[The time links work on my website, not good here]
[Note: This presentation is over an hour long and is very well done, but I have marked key time slots from the video so if you are in a hurry you can watch the key highlites.]
Herbert W. Armstrong shared many similar doctrines with Jehovah's Witnesses when he began his ministry in the 40s. No hell, Jesus is not God, the message of the gospel is not about Jesus or about "grace" but about obedience to God's laws, and that his job was to spread the "gospel" to the world. [10:20] He even taught that Christ would return in 1975! And no, he was never a Jehovah's Witness nor did he study with them.
In 1947 he founded "Ambassador College" in Pasadena, Calif. with four members. By 1955 he began his work of spreading his "gospel" via radio with a program called "The World Tomorrow," and had followers in 60 countries. His "Plain Truth" magazine had a huge circulation of 8 million copies per issue.
[10:58] "When this message has gone around the world, THEN the end will come," say Armstrong.
His church grew to 150,000 followers at its peak. Before he died in 1986, he appointed Joseph W. Tkach as his successor. In 1995 Tkach Sr. died and was succeeded by his son Joseph Tkach Jr.
But in a scenario similar to Raymond Franz and a small group of writers at the Watchtower headquarters in 1979, Joseph's son, Joseph Tkach Jr., along with a few other staff members, began to understand the true message of the New Testament; the true New Testament gospel - the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the subsequent reign of grace that replaced the Old Testament Law. That meant no more sabbath observance, no more tithing, and no more festivals. In other words, they were no longer to be controlled by the sticklers of salvation by following laws.
WHAT IF Joseph Jr. had not convinced his father of what errors they must abandon - the false prophecies and teachings of their original leader, Herbert W. Armstrong? Most likely it would have turned out like it did at the Watchtower headquarters in 1979-1980 with the expulsion of all who disagree with Armstrong's teachings.
But amazingly, much of the core leadership embraced a more orthodox understanding of the Bible. This COULD have happened at Brooklyn Bethel, but it did not. The old men in control were too powerful and railroaded out anyone who questioned the teachings of the Watchtower organization out with their ten "loyalty" questions.
Nevertheless, the WCG splintered, as many chose to remain followers of Armstrong. And much like the Bible Students that followed Charles Taze Russell splintered into many sub-sects, the same happened with over half of the WCG members. They had to quit the radio, The Plain Truth magazine, and sell Ambassador College because funding dropped off severely.
Ruth Tucker, an evangelical leader and an early supporter of the changes which occurred in the WCG, wrote in an article in Christianity Today that
The "changes"—as they are referred to by insiders—are truly historic. Never before in the history of Christianity has there been such a complete move to orthodox Christianity by an unorthodox fringe church.
Vern Bullough, a secular humanist and senior editor of Free Inquiry, commented on the significance of the changes noting:
The shedding of almost every doctrine the Worldwide Church of God once clung to is a story almost without parallel in American religious history.
After his death, the WCG (headed by Joseph Tkach Jr.) reiterated its full acceptance of the doctrinal changes implemented by Tkach and published an apology to current and former members of the church for the impact previous doctrines had had on members. As evidence that Tkach's work was instrumental in the move toward mainstream Christianity, the WCG was accepted into the membership of the National Association of Evangelicals within two years of his death.
How sad it is that the leaders of the Watchtower in the late 70s had no ear for truth, but only cared for their careers. Now they are all dead; replaced by a dull group of men on the current Governing Body that will likely see their own kingdom splinter within a few short years. Almost all the recent articles in the Watchtower magazine are preparing the seven million Jehovah's Witnesses around the globe from listening to anyone "anointed" who speaks a different tune. Start the countdown!
a few interesting clip marks:
[35:24] The leadership members on Tkach's side say, "How will we tell the people?"
[37:46] Greg Albrecht tells of the shock of the members of the WCG.
[38:15] people freaking out
[39:29] one apostle vs. another
[49:46] the others who stayed with Armstrong's beliefs
[52:33] the shunning!
[58:54] Hank Hanegraaff of Christian Research Institute (The "Bible Answer Man") comments on the rarity of the phenomena.