Why So Many Factions and Groups?
Any thinking ex-member of the Worldwide Church of God who carefully examines the many different groups which have their parentage traced back to Herbert W. Armstrong’s efforts, can only come to certain conclusions. First, there is no real difference in doctrine among the most recognized of these "churches." Secondly, the difficulties come from infighting over who will be in control which directly relates to who will control the funds. Thirdly, the spirit guiding these groups is not the same as was found before 1972. If you were not in the "Church" before that date, you have no way of judging that last statement and will have to rely on someone’s testimony who was there.
Several reasons for the present situation will be given without complete Biblical proof, and not all of the facts will be presented. You will have to sort that out for yourself.
The first change to recognize was the orientation of the college staff. Certain men "crept in unawares" and promoted scholarship instead of revelation. Before that occurred, all converted members accepted the fact that God revealed the truth to Mr. Armstrong. It makes no difference how God did that. Whether He caused him to read books other than the Bible, about subjects that God had led other earlier men to write or research, is not the question. It can best be stated that whatever method God used, it resulted in Mr. Armstrong putting "it" all together better than anyone else in recent history. This was the greatest restoration of God’s Truth since the last apostle died and the true Church went into hiding. That is not to say there were not other amazing works done in the interim. It is known that the original apostles went to all the known world and did mighty works. These original works were responsible for the growth of Christianity in India and China, both of which had strong believers well into the 1600s. Works were done in other areas as well. We only have limited knowledge about them. SCHOLARSHIP INSTEAD OF REVELATION WAS THE FIRST MAJOR ERROR!
The first error led to the second error. Pentecost was changed from Monday to Sunday. This was caused by not understanding that the Hebrew requires a full count to be made. The first forty-nine days are counted, but the fiftieth day is not now counted so that Pentecost is now observed one day early by all but a few. Mr. Armstrong had it right in English, but those "scholars" convinced him to change because of a partial understanding of the Hebrew. This change set the stage for many other changes.
Those two major changes started the downfall which began about 1973. About that time certain called members came to realize that II Thessalonians 2:3 had come to pass. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away (the apostasy) first . . . ." Apostasy is defined as "abandonment of what one has voluntarily professed; total desertion of principles or faith" (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). Strong’s defines the Greek word as "defection from truth." Can anyone deny that has occurred in the original organization?
It is important to know why the change in the day of Pentecost is the key to understanding the answers to the questions posed. Remember Acts 1:4. The apostles and brethren were told to wait until the day of Pentecost. They had to be there on a specific day to receive the Holy Spirit. If they were not there at the specified time, they would not have experienced the manifestation of the Spirit.
Think back on the Church. There was basic peace and harmony when we kept Pentecost on Monday. Since the change there have been splits, doctrinal changes, and animosity. The proof is in the pudding. If you cannot see what transpired since that change, you are indeed deceived and blinded to the truth. The changes that have resulted since, prove that all groups who changed the day are not subject to the same Spirit that once prevailed in the Church. The present spirit, not of God, has led to the turmoil we now see and most experience.
The third change concerns family. God’s plan is a large version of what we experience in our homes. Father, mother, sons and daughters — a small example of God’s plan and kingdom. Divorce procedures were liberalized. Many members rejoiced about the change of divorce because they were now free to pursue their passions. Others were shocked. What once was considered an "anullment" under very limited circumstances (the Biblical teaching) became wholesale reason to separate. This certainly is not Biblical, and did not come from God. It also came from the "scholars."
These two major doctrinal changes were rapidly followed by fifty or so other doctrinal changes of relatively less importance. Some of these were later reinstated as Mr. Armstrong regained some control of the parent body after putting out Garner Ted. Men were tampering with the "revealed truth." Scholarship was said to be the controlling factor, not revelation. This was promoted by the ministry — not the lay members. Certainly many members rejoiced in their ignorance and desire to follow their passions rather than sound Biblical instruction.
Truly II Thessalonians 2:11 had come to pass. "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." How was this delusion brought to pass? In certain areas the local ministry preached from 1972 through 1975 such things as: trust headquarters, and believe whatever the ministry tells you. The people were brainwashed! This was the time immediately following the Jim Jones fiasco. One person even preached, "If headquarters says to drink Kool-Aid, I would do it."
Why did headquarters instruct the local ministers to preach such garbage? Jude 4 gives the answer: "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Certain men were not stopped by the Armstrongs, but rather were allowed to continue their insidious subverting of the revealed truth. Soon these changes became the accepted doctrine.
The important thing to note is, that it was the ministry who promoted and allowed the changes. These changes were not instituted by the laymen. Perhaps many members complained to their ministers about the Church’s "harsh" policies especially regarding D & R. This of itself would have never brought about the change or apostasy, if there had been a faithful ministry at the top. This becomes self-evident when we remember that anyone publicly, or in some cases just discussing heretical ideas with the minister, or espousing heresy was quickly put out of the Church BY THE MINISTRY. Heresy was not allowed to develop because the heretical member was put out. Therefore it had become impossible for large-scale heresy to develop from the members.
The point is that heresy can only come from, and did so in 1972-1978, the minister. Therefore it is only fair to say that the church problems CAME FROM THE MINISTRY. They still come from the ministry!
Remember from the previous paragraph that member-caused problems were quickly and firmly dealt with by eliminating the offender(s). This was justified by the ministry's misapplication of Romans 16:17 — "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." Just reading this should have taught us years ago that we lay members should have avoided those ministers who taught the false doctrines. Eventually this is what we did, either by leaving or being put out. It was the brethren, not the ministry, who were to do the "marking" and as has recently been explained by certain ministers still faithful to the original revealed truth, the word "mark" means to "take note of" and avoid and does not mean "put out of the Church."
If we had only followed one of the rules of Bible study — look at the context — we would have found further proof that this "them" in verse 17 refers to the ministry. Read Romans 16:18. "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." That this refers to the ministry and not the members, is determined by noting who gives "good words and fair speeches" and is in a position to "deceive the hearts of the simple." That can only refer to the ministry for they are the only ones allowed to speak before the congregation.
The idea of the ministry being the only ones allowed to speak in services is wrong in itself, as proven by I Corinthians 14:31, "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted."
Yes, the ministry has the power to discipline the members. This is shown in I Corinthians 5:5 and I Timothy 1:20. "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." "Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." I Corinthians 5 also shows this power. However, II Thessalonians 3:6 does not, even though it is often used. "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." What this verse shows is illustrated in the context of verses 6 through 12. The "disorderly" and "tradition" is explained to be "if anyone would not work, neither should he eat." Verse 14 explains this further. "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he be ashamed." What Paul is explaining "in this epistle" is explained in verse 10.
If history is any indication, then future Church problems will come from the ministry — not the members! Events in various Church of God groups during 1985-1999 bear this out.
As a final proof that the problems and apostasy came from the ministry note Acts 20:28-32, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves (the ministry), and to all the flock (lay members), over the which the Holy (Spirit) hath made you overseers (talking to the ministry), to feed the Church of God (the Church is all the members, not just the ministry), which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you (the ministry), not sparing the flock (the lay members). Therefore watch (who is to watch? The flock), and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn (of what? The problems caused by the errant ministry) every one (ministry & members) night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."
The present division, strife, bickerings, striving for position, ill-feelings, and wholesale abandonment of the faith, are proof of the veracity of the above analysis. You need to consider Acts 2:38 again while there is yet time. It may be too late for many as shown in Hebrews 6:4-6. If not too late and no return to the faith once delivered, then there may be the tribulation for any still salvageable by God.
There is no other explanation for the wholesale splits, divisions, and problems that have resulted from Worldwide Church of God’s apostacy which began in 1973. Read Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23 for a description of the end-time ministry. Of course none of the ministers will admit that these scriptures apply to them but all you have to do is to apply the Bible tests. The only proofs of anyone’s conversion are the fruits born as shown in Galatians 5 and the tests found in I John 5:2-3, 1:6, 2:3-4 and 9-11. Who is it, brethren, that has seduced you (I John 2:26), if not the ministry?
— written by William B. Scherer, W