Herbert W. Armstrong obviously wrote the Constitution and By-Laws of the Radio Church of God. In the section, we will quote portions of that document, which we have in entirety.
The October 24, 1948 Constitution and By-Laws of the Radio Church of God, in Article IV, Section 1, states that thirteen directors shall control the corporation.
All directors, except Herbert W. Armstrong, shall be appointed for a term of one year or until such time as a successor is appointed.
Herbert W. Armstrong shall hold office perpetually be [sic.] virtue of having been called by divine authority of Jesus Christ as evidenced by the founding, development and growth of this work, the salvation of souls, the raising up of local churches of those converted by and through this ministry, the effective proclaiming of the true Gospel to the entire nation by word of mouth, by radio, and by printed word, which achievements could only be accomplished by the divine direction and power of God working effectually in and through the one specially called for this mission.
This statement would prevent the Savior from directing His Church! It is false to imply that God will always be working with the top leader, no matter what. The Apostle Paul warned the brethren that it was possible for him to fall, Galatians 1:6-10.
Article X, Section 1, entitled, "Basic Doctrine," states:
The doctrine of the Church shall be that of a plain and literal understanding of the Holy Bible, believing it means exactly what it says: -- of the Bible alone, and not as interpreted by any other book or person, but it is a point of basic doctrine in the Church that we understand the Bible to reveal a divine Creator, the Almighty God, a divine Saviour, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who came in the human flesh, proclaimed the Gospel of the coming world-ruling Kingdom of God, which it is obligatory for all Christians to believe; who died to pay the penalty of our sins in our stead; who was raised from the dead after three days and three nights in the grave by God the Father; who ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven; who is soon coming again literally, and in Person to earth to set up the Kingdom of God, and as King of kings and Lord of lords, to rule all nations by this world-ruling kingdom for one thousand years; we believe in the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Article X, Section 3, defines the "Basis for Fellowship":
The basis for fellowship in the Church or any of its local congregations shall be love alone, plus the adherence to and belief in the general basic doctrine stated in Section 1 above, and the requirements of repentance of sin (the transgression of God's law), and the acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit evidenced by the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5) in the member's life.
These broad general guidelines for doctrine and fellowship would, if followed, preclude division and excommunication for picky doctrinal points. Differences other than the broad basics could, and would, be tolerated, as long as love and mutual respect continued.
But what would happen if someone lacked love and caused division in the church? The 1948 Constitution and By-Laws specified what to do. The Bible is clear what to do. The original By-Laws stated in Article III, Section 3, "Dismissal of Members" states:
Since we are warned in the New Testament that even of our own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to cause division and draw away disciples after them; that "wolves" in "sheep's clothing" making an appearance and pretense of being true disciples of ministers will enter in among God's true Christians for greedy purpose; and since we are commended to mark them that cause divisions and offences contrary to the teaching of the Bible, and to avoid them; and since Jesus specifically taught that unprofitable servants shall be cast out of the Kingdom of God; and since the Scriptures instruct Christians in the procedure for disfellowshipping such; therefore it shall be the duty of every member of the Radio Church of God to follow this scriptural instruction, by first going to the guilty one and then if necessary telling it to the Church (Mat. 18); and the one guilty of fomenting strife or division, or of continuing in the breaking of any of the Commandments of God, or persisting in a spirit of opposition, competition, dissension, or disloyalty to this Church, its mission and work, or any of its institutions, shall, upon approval of the pastor and two thirds of the members present at any meeting be excluded from membership and disfellowshipped by the congregation, provided, however, that two weeks' notice of said meeting shall have been given the one in question and the congregation in advance, and the one involved shall have had opportunity to appear in his or her own behalf, and provided further that the scriptural steps pointed out in Matthew 5 and 18 shall have been followed in a sincere attempt to reconcile the offending member. In the case of a member at-large, distant and inaccessible to a local church, an offending member may be excluded by the general Pastor of this church upon approval of a majority of the directors, but only after a full and fair review of all the facts and evidence, the offending members having had opportunity to present his or her case in person or in writing to the entire board, and after prayer.
If Matthew 18:15-17 (as well as the rest of the chapter) and Matthew 5:21-26 were followed to resolved differences and problems in the church, you would have a very unique spiritual body. I am not aware, however, that the Radio Church of God, or any other church organization, has actually followed the above spiritual guidelines. On separate occasions in two or three different organizations, a minister disfellowshipped me based on information he gained from other members coming to him behind my back, and not coming to me. On the first occasion, the minister announced that I was disfellowshipped before a meeting of elders and deacons, without informing me of his decision. I only learned that I had been kicked out by hearing of it "through the grapevine." On the last occasion, the minister told me that "Matthew 18 doesn't apply in your case."
Marion McNair, in his book, Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off?, pages 242-243, confirms that these original scriptural guidelines were not followed. About 1954, Radio Church of God evangelist Marion McNair was removed from the ministry after Herbert Armstrong conducted a secret trial and private sentencing without McNair's knowledge or a public hearing. McNair concluded that "Armstrong violated the letter and the spirit of his own constitution."
On January 5, 1968, the Radio Church of God changed its name to "Worldwide Church of God." Its re-issued Constitution and By-Laws completely changed Article III, Section 3 on "Dismissal of Members" to the following (notice that it no longer abides by the principles of Matthew 18):
We are warned in the New Testament that even of our own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to cause division and draw away disciples after them; and that wolves' in sheep's clothing' making an appearance and pretense of being true disciples or ministers, will enter in among God's true Christians for greedy purpose. We are commanded, and the authority therefore vested in the Church, if the same be deemed for the protection or other benefit of the church, to mark them that cause divisions and offences contrary to the teaching of the bible, to make a full statement of the reasons to the congregation for doing so, and/or disfellowship such persons and avoid them. The determination as to which remedial procedure is to be invoked, and whether or not the same is deemed expedient,' shall be within the sole and subjective discretion of the ministers duly authorized by the church to make such a determination.
It is possible that the change in the Constitution on disfellowshipping members was made in 1968 in conjunction with the change in church name.
The altered guidelines are not scripturally based on Matthew 18 as the original was. They flatly contradict the Bible and invoke a dictatorial, tyrannical system. It is almost certain that this change was made without consent of the church members. How vastly different were the later teachings of Herbert Armstrong than his early writings!
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