Founder: The Philadelphia Church of God is a sectarian splinter group from the Worldwide Church founded by Gerald Flurry and John Amos.
Birth Place of Movement: Edmond , Oklahoma
Year Founded: The Philadelphia Church of God broke away from the Worldwide Church of God in 1989. The United States based Philadelphia Church of God was incorporated on December 20, 1989. Since that time additional churches have been established internationally. The Worldwide Church of God was established in 1933.
Sacred or Revered Texts: The Philadelphia Church of God looks to the Bible for all guidance and believes that it is the full word of God. Although the doctrinal founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, did not claim any extra revealed texts, he did publish a great number of works that interpreted the Bible. Armstrong's last work Mystery of the Ages was his most celebrated. In Gerald Flurry's words:
"[it] was like the magnificent SUMMARY OF ALL Mr. Armstrong's work-- THE ACCUMULATED KNOWLEDGE OF HIS ENTIRE MINISTRY. This book, more than any other piece of literature, was what Mr. Armstrong and God's Work were about during the Philadelphia era." 1
In addition, to Mystery of the Ages Armstrong wrote several books and a number of pamphlets, Bible lessons and letters. These writings are used to supplement the Bible in that they provide interpretation and inspiration for the church.
Size of Group: In 1997, the PCOG reported approximately 5,000 baptized members and 98 congregations in the United States. In addition, there are also congregations in Canada, England (and other parts of Europe, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and throughout Latin America 2 History
The Philadelphia Church of God's roots can be found in the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.
Herbert W. Armstrong was born in Des Moines, Iowa on July 31, 1892. He was raised in a Quaker family. Between the ages of 12 and 16, he worked in many jobs and was often complimented for his ability to work well. These compliments caused him to realize that he had great abilities and they ignited a flame of ambition within him. This time of new ambition for accomplishment and self-improvement would be influential throughout Armstrong's life. At the age of 18, he began looking for a vocation. In accordance with his uncle's advice that only those who have no ambition need formal schooling, Herbert W. dropped out of high school in his sophomore year. He went to work in the advertising office of a small newspaper in Des Moines. Over the next few years, he worked with many different newspapers and sold ads independently until 1915 when he went to Chicago and opened his own advertising business. After having some business success, he returned to Iowa in 1917 to visit family; while there he met and fell in love with Loma Dillon. They wed on his twenty-fifth birthday and during the next three years they had two children. 3 , 4
In the first few days after they were married, Loma Armstrong would have a dream that would deliver "the unrecognized call of God" to Herbert Armstrong. At this time, he had not been much involved in the church even though he and his wife had gone to church a few times. In this dream, Christ descended among three white angels from the sky and embraced Herbert and Loma. He then told her that Christ would be coming to earth and that she and Herbert were to prepare the world for his coming. Armstrong's wife shared the dream with him the next morning, but it was not until years later that he realized that it was a call from God. 5 , 6
By 1922, Armstrong's business in Chicago had disintegrated. In 1924, he moved his family from the mid-west to Salem, Oregon where he advertised for a hardware, jewelry, department and furniture stores. He found his greatest financial success in advertising for the local laundry, but in 1926, the laundry advertising business was swept from him 7 , 8
It was in this same year of business failure that "religious controversy" would strike his home. Loma had become friends with a bible student in Oregon who had convinced her that Saturday was the correct day to worship. When confronted with the "news" that they had been worshipping on the wrong day, Armstrong was shocked and humiliated by what he considered his wife's "religious fanaticism." 9 , 10
Armstrong vowed to prove to his wife that they were to worship on Sunday, and thus, he delved into deep Bible study. While studying the Bible, he was confronted with even more opposition to his religious beliefs. Doubts of the Bible's validity were planted in his mind from his sister-in-law who was a believer in evolution. As a result, he included the study of evolution in his quest for knowledge of the true religion. In Armstrong's words: "And so it was in the fall of 1926--crushed in spirit from business reverses not of my making--humiliated by what I regarded as wifely religious fanaticism, that I entered into an in-depth study of the Bible for the first time in my life 11 He realized that he had always assumed there was a God, but he had never proved it. 12 , 13
The more Armstrong studied, the more convinced he became that evolutionary evidence was not based on scientific data. Armstrong looked at scientific "evidence" and studied the Bible's account of special creation and found that "there was no proof" of evolutionary theory and that it had all been conjecture and supposition. 14 (more on evolutionary ideas of the PCG is in Beliefs) Once he had "disproved" evolutionary theory, he felt he "had found proof of the creation--proof of the existence of God--proof of the divine inspiration of the Bible." 15
As he continued in his original quest, to prove his wife wrong, he found that he had been incorrect. He asserted that Jesus had been crucified on Wednesday, not Friday as is generally assumed, and he was in the tomb for three full days and nights (this would become one of the central beliefs in what would later become known as "Armstrongism"). In his autobiography, he insists that, although he didn't realize it at the time, this was the changing point in his life. After realizing that he had been wrong for so many years in his religious worship, after having intensely studied most of the Bible, and after having become bewildered and frustrated with his realizations, Armstrong found himself trying to reconcile with God and find the way he was supposed to live. 16
His surrender to God led him to great joy and he began to see everything with a new and different light than before. It was a new light that gave him a new positive, spiritual outlook. In the year following his religious awakening, Armstrong was baptized and had begun to seek out the "true church” of God. Only those churches that worshipped on Sunday would be considered. 17
In 1928, he began preaching at the small Church of God in Missouri and in 1931, he was ordained "as a minister of Christ’s Gospel." Armstrong moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1933, to establish his own religious following after butting heads with various church members and ministers over his differing theories of church doctrine. It was there that he initiated The World Tomorrow, a religious radio show that is said to have once been the most widely broadcasted religious program in existence. It began as a simple religious program that would condense an entire church sermon into one 30 minute segment and would later be expanded and become the Radio Church of God. 18 , 19
From the Radio Church of God to the Worldwide Church of God
In addition to using his radio broadcasts to widen his audience base, Armstrong also used print and television media (television did not come into play until the late 1940s, after the end of WWII). Realizing that in order to be successful, he must have a follow-up to The World Tomorrow, Armstrong set out to publish a magazine he had been dreaming up since 1927 called The Plain Truth. He used his prior magazine experience to publish a magazine that would "bring to the world God's truth-making it PLAIN!" 20 The Plain Truth is said to have once had a circulation of over 7 million. In the late 1940s, as the number of listeners rapidly grew, Armstrong decided to move the base of his program to Pasadena, CA, where he renamed the organization the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). 21
The Splitting of the Worldwide Church of God
The splitting of the WCG and the formation of its splinter groups (including the Philadelphia Church of God) was prompted by three main things:
The role of Armstrong in the church;
The Biblical outlook of Armstrong;
Armstrong's successors 22
The role of Armstrong in the Church: As the founder of the movement, Armstrong alone headed the Worldwide Church for over 50 years. As the movement grew in size, the number of individuals required to keep the movement growing increased. Thus, Armstrong had to bring in outside help. The most prominent of those that he brought in (and the expected successor to Herbert W.) was Garner Ted Armstrong. Garner Ted was Herbert's youngest child. 23
During his younger years, Garner Ted rebelled against religion, but after attending Ambassador College, the institute founded and funded by the WCG, he became convinced of the validity of his father's religion. By age 27, Garner Ted was already a regular host of The World Tomorrow, the executive vice president of the church, the president of Ambassador College and the executive editor of The Plain Truth. He was being prepared to take over whenever his father was no longer capable, but that plan would never come to pass. 24 , 25
Between 1966 and 1978, Garner Ted was disfellowshipped four times. Reports indicate that each of the first three times there had been increasing rumors (and some evidence) of sexual indiscretion and failure to attend to his duties as a minister. In his final expulsion from the church in 1978, Garner Ted was disfellowshipped for attempting to seize too much power when his father became ill. According to Herbert W., "Under [Garner Ted], God's Church, the World and the College had been turned around until it was actually scarcely God's church any more. Everything was run as a strictly secular and worldly organization." Thus, Armstrong retained central control of the WCG. After expulsion from the church, Garner Ted began his own church called the International Church of God. 26
Armstrong's Biblical Outlook Armstrong always insisted that the Bible alone was the foundation of his church and his teachings. His teaching revolved heavily around the end times and his followers saw him as a messenger chosen by God for the last days. His church was paralleled to the church of Philadelphia in the book of Revelation, God's "true church." In addition, he never claimed additional revealed scriptures such as the Mormons have. This left the door open for reinterpretations of the Bible that would "prove" that Armstrong was in error and that would eventually rip away the pillars that held up the WCG's Armstrongism beliefs. 27
Armstrong's Successor after Armstrong's death on January 16, 1989, Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. (formerly a minister with the Worldwide Church for 30 years) took over as Pastor General. Soon after, the foundations of Armstrongism began to crack. Tkach assumed leadership over the church with every intentions of letting the Bible speak for itself. Very shortly after Tkach took over, change began taking place. Some speculated that Tkach had been waiting in the wings in 1986, ready to make changes once Herbert W died. But he, and other church leaders, insists that is not how this astounding transformation of the church began. In a 1997 interview with Joseph Tkach, Jr. (he succeeded his father after his death to colon cancer in 1995); he explains that the process of change was stimulated by questions from without and within the church: 28
"A few years after my father began serving [as Pastor General], he appointed people such as Michael Feazell, Greg Albrecht and me to various positions. We soon found ourselves having to answer various questions and challenges regarding Herbert W. Armstrong's former teaching....
Some of the questions that came were new, unique in that we hadn't seen such challenge before. As we would independently do our individual research to answer certain questions, we all found that the things Herbert W. Armstrong was teaching were in error, both historically and biblically." 29
Joseph Tkach, Sr., the denominational leader, was also having problems believing in Herbert W.'s insistence that they were the only true Christians when he was witnessing people giving their lives for missionary work. This coupled with the "errors" found by his son and other administrators opened up Tkach, Sr. to thinking that Armstrongism could indeed be wrong. 30
The goal was to make changes slowly and to explain them thoroughly for all to understand, "but that ended up being an impossible dream." 31 When one rule of Armstrongism was pointed out to be in error, people began to question each of his tenets and derive their own theories. Once the foundation had begun to crack in the WCG, then it was not long before it began to crumble under the pressure of inquiry. 32 , 33
Move Toward Orthodoxy Splits Worldwide Church of God
One of the first major Armstrong doctrines to be invalidated was that establishing going to doctors as a sin. The Church had formerly taught that going to the doctor was a very sinful thing. Christ was said to have given his blood for spiritual sin and his body for physical sin; thus, to go to a doctor was to be unfaithful to God and similar to asking Satan for his help. The administrator’s announcement that the church would no longer support those who kept their children from doctors rattled the church. According Tkach, Jr., about 5% of the members did not agree with the change but very few left the church. 34 , 35
The next major doctrinal change, and the one that would cause some of the greatest confusion and the beginning of the mass exodus from the church, was the acceptance of the Trinity. Armstrong had taught that believers were not born again until the resurrection and the only road to redemption was to attend WCG, the "true church." When the church leaders re-examined that belief in the light of scripture they came to reject the teaching that human beings were meant to become gods. This, in turn, led them to revise their doctrine of the nature of God. This in turn led them to accept as true the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In addition to accepting the Trinity, the church now also believes in salvation by grace through faith. Further the traditional disciplines of tithing and participating in WCG festivals that were once said to be essential for salvation, are now considered to be optional, but helpful, processes. 36 , 37
The shifts in doctrinal change sparked a mass exodus from the church. In the time since the beginning of the doctrinal changes over 30 new splinter groups have formed. Approximately 50% of its member left the church between Herbert Armstrong's death in 1986 and the acceptance of the Trinity by the church in 1995. Estimates say that about one-third of the people who left the church no longer attend any church service, but many others have joined one of the two major splits from the WCG. 38
The first of these splinters is the Global Church of God in Glendora, California. The church was created by Roderick C. Meredith. Meredith was one of the original Armstrong lieutenants. His church was established in late 1992 after he was forced out of the Worldwide Church leadership after 40 years of ministry. In 1993, his church boasted over 2000 members. 39
The second group which has received a large degree of the support that has left WCG is the Philadelphia Church of God. The PCG was named for the church of Philadelphia in the book of Revelation and it now claims that it is the true church.
More on the Philadelphia Church of God
After Armstrongs's death in 1986, the changes in the church came relatively quickly and thoroughly. As doctrinal changes occurred and Herbert W.'s works began to slowly be withdrawn from circulation, questions began to mount. Initially, the new leaders of the WCG (Tkach, Sr., Tkach, Jr., and their associates) allayed suspicions of change by telling questioners that works were being pulled for financial reasons and minor errors. Months later, as more works began to be discontinued and altered so as to water down the message of Herbert Armstrong, the elder members became distressed. People slowly began to drift away from the church. Those who were leaving alleged that the Worldwide Church of God had "strayed from its original God-given calling and [had] become merely another church denomination." 40
A turning point in the conflict occurred when the church sought to discontinue Armstrong's book Mystery of the Ages, because of "doctrinal errors." Many who saw Armstrong's doctrine as life law, and this book as his crowning achievement, became disillusioned. Gerald Flurry, a minister of the WCG, began writing Malachi's Message, a book that revealed why the WCG had turned away from its founding traditions established by Herbert W. Armstrong. 41
According to associates of the PCG, once Tkach, Jr. found out about Malachi's Message, he summoned both Gerald Flurry and John Amos to the WCG headquarters in Pasadena, CA. At this December 7 meeting, Flurry and Amos were told by Tkach, Jr. that the Mystery of the Ages "was riddled with error." Both were fired and excommunicated from the church. Nine days later, on December 16, 1989, Flurry and Amos held the first official service of the Philadelphia Church of God. 42
The rationale for Flurry and Amos' Philadelphia Church of God developed from the reading of the biblical book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. The two chapters describe the messages sent to the seven churches in Asia; Chapter Two deals with the first four of the churches. Chapter three of the book of Revelation talks about the church of Philadelphia in verses 7-13. These six verses describe the sixth of the seven letters sent in the book of Revelation. The sixth letter is sent to Philadelphia:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens..."
The Key of David is a symbol of authority (and a principle part of the PCG belief system).The door is an open door of opportunity. In the Bible, an open door signifies the preaching of a message. The designated verses go on to say that although the church of Philadelphia is feeble it will be sustained during the coming persecution. It warns that He is coming soon and that the church must hold on to what it has. If it survives, it will become a permanent and steadfast part of God's temple. Thus, the church takes the name the Philadelphia Church of God because it is believed to be the sole true church whose members will be spared when the end time comes. 43
In addition, the Key of David vision played a large role in the founding of the PCG.
I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut and no one shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)
According to the Armstrongists,
"In this end time, Jesus Christ laid the key of David upon the shoulders of one man-- Herbert Armstrong. In Bible prophecy, a key unlocks revealed knowledge to human understanding. Mr. Armstrong was commissioned to do a work with that key or give the knowledge unlocked by that key." 44
In other words, the key of David vision involves a message for all mankind. One man was delivered this message and he was used to "raise up a work to deliver the message" but one man could not do it alone. Those beneath Armstrong were also responsible for spreading the message. When Armstrong died in 1986, and the WCG's new leaders began to change the doctrines, Armstrongists felt that the leaders were attempting to close the door and let the message die with the messenger. Jesus Christ ("He that is holy, he that is true") is thought by the church to be eternal, so his message must be eternal. Thus, Flurry and Amos founded the church in an effort to continue passing on the message of the "true church." 45
The beliefs of the Philadelphia Church of God (and other splinter groups from the WCG) can be categorized as "Armstrongism." Armstrongism is defined as those beliefs and doctrines established by Herbert W. Armstrong in his founding and guiding of the Worldwide Church of God. Armstrongites practicing beliefs include rejecting the Trinity and the full deity of Jesus. In addition, Armstrong taught British Israelism and believed that men would become Gods. 46 , 47
The Philadelphia Church of God believes the Bible is "the full word of God, inspired by God." All doctrines upheld by the Church are provable by the texts from the Holy Bible. The Church sees itself as being responsible for teaching the laws of God to anyone interested in learning, but because they believe that only God can make a person a member of the church, they do not attempt to convert new members. 48
The church believes that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and that sin will separate you from God. You must obey God's law perfectly; there is no middle ground, you either obey God or you don't on a particular issue. Everyone should always be looking for new ways to please God. We should not be disheartened when we fail. We should rejoice in our trials because it is through these trials that we are learning to become and build the character of God within ourselves before the end time. The church is responsible for telling when the second coming will occur. 49
Malachi's Message: The prophet Malachi said "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:1). This verse has two applications. First, it refers to John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus' human ministry before the coming of Christ. Second, it foretells the second coming of Christ as "the King of kings and Lord of lords to RULE over ALL NATIONS!" Malachi's prophesy refers to a human messenger that will prepare the world for this second coming. 50
It is believed that when Jesus came the first time (approx. 2000 years ago); he came to "announce the FUTURE kingdom of God." The second time he comes will be here to establish that kingdom. Herbert Armstrong was the Elijah that was sent to prepare the world for this second coming. In his death, the Philadelphia Church of God has sought to carry on his message to continue preparations. 51
British Isrealism: In its simplest form, British Israelism (in the Armstrongian view) is the belief that the true identity of the "ten lost tribes" (modern Isreal) can be traced back to Britain and its colonies ( America). The tribes spoken of in British-Israelism are described in Genesis 49:1-30. 52
Armstrong and his followers interpret these verses as saying that when Israel was divided into two nations in the Biblical era, the southern nation became the kingdom of Judah and the northern became the kingdom of Israel. The two tribes in the southern kingdom took on the name of "Jews" (derived from the word " Judah"). The other ten tribes were in the northern kingdom and in 721 BC, Israel's kingdom was conquered and the Israelites were driven out; thus they became the "ten lost tribes." 53
These lost tribes were composed of Anglo-Saxons, God's chosen race. In this race one can find the direct descendents of Kind David and the heirs to the throne of King David. According to Armstrong, "The fact is, [the British and Americans] are mentioned more often [in the Bible] than any other race," but they are not recognized because they are referred to by their ancient name of Israel. 54 , 55
God as a Family: God is a Family and a Kingdom; it is not a Trinity. Armstrongism says that the Holy Spirit is a "heresy." Thus, the Trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is false. The doctrine of the Trinity limits God to three people and this is not what Armstrongism says the Bible intended. Presently the Kingdom only contains two spirits: God the Father and Christ the Son. God the Father is the possessor of Heaven and Earth and the Father of Jesus Christ. The other spirit is the creator of Heaven and Earth and is the God of the Old Testament; it is the one that became Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the first to be born into the God Family. Jesus became part of the family when he was resurrected; it was then that he "was BORN a divine Son of God." 56 The Family will be expanded as people are born again. Armstrongism says that when one is born again, "he will possess the same power, glory and holiness of God." Those who are members of God's true church will be born into the divine family of God at Christ's return to Earth. 57 , 58
Whereas most traditional Christian faiths believe that one is born again at Baptism and they are forever saved, Armstrongites believe that you are not born again until Christ returns to earth. Armstrong taught that the term "born again" meant "changed in spirit." According to his teachings, Christians are only "begotten" sons now and they have not been born again. Like Jesus, the true believers will be born again--changed into spirit--at the resurrection of Christ. Thus, man becomes God when he is born again; he does not become "godlike" as other faiths believe. 59
The Kingdom of God is the government of God. "When the time comes in God's plan when all humans who will qualify for that Kingdom have qualified and have been 'born again' into that family, then the Kingdom will comprise only spirit beings who are literal children of God." 60 God will rule the new Kingdom that is created in Christ's second coming with his children.
Salvation: The Philadelphia Church of God believes in salvation by works. Salvation by works refers to the belief that eternal life must be earned through human effort, religious ritual, financial donations, and obedience to church doctrines. Whereas salvation by faith believers insist that people are saved by their faith in Christ's blood, the Armstrongists believe that Jesus alone, of all humans is the only one who has been saved. While Baptism is essential to becoming a true Christian, it does not guarantee your salvation. "One who is born of God is merely begotten spiritually. He is not yet really born. Only those who develop spiritually shall finally be given immortality." 61 , 62
Evolution: Armstrongism does not support the theory of evolution. One of the reasons the Philadelphia Church of God refutes the idea of evolution is that in Armstrongs taught that many of the dating methods for fossils have been proven wrong. Herbert Armstrong, in his search for the creation of man, found that there is a circular reasoning that arises in the dating of fossils. Geologists estimate when a certain fossil specimen might have been alive and the date of the strata are determined from this. Since scientists assumed that the theory of evolution was correct, everything else was a supposition that would allow dating of other strata and fossils to be made in reference to things that had been found previously. Thus, there was no "proof" of evolution, but a number of assumptions that allowed scientists to make other assumptions. Also, less than 1% of the fossils found came from vertebrates which would mean that the other over 99% (which includes vegetation and marine life) would have had to have turned into a large population of homo-sapiens. 63
Sabbatarianism: Armstrong asserted that Jesus rose from the dead on Saturday rather than Sunday, as generally believed. The sacred day of worship is to be observed on Saturday, and requires that individuals must devote their extra time to religious studies and prayer. Anything that is usually thought of as a leisure activity is not permitted in this time of sacred worship. 64
Personal Life Choices: The church has very strict rules in terms of marriage and sex and other personal life choices. Armstrong taught his followers that divorce was wrong. Any member of the church who was divorced was pressured into getting back together with their former spouses. In couples where at least one person is on their second marriage, couples are told to break up and advised move far apart to resist the urge to get back together. Interracial marriages are forbidden. 65
Church members are also not allowed to visit doctors; they are only allowed to pray. Armstrong taught that healing was a product of keeping God's commandments and having faith. In Armstrong's words: Healing is actually the forgiveness of the transgressed physical laws just as salvation comes through forgiveness of transgressed spiritual laws. It is the forgiveness of physical sin. God forgives the physical sin because Jesus paid the penalty we are suffering in our stead. He was beaten with stripes before He was nailed to the cross. 66
The dietary laws of the group are also quite strict. Dietary regulations are said by Armstrong to be made by God for the health of mankind. The church has published lists of clean and unclean foods. The rules of what is "clean" and "unclean" are found in the Bible in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. 67
Religious Observances: PCG members observe 7 holy days annually: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. 68
Tithes and Offerings: The Armstrong ministries (WCG and PCG) have often been attractive because they do not appeal to outsiders in any of their programs for money. All donations are strictly voluntary, until one becomes an official member. After becoming a member, individuals are required to donate two tithes each year. All tithes are equal to one tenth of the net salary of the member. The first tithe goes to the church's headquarters and it is used to finance things such as the church administration and educational resources. The second tithe is used to pay for church festivals and activities that are focused on keeping the family strong and celebrating the faith. Every third year there is an additional ten percent tithe that goes to charity. 69
The Church teaches that God is a Family and a Kingdom; God is the father of Jesus Christ. There is no divine Trinity, and no man is the head of the Church. The head of the Church is Jesus Christ. The Church also believes that God is reproducing himself and that man was created to literally become God. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God, which leads to salvation after true repentance. In addition, sin will separate you from God and Christ, but one should rejoice in his trials because it through these trials that God builds His character in us. 70
During the Armstrongian years of the Worldwide Church of God, the organization was labeled as a cult and its leaders were labeled as con men and brainwashers. Its practices were belittled and denounced by those outside of the church. Herbert W. Armstrong was said to be the false prophet that Jesus had warned would come as a wolf in sheep's clothing. "Armstrong fulfilled Christ's words as he hid his false doctrines behind a Christian image and Christian terminology." 71
For much of its revolutionary period, the WCG faced much skepticism, suspicion and ridicule from other religious groups (and anti-cult groups). After years of doctrinal changes and guidance from non-WCG church members, the WCG’s departure from its traditional Armstrongism founding began to be recognized as legitimate by traditional Evangelical groups. In 1997, the WCG was officially inducted into the National Association of Evangelicals. Whereas this acceptance of the Worldwide Church of God into the NAE has lead to decreasing tensions between the church and the religious public, it has increased the tension between outsiders and members of the PCG. 72 , 73
In condemning the works, teachings, and practices of Herbert Armstrong, the WCG has effectively criticized all WCG splinter groups. The WCG, along with non-WCG church members have urged the Armstrongian churches to realize the errors of their beliefs. Critics of Flurry and the PCG are comparing the organization to the WCG and its seemingly miraculous turnaround. Many anti- and counter cult groups say that the WCG's recognition of true Evangelical beliefs and the denunciation of Armstrongism give more proof to their claims that there is something wrong with Armstrong's doctrines. 74
The Worldwide Church of God has become so outspoken against the beliefs of Armstrong that it sued the Philadelphia Church of God for the redistribution of Herbert W. Armstrong’s Mystery of the Ages. In January 1997, the PCG began to reproduce (and freely distribute) Mystery of the Ages which the WCG had pulled from circulation during the early years of its doctrinal changes. In February 1997, the WCG filed suit against the PCG to suppress the book under copyright laws; the PCG said it had the privilege to distribute the book under the right to exercise its religious freedom. In March 1997, Gerald Flurry ran advertisements in the Los Angeles Times criticizing the WCG’s doctrinal changes and its efforts to conceal the teachings of the true church in lieu of trying to persuade potential believers to adopt one of two competing approaches." 75 The courts ruled in favor of the PCG on the grounds that the WCG had no copyright or legal authority over the works of Herbert Armstrong. Armstrong’s works are now available free of charge to the public. 76
There have also been controversies in the Philadelphia Church of God surrounding its founder, Gerald Flurry. Opposition to Flurry has come from a number of places including ex-church members, anti- and counter cult groups and Christian groups. Flurry is said to display "typical cult-leader arrogance" and create a seclusionary atmosphere for his church members. Some define the PCG as a radical cult that could potentially become dangerous to its members due to its belief that the end time is not far off. There are also rumors from ex-members that the members of the PCG have made plans to leave the country at some point in the future to prepare for the second coming. 77
Flurry preaches that the PCG is the only "true church" whose members will be saved at the second coming. He exalts Herbert W. Armstrong as the Elijah of the second coming, and claims that he (and his church) are Armstrong's replacements. They are the only ones who truly know Satan and are spoken to by God; thus, they are the teachers of the world. Those who devoted their lives to Armstrong and his doctrines now find that they can devote themselves to Flurry and the Philadelphia Church of God. 78
Ex-members of the PCG and many PCG opponents say that Flurry uses his power to command absolute obedience of the church members. Flurry holds the power of disfellowshipping members from the "true church." By possessing this power, he is said to be able to convince people that they must adhere to the doctrines of the church or be expelled in which case they will not be saved. As a result, those that join the church sometimes end up impoverished and sacrificed due to the monetary and spiritual demands placed upon them by the church. 79 , 80
The PCG has also come under pressure from anti-cult and counter-cult groups because of its medical practices. Because Armstrongism states that one is not allowed to go to doctors, members and some children have died for not having seen adequate medical attention. The church believes that if one goes to see a doctor, it is comparable to going to the devil for help. Only God can save the sick, and it is only if they deserved to be saved. This is because physical illness is thought to be a result of physical sin. Drugs are denounced as poison, vaccines described as compounded from pus and filth. Currently there is no evidence of pending lawsuits, but opposing groups find this doctrine to be uncivilized and dangerous. This is one of the first Armstrongism doctrines denounced by the WCG; the WCG continues to criticize the Philadelphia Church of God for its adherence to it. 81
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Created by April Seabrook
Soc 452: Sociology of Religious Behavior
University of Virginia
Spring Term, 2000
Last modified: 05/29/01