The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

August 2004 

Are You Still "Proving All Things"?


One of the reasons I stayed in the Worldwide Church of God as long as I did is that I was convinced its doctrines were biblically sound.  I saw many abuses and even suffered a few; I knew ministers whom I didn't consider to be "converted"; I saw unequal treatment of members on every side.  But it was God's true church!  So what could I do?

 I stayed.

 As a kid, growing up in the church, I would have preferred to be somewhere else.  Saturday afternoons were awfully boring in that creaky old IOOF hall, with Al Dennis ranting through the scriptures in a bellowing voice that needed no microphone.  Other Saturdays were anything but boring -- they were terrifying.  Herman Hoeh, Albert J. Portune, David Jon Hill, and others often made dire predictions about the future: "Ten years from today there won't be a living soul walking the streets of this city!" one of them shouted.

 And I believed it.  After all, these were God's ministers, weren't they? They said the Great Tribulation would begin on January 7, 1972, and by 1975 the entire United States would be a smoking crater, inhabited only by starving, radiation-poisoned scarecrows who would fight and kill each other to eat what dead babies might still be available.

 Damn right I stayed!  Because the only hope of escape was to be in God's true church!

 How did I know it was "God's true church"?  Because my mother had told me so.  Mom had heard Herbert Armstrong on the radio as far back as World War II; she hated his shrill voice, disagreed with his theology, but she still listened.  And finally, ten years later, she set out to prove him wrong. 

 Instead, according to her, she proved him right!

 My mom was the smartest person I knew.  Every time she told me something, it always turned out she was right (or so I thought at the time -- I realize now it was not always so).  So if Mom couldn't prove Mr. Armstrong wrong, then he had to be right.  And God had called him to establish the end-time church.  And I was lucky to be there.

 Years later, as an adult, with my own family safely protected in the church (years after none of those predictions had come to pass), I still believed.  I had been through the Correspondence Course myself, had read most of the booklets, had sat in church for most of my life, and I had proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was, indeed, God's true church.

 In 1992 I found out I was wrong.  Herbert Armstrong was not the shining paragon of virtue that he claimed to be, and most of his ministers really weren't "converted" (my gut instincts on that point had been right).

 So how could I, and so many others before me (including my mom), have been so wrong?  How could we have failed to see the "Painful Plain Truth" about Armstrong and his troops?  After all, we had obeyed the admonition of 1 Thes. 5:21, had "proved all things", and "held fast that which was good".  Hadn't we?

 Yes.  We had.  Or so we thought.

 What we hadn't done, and could not have known, is that we didn't have all the evidence.  And years later, when certain people (such as John Trechak, who founded and published Ambassador Report) provided us that evidence, we refused to look at it.  After all, we had already proved that this was right, that Armstrong was God's end-time apostle.  Once proved, always proved.


 Well...maybe not.

 From time to time you see a story on the news about a man who has been released from prison after serving many years for a crime he never committed.  It always shakes me when such a thing happens, because it could happen to anybody.  (Thank god for DNA testing, which has freed many innocent men from prison.)

 But how did they get locked up in the first place?  What was the jury's problem?  After all, they should have seen the man was innocent, right?  If he didn't do it, there should have been evidence to that effect.

 One would certainly think so.  But suppose that evidence, the very proof that the man was innocent, was never presented to the jury?  What then?

 I heard of one such case where a man was convicted of rape.  The victim, on the witness stand, was asked if the rapist was circumcised.  She testified that he was.  The defendant, as it turned out, was NOT circumcised...but his attorney never mentioned that to the jury!

 The jury convicted the defendant on the evidence presented to them.  Had they known he was not circumcised, they almost certainly would have acquitted him.

 By the same principle, those of us (including my mom) who thought we had proved Herbert Armstrong's apostleship, did not have all the evidence.  Had we known more about him, his megalomania, his incest, his drunkenness, his absolute dictatorial personality, his lust for wealth and power -- had we known all that (or any of that), we might just have proved that he was not a man of God after all.

 If you are still a member of the WCG or one of its splinter churches, maybe you need to take another look at the evidence.  Are you still "proving all things", or have did you prove it once back in 1961 and that was good enough?

 Just like DNA testing, new evidence is now available (and has been for 30 years); maybe you need to prove it again. 


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