 1995, hundreds of ministers and 12,000 members left to form the United Church of God.
By 1996, attendance was approximately half of 1990 numbers (67,000). In the US, membership slid from 89,000 to 49,000. Thousands more stopped attending any church, and many congregations were left with only half the members they used to have. Church income dropped another 50 percent, and hundreds of employees were laid off. Now, the Worldwide Church of God is about half the size it used to be.
The television ministry, once one of the largest in America, is gone. Circulation of The Plain Truth fell from a peak of 8,000,000 down to less than 100,000. And as stated before, the number of employees in Pasadena fell from 1,000 to about 50, as reduced income forced them to remove some pastors from the payroll, and lay pastors were appointed for small congregations. Ambassador College/University was forced to close because the church could no longer subsidize it, and its properties have been sold. The church’s properties in Pasadena were also sold in 2004. An office building in Glendora was purchased, and all offices were relocated there in 2005.
Grace Communion International now claims 42,000 members in 900 congregations worldwide, though those numbers are suspect.