While many churches of God consider WCG as the parent church, the WCG is actually a spin off from another parent church that was called the Church of Christ. Gilbert Cranmer is credited for starting our church in March of 1858. In 1831 at the age of 17, Gilbert was baptized in a Methodist church and started preaching. After 2 years, he quit over the trinity doctrine and joined the Christian Connexion or Christian Church which was made up of loosely affiliated Christians that had abandoned the colonial churches like the Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist.
In 1844, he joined the Adventist movement started by William Miller whose prediction of Christ’s return between 1843-1844, spread like wildfire. After the “great disappointment”, Gilbert moved from Michigan to Illinois to escape the ridicule and mocking from his neighbors when Christ did not return.
Sabbath-keeping started being preached by Joseph Bates in the 1840’s and 50’s among the Millerites/Adventists. Gilbert Cranmer began observing the Sabbath in 1852. James and Ellen G. White began raising up Sabbath keeping advent churches at this time and Gilbert Cranmer became associated with them. In 1858, the White’s refused to give Cranmer credentials to preach in the Advent churches because of his tobacco use. By 1860, Gilbert Cranmer raised up 12 congregations made up of mostly Adventists who wished to distance themselves from Ellen G. White’s prophecies and James White’s desire to create a top-down government structure for the church. It is interesting to note here that it was a government issue and prophecy that created the split from SDA and the creation of the Church of Christ. The first structure of our parent church was Congregationalist and strongly opposed Episcopal top-down governance. Over the next 24 years, congregations were raised up and by 1884, they came together under a General Conference. This is when they settled on the name, Church of God.
In Robert Coulter’s book, “The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day)”, he says
“It is interesting to note that the Conference was organized as a membership movement that did not require negotiations, concessions, or preconditions among its varied membership in order to organize. The Conference came into existence as a spontaneous action of its membership rather than of its leadership, and it was to serve its membership rather than govern them.”It was under the oppressive drive of James and Ellen G. White to define doctrine of the church for everyone else and concentrate power and authority unto themselves, that helped ensure a congregational culture and governance of the Church of God and led to publications that had an “open creed” where critical thinkers of the church could get Bible studies published. Any idea that truth could only be introduced into the church from the ministry was utter nonsense. This was the culture that enabled the Church of God to develop its core doctrines during its first 70 years in existence. This period was not plagued with politics, infighting, division and chaos. No, all of that happened under Andrew Duggers’ watch. He was the next “James White” to come along and try to concentrate power unto himself and dictate a new long list of official doctrines. Andrew Dugger managed to split the church in half by 1933. After 16 years, the church merged again but not after membership went from 40,000 all the way down to 10,000 thanks to Andrew Dugger’s “skills in governance.”
It was in the atmosphere of those divided and divisive years that HWA himself railed against Duggers’ oppression and believed as long as he received a paycheck from the Church of God, he would have to preach only what men ordered him to teach. HWA claimed he stopped receiving pay from the Church of God in 1933 and only loosely affiliated because he was not going to be told by men what to preach. But the truth is, and it is in the Church’s records, that he remained a credentialed and paid minister until 1938.
It is ironic but quite possible that some of those 30,000 members who left the Church of God during this time period because of the controls implemented into the church by Dugger, went with HWA because of his stance against top-down governance. HWA clearly railed against one man rule, top down government in his 1939 article, calling it the “image of the beast.”
HWA claimed later he did not know what church government should be and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that it started coming to him. In the GCG booklet on government by RCM in 1993, RCM says it was he and Herman Hoeh that essentially introduced top-down government into the church by a series of articles in the 1950’s. By 1978, HWA had taken on titles to himself like “Apostle” and later, “Elijah” and brought the church so in line with Roman Catholic Church governance that some began questioning this obvious heresy in the church. His delusional concentration of power, in my opinion, is the reason there was no smooth transition after his death and directly contributed to the collapse of ‘his’ church. Just like William Miller, James and Ellen G. White and Andrew Dugger before him, HWA came along to concentrate power, make false predictions in prophecy and the return of Christ (1975), enforce his version of truth, and ultimately cause mass confusion, politics, infighting and chaos.
The turbulent 1930’s in the Church of God produced 3 splinters from the church:
1. C. O. Dodd formed the sacred names movement.
2. Andrew Dugger established a headquarters in Jerusalem to convert Jews who he
believed would be the 144,000 in Revelation.
3. Herbert Armstrong split over the Holy Days and British-Israelism.
Something important to realize is that while HWA claimed to restore 18 truths to the church by direct inspiration from Jesus Christ, the truth is, HWA came into contact with the Church of God in 1927 and began reading all the materials that church produced in its publications that had that “open creed.” He said when he came in contact with “Sardis”, they had very little truth. But the truth is, the focus and culture of the Church of God was to avoid “officiating” doctrines and beliefs held by the members. What that means is even though there was not a webpage with a laundry list of teachings one must agree to in order to fellowship or be initiated into a corporate body, almost every single one of HWA’s “divinely” restored truths were written about, published and discussed in the church; some of those ideas for many years. HWA did not leave because no one would believe his teachings on British-Israelism and the Holy Days. He left because the General Conference would not make them official doctrines as something everyone had to believe.
[John Keizs, who was a close friend and fellow minister of HWA from 1935-1945, says HWA had a persecution-complex and the church was glad to see him go as he was difficult to work with. Keizs also stated that HWA told him he planned to start a college where he could train men to teach only what HWA told them to teach.]
There were people in the church that believed those two doctrines and observed annual Holy Days. HWA learned it there! HWA continued sharing a feast site with John Keizs until 1945. And there are still people in the Church of God (Seventh Day) and the Seventh Day Adventist Church that believe and observe the annual Holy Days to this day.
As a prelude and summary statement about his research, Robert Coulter says this on p.18:
“The history contained in The Journey, from the Church’s founding to the present, has not always been uplifting. Sometimes it reflects the triumph of the Christian spirit and faith. At other times it reflects the selfishness of human nature. But since the church, as a part of the body of Christ, is composed of frail human beings, the modern church, like the imperfect church of the first century, reflects both the goodness of God and the depravity of the human spirit and the need for Jesus Christ to recreate it after His image!”
Herbert W. Armstrong died 33 years ago. The churches of God birthed from the Worldwide Church of God are but a shell of a former work and zeal. It’s time to look in that mirror and reflect on the truth of our roots and our history.
Something we have been hearing over and over for years now is, “If God has top-down government He plans to implement on earth during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, why would He NOT want us to practice that government in the church right now?” I have three reasons why NOT:
1. We are not God. We are men and incapable of ruling justly over others. The proof of this is human history and the record of abuse in all top-down structures including the ones implemented in churches.
2. Only the ministry gets to “practice” this government now. The only thing the rest of us get to practice is I Peter 2:18-21 and quite frankly, I get to practice that enough in the world.
3. The New Testament does not clearly endorse any form of government and that is why we see evidence of multiple structures utilized in church history. [I have come to believe through further study that the New Testament does endorse Congregational Polity]
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you compare the Church of God (Seventh Day) early days of congregational polity and open creed, encouraging all brethren to study to show themselves approved to the years they dealt with James White and Andrew Dugger trying to concentrate power unto themselves and dictating doctrine; which approach bore fruits of growth and peace and brotherly love and which bred politics, division and strife?
The so-called "Sardis era" of the Church (Church of God: Seventh Day) has 400,000 members with congregational governance. The WCG legacy is an aftermath of roughly 30,000 people divided by a divisive ministry drunk with top-down power and dependency on tithe payers for their livelihoods.
Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
“philosophy” is PHILOSOPHIA: “not philosophy in general but the teaching of a syncretistic religious group that claims special insight into God, Christ, astral powers, creation, that imposes a set of rules on its members and that bases the authority of its message on its age or esoteric (secret) nature.” –p.1272, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament
Philosophia is what destroyed families because of an ungodly understanding of divorce and remarriage in WCG. Philosophia is what ruined thousands of brethren’s financial lives as they believed Christ was returning in 1975 in WCG. Philosophia is what enabled a whoremonger to remain the spokesman (GTA) of the WCG through the 1970’s because when he was initially removed, the income dropped 30% so he was rushed back. Philosophia is why one-man-rule, top-down government was used in WCG to maintain control and keep people focused on HWA as their mediator to Christ. Philosophia is what produced the “true church” doctrine that tied people’s salvation to membership in WCG and put people to sleep.
In Robert Coulter’s concluding statements in his book, “The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day)” he points out that, “all churches have skeletons in their proverbial closets if their historians choose to reveal them.”
As long as LCG and all other splinters from WCG refuse to shine the light of truth on church history, an unforgiving internet will continue to do so for them. Unacknowledged ecclesiastical sins will never be forgiven. You will go down as the church who had a name for being alive (The Living Church of God) but continued only as the walking dead, arms outstretched, falling forward from the white-washed sepulcher of the Worldwide Church of God.
HWA was a failed businessman that turned his marketing skills to selling religion for gain. HWA taught many truths that he learned in COG7D and pawned them off as having received them directly from Christ. HWA was a gnostic who pushed his own “philosophia” without grace and without love; two things unconverted men can never understand.
In Philippians 1:15-18, Paul says that there are those who preach Christ out of envy, strife and selfish ambition, while others, out of love. Paul asks what we are to make of this. Should we give up? Discard everything that was learned as lies? No. Paul says, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is preached. And I want to make that clear. I did not write this to take away from what Jesus has done for me by bringing me into contact with the churches of God. Despite the messengers, I learned many truths of the Bible. I am not advocating that there is a “best place to be." There is only the best place for you where Christ wants to put you in your journey. The most important thing is to never turn off the most important aspect of your humanity that is created in the very image of God. John tells us that the name of our God is “Rational Thought.” Please, don’t ever trade that in for a quick fix into the Kingdom of heaven promised by teachers. Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.
by Stoned Stephen Society