The following is in the July 2007 edition of the PCG’s Philadelphia Trumpet and is from another chapter in S. Flurry’s book:
On Dec. 17, 1994, Joseph Tkach Sr. delivered a landmark sermon, bringing out into the open several far-reaching doctrinal changes that centered around a “new” (actually mainstream) understanding of the Old and New Covenants. According to his son, “[I]t once and for all convinced the skeptics within our own church that the changes were for real and that they were permanent.” Later, he wrote, “[M]any of our members didn’t believe that the changes they were seeing in the church were real. Just as evangelicals have a hard time believing that the Worldwide Church of God has moved into orthodoxy, many of our members had a hard time believing their church was moving away from its peculiar doctrinal distinctives.”
Why would their own members have been skeptical about the changes being “for real”? Why would they find it difficult to believe the church was moving away from its past teachings?
It’s because after making the changes, the Tkaches then reassured the membership that nothing had really changed. And when rumors would circulate that more changes were coming, the Tkaches kept saying, “We will never change that”—right up to the point of actually making the change…
Mr. Tkach gave a sermon in Pasadena on April 30, 1994 (a tape of which was later played in all wcgcongregations), in which he denounced “rumormongers”: “They have no compunctions at all about exaggerating. Like I read from this list of rumors that are going around: We’re going to start keeping Christmas, and we’re changing the Passover, and we’re making changes to please the Protestants to get accreditation. … [W]e’re going to do away with the Sabbath, we’re going to do away with the holy days and we’re going to do away with the law.”
At the Ambassador College commencement exercises on May 20, 1994, Mr. Tkach quoted Ted Koppel, who said, “What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not the ten suggestions. They are commandments.” Mr. Tkach said, “Notice he used the word are and not were, because they are still in existence today, in spite of what others accuse us of saying—‘that we are doing away with the law and the commandments of God.’ Again I say, ‘garbage.’”
Later that year, on November 12, Mr. Tkach made several more strong statements in a Pasadena sermon: “Yes, we should keep the law”; “I’m not trying to minimize the importance of the law”; “I’m not trying to minimize the importance of the Sabbath.”
Three weeks later, speaking in Washington, d.c., Mr. Tkach asked, “Does this mean that we are no longer obligated to obey the law?” His answer: “God forbid!” He later said, “Christ is saying the New Testament gospel is not contrary or contradictory in any way, shape or form to the Old Testament law.”
Then, on December 17—just two weeks later,and after a string of denouncements against those spreading “lies” and “rumors”—Mr. Tkach did awaywith the church’s teachings on clean and unclean meats, tithing, the Sabbath, holy day observance and the law. This, according to Tkach Jr.’s book, is when skeptics in the church finally knew that the changes were for real…
In a letter to Dennis Leap on April 20, 1990, Joseph Tkach Jr. wrote that Mystery of the Ages “was discontinued because we have more economical ways of providing exactly the same message to subscribers and members. The doctrinal message of the book is not being changed or stopped.”
Would Jesus Christ say the “exact same message” of the book was being disseminated four months after firing two ministers and saying the book was “riddled with error”?
Tkach Jr. wrote, “[D]on’t pretend to others that you are continuing to follow Mr. Armstrong’s way. Please be honest about it.” How ironic that statement turned out to be. It is now clear that this accusation is precisely what Tkachismwas doing at the time Joe Jr. wrote his letter—dishonestly giving the impression they were continuing in Mr. Armstrong’s steps. Tkach Jr. wrote, “[N]one of the ‘seven mysteries’ explained in [Mystery of the Ages] has been changed or deleted.”
The Trinity Doctrine
On March 6, 1998, Pat Robertson interviewed Joseph Tkach Jr. and Greg Albrecht on his television program, The 700 Club. They talked about the wcg’s doctrinal transformation. In describing the changes that took place early on, Mr. Tkach Jr. said, “Starting in 1989, we realized that the trinity was correct and that it’s the only logical and historically [sic] way to explain that God is one in three.”
Then, in 1990, Philip Stevens wrote an article for the Good News titled “Who Was Jesus’ Father?” Somehow, this statement managed to sneak by wcg editors: “The concept of a trinity is nowhere found in the Bible. … The trinity hides from man God’s plan of salvation. The trinity doctrine maintains that the Godhead is a closed unit into which no one else can enter.”
Three months after that article appeared in the Good News, Michael Snyder wrote a letter to Watchman Fellowship, a cult-watching organization based in Arlington, Texas. Mr. Snyder said, “The question of God’s disclosure to humanity is still open and the church awaits further scholarly discussion in the field of dogmatics concerning this topic. The article ‘Who Was Jesus’ Father?’ from the November-December 1990 Good News has been declared officially null and void with respect to church doctrine.”
…Around the same time, in the spring of 1991, David Hulme and Michael Snyder, his assistant, took part in discussions with the faculty at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. During his presentation, Mr. Hulme said he had been invited to explain the church’s position on a “number of things” and to update them on the “changes” in the wcg. He said he wanted to take them through “some of the more important changes that have occurred in the last four to five years.” When he got to the subject of the trinity, Mr. Hulme said, “Even though the Worldwide Church of God considers some positions on the trinity to be heretical (for example, all forms of Arianism), it sees the Eastern, Western, Protestant, and Modernist views of the nature of God as genuine attempts to reach a deeper understanding of God’s nature.”
As you might imagine, with these types of comments being made to those outside the church, all sorts of “rumors” and “gossip” began swirling on the inside. Was the wcg about to accept the trinity?some wondered. Fortunately for members, Mr. Tkach Sr. stepped forward to set the record straight. Toward the end of the summer of 1991, he wrote an article in the church’s newspaper titled “How Do You React to Change?” The article reflected much of the wcg’s latest discussions with Truths That Transform, Watchman Fellowship and the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School…
At the end of his article, Mr. Tkach said, “We do not believe the doctrine of the trinity.” Never mind that in a personal letter to Watchman Fellowship, Michael Snyder declared a Good Newsarticle “null and void” because of its comments in opposition to the trinity doctrine. Nor that, according to Snyder, the subject of “God’s disclosure” was now an “open question” in the church. Neither did Mr. Tkach mention that the church now taught the “full divinity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit—the biblical foundation for all trinitarian discussions”—as Dr. Stavrinides had explained to the ministry months earlier. Nor did he draw attention to the fact that David Hulme had been involved in several discussions with trinitarians at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
When you say, “We do not believe the doctrine of the trinity” without qualification, doesn’t that imply that the church rejects all forms and practices of the trinity? As far as unsuspecting members were concerned, putting Tkach’s “We do not believe the doctrine of the trinity” statement together with the November-December 1990 Good News article (declared “null and void” privately, but not in a church publication), the church was teaching the very same thing it had always taught about the nature of God…
Five months after he unequivocally said that the wcgdid not believe in the trinity, Mr. Tkach wrote, “The newly printed Statement of Beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God will be mailed to you soon. … Let me make a few comments about one portion of the Statement.In the statement about God, you will notice that the final sentence reads: ‘The church affirms the oneness of God and the full divinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ Someone may ask, ‘Does this mean we now accept the doctrine of the trinity?’ No, it does not. The doctrine of the trinity in the Western Church attests the union of three Persons in one Godhead, so that the three are one God as to substance, but three Persons as to individualities. We do not accept that teaching; we believe that the word Person is inaccurate when referring to the Holy Spirit.”
In other words, we have accepted the trinity, but don’t misinterpret that to mean that we have accepted the trinity.
In its August 1992 booklet God Is …, the church stated, “God is one being, one entity”—“the Holy Spirit is also God”—and “the Bible does reveal three entities within the one Godhead.” When referring to the booklet in the Worldwide News,Mr. Tkach wrote, “The doctrine of the trinity did not originate in paganism, as we have traditionally thought.” But did all these statements mean the church had now accepted the trinity? Of course not, they continued to tell the membership.
The following year, in August 1993, Mr. Tkach wrote, “Simply put, the Bible proclaims plainly and clearly that there is one and only one God…When the Bible says that God is one, the word onedoes not refer to a ‘God Family,’ but to one God.” A little further in the article, Mr. Tkach wrote, “The Bible teaching is that there is one God who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
…Were it not for Tkach Jr.’s interview with Pat Robertson years later—where he admitted they realized the trinity was correct in 1989—it might still be safe to assume (within the church, of course) that the Worldwide Church of God in no way teaches the doctrine of the trinity.
Their Greatest Challenge
By now you can see how convoluted and contradictory Tkach Jr.’s positions are. How could the explanation of Mr. Armstrong’s teachings change so dramatically between 1992 and 1997 when Mr. Armstrong died in 1986? Mr. Armstrong left an incredibly thorough written account of what he believed and taught. But that has not stopped Joe Jr. from dramatically altering his explanation of those teachings—all depending on the time period and the audience he was addressing.
Notice what Mr. Tkach Jr. says in his book about the difficulty they ran into when trying to explain the many changes: “Some cult watchers, ministries, churches, and pastors can be more of a hindrance when it comes to helping individuals or aberrant groups break away from their cultic theology and practice. One of our greatest challenges has been trying to explain these doctrinal reforms to outsiders while maintaining our credibility internally, and some groups have greatly hindered our efforts by their reporting.”
The reason he blames outside groups for hindering their efforts to make doctrinal changes within the church is that they reported what was actually happening! This became problematic for Tkachism because they were telling these outside groups about all the changes—even telling them that more were coming—while at the same time telling their own members that nothing was changing! They are the ones who hurt their own credibility—by lying.
In his book, Tkach Jr. explains how their church leaders, in the early 1990s, kept contacting evangelical groups in order to keep them apprised of the changes in the wcg…
It was certainly a confusing time. Around then, I remember J. Tkach Sr. stating/indicating that RC Meredith was falsely teaching that WCG was doing away with the ten commandments (PCG left that out of their article).
While I was questioning what the Tkaches were doing (especially in regards to the Gospel and the nature of God), in addition to J. Sr.’s statements confirming that WCG would not do away with the ten commandments at that time I had another reason at that time to believe J. Sr. when he said the teaching on the ten commandments, etc. were not going to be changed by WCG.
As it turned out, I happened to have accepted the assignment to teach the local WCG congregation’s children the two songs that they were to sing at the Feast of Tabernacles in 1994. This is a bit odd for me as music is not a strength nor area of much interest. Anyway, the two songs I was teaching the children were named something to the effect of “There are Ten Commandments” and “Do You Know God’s Feasts in the Spring and in the Fall”.
The first song listed the ten commandments and explained that they should be kept, while the second song listed the Holy Days and briefly explained God’s plan of salvation through the Holy Days.
Hence, I found it hard to believe the rumors that WCG was teaching against the ten commandments and Holy Days as I was teaching them each week to the children of the local WCG congregation.
However, when it was clear that WCG really did change them, I remembered the WCG comments against RC Meredith, realized that Dr. Meredith obviously had been right, and then after attending a GCG congregation when travelling, decided that it was the proper remnant of the Philadelphia portion of the COG at that time.
Speaking of WCG and the Holy Days, I did (after leaving–additionally, while still in WCG I did write J. Sr. twice concerning certain changes) write an article regarding something that J. Tkach Jr. wrote about them. It is still available and is called Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible?
Another article of possibly related interest may be Did You Know What the First Changes the Tkach Administration Made? Some have said healing, others other subjects, but probably the first change had to do with eliminating being part of the Philadelphia era. This article documents what those changes were and compares the Tkach list of restored truths to HWA’s list of restored truths. It contains many quotes from HWA.