This article discusses the Living Church of God (LCG), and to a lessor degree, the Continuing Church of God (CCOG).
The top leaders in the Living Church of God were all once part of the old WCG. When WCG went into apostasy under the Tkach Administration, a long-time evangelist named Roderick C. Meredith was essentially told to stop preaching or he would lose financial support. He ignored the financial offer and formed the Global Church of God. Thousands who had been part of the old WCG then supported him. In 1998, after he made a variety of public statements about governance (some of which were contradictory), a leadership coup took over GCG, and the Living Church of God was formed. Most who had been part of GCG went to LCG. Currently around 9,000 people are affiliated with LCG.
The Living Church of God, like the old WCG, believes that the book of Revelation reveals a succession of seven churches, sometimes called "church eras," which show certain characteristics of the true church throughout history.
However, regarding other COGs, LCG was initially unique.
Like GCG, LCG initially took up the 'Philadelphian work' (Revelation 3) by placing its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel while also teaching the 18 truths that Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) claimed were restored to that era--no other large COG did both (others improperly changed the work, while some will not teach all the 18 restored truths).
Here are some historical quotes from LCG teachings on these points:
These quotes shows where Living differed from the other COGs--Living claimed to represent the largest remnant of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God, taught the 18 truths that God used Herbert Armstrong to restore to the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God, and placed a high priority on proclaiming the Gospel. It also has the largest television presence of any COG and hence made significant financial commitments to gospel proclamation.
The Living Church of God is the remnant of the Philadelphia Church continuing into the Laodicean era (Winnail, D. Lessons from Revelation 2 & 3. Sermon, DVE 407. March 7, 2007, Charlotte, NC).
We believe we are the Philadelphia remnant. Philadelphia means brotherly love. (Winnail, D. Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, and You. Sermon, PENE-11-PM. May 23, 2010, Charlotte, NC).
'Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown' (Revelation 3:11). Mr. Armstrong wrote that he restored to the Church of God at least 18 truths that the previous era had lost (Mystery of the Ages, p. 251). Philadelphians are the ones who hold to those truths (as well as all other biblical truths)-including governance-and will be able to have a crown and to rule!
Philadelphians have 'kept My command to persevere' (Revelation 3:10). Holding fast to Truth, while putting a priority on proclaiming the Gospel, is what sets the Philadelphian Church apart...
The Living Church of God cannot claim that all its members are Philadelphian, but we do believe we are a uniquely Philadelphian remnant. Can one find a larger or more effective 'corporate body' which retains the Truth as taught by Mr. Armstrong, without adding non-biblical "revelations" or diverting its members from making their top priority the Great Commission of proclaiming the Gospel as established by Jesus Christ? No!...Of course, simply attending with the Living Church of God does not make one a Philadelphian; individual members must do their part, and must not allow their lives to be cluttered by the cares of this world so that they themselves become lukewarm (Laodicean) (Thiel B. What is a Philadelphian? Living Church News, July-August 2001).
We are trying to do that work today--the work of the Philadelphia era of the Church (Meredith RC. The Destiny of America and Britain. Sermon, July 24, 2010).
As far as I can tell, LCG was the first major group which knew that the 18 truths were not the 1986 Tkach list (some other groups rely on an article published by the Tkach administration in 1986 or do not teach believe they must teach the 18)--although sometimes the Tkach list has been apparently used in some sermons by some LCG leaders.
Yet, beginning in 2012, LCG began to officially teach that those that do not agree to a certain doctrinal change (related to 2 Thessalonians 2:3; see The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings) have somehow been led by, or blinded by, Satan.
That was not a Philadelphian attribute.
Beginning in January/February 2012, it was becoming clearer that promises to correct and resolve certain matters that were made to Bob Thiel in mid-to-late December 2011 were not going to happen (see also Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God or en el idioma español: ¿Por qué Bob Thiel dejó la Iglesia del Dios Viviente?). This was causing concern.
Furthermore, for Passover 2012, a DVD was sent out featuring Dr. Scott Winnail where he made a biblically-improper comment to the effect that Jesus was not present at Passover--and while he may not have meant it the way he said it, his statement was basically consistent with certain Protestant statements that I heard in the past and this was a concern. I believe I later discussed this with my then LCG Regional Pastor who seemed to agree with me, but as far as I could tell, LCG was not planning on correcting it and never did send out a retraction.
In May 2012, Dr. Meredith sent out one or more disturbing statements related to the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3. So, I immediately sent him and the other Charlotte-based evangelist an email with some of my concerns while urging them to look at additional facts and scriptures.
On June 1, 2012, a carefully scripted must-play sermon was produced in LCG's television studio featuring LCG Evangelist Dr. Douglas Winnail (which I did not see until July 14, 2012--and it caused me to start making changes to the COGwriter.com website--beginning that day). The subject was on the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3. The sermon relied heavily upon Protestant commentaries and did not actually quote a variety of relevant scriptures or quotes from the old Radio Church of God/Worldwide Church of God that disagreed with Dr. Winnail's conclusions. But seemed to give the impression that it did (some that were missed are in the article The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings).
Here is some of what Dr. Winnail taught in that sermon:
Falling Away - ImplicationsClarifying this issue and powerfully delivering this prophetic warning about a universal falling away from the fundamentals of biblical Christianity, led by a Beast, a Man of Sin and Miracles will clearly set the Living Church of God apart...
This will be an issue that will clearly set apart the Living Church of God from others who will be teaching something very different...This is also going to set the Living Church of God apart from false teachers that say it has already happened. It doesn't fit with the prophecies of Jesus Christ or the prophecies of Revelation...This perspective that 2 Thessalonians 2 only applies to the Church of God takes it out of its biblical and historical context.
Thus, according to Dr. Winnail the "falling away" doctrine is what is to set LCG apart from others--and therefore he considers this as a defining doctrine for LCG. I asked Dr. Meredith about that, but never got a response, hence I concluded that he must agree with Dr. Winnail (especially since Dr.Winnail, orally and in writing, insisted that his position was the position of the Council of Elders and his position was in an official "must-play" scripted sermon--though at least one Council member told me that he would not accept Dr. Winnail's position). Those interested in a more biblical and historical view of the subject of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 may wish to read the article The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings (in Spanish/español: La Apostasía: Enseñanzas de la Biblia y de la WCG) or watch the two videos The Falling Away Part 1: From the Bible and Church History and The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others with the former one more biblically-focused latter one more related to LCG-positions.
Beyond the doctrinal error itself, there was something highly disturbing about the sermon. And that was the implication that those who did not agree with it had the "spirit of error."
Dr. Winnail stated, while showing 1 John 4:1-6, 2 Peter 3:17-18, and Luke 21:36, that:
You must be able to discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.
...do not be led by the error of the wicked...These are admonitions we find in the scriptures...Jesus said you will know the truth and the truth will set you free...
Watch and pray that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.
The above suggested that those who disagree are following the spirit of error, and hence not Christians (Dr. Winnail also made other comments between those shown above that did so as well) as that is clearly what scriptures such as 1 John 4:1-6 teach.
So this was a major concern to me and I began to change the COGwriter.com website immediately after watching it, while also contacting the three LCG Charlotte-based evangelists and certain ministers about this (I also met with Richard Ames on October 8, 2012). But without getting this matter resolved from Charlotte.
On October 18, 2012, I received an email from William Bowmer (Executive Editor for LCG's print publications) where he informed me that despite known errors in LCG's God's Church through the Ages booklet, that at least 20,000 more would be sent out--thus admitting that LCG was knowingly providing incorrect information to those actually interested in COG history.
Then on December 15, 2012, I watched LCG sermon DVE727 titled Watch and Get Ready by Dr. D. Winnail. In it, after referring to why Protestant commentaries support his position on the "falling away," he stated that those who do not agree are "blinded to the reality" of what he is teaching. Since it is Satan who blinds the world (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9), this seemed to be an attack against the people of God who did not agree with Dr. Winnail's falling away position.
Thus, in two different sermons Dr. Winnail suggested that those who did not agree with him were being influenced by Satan or perhaps not even Christians. This, in my view, was extremely serious, crossed the line, was totally inappropriate, and not at all a Philadelphian approach to this subject.
Watching those sermons caused me to make multiple attempts to contact Dr. Meredith to see if he would disavow any of these statements and conclusions. Instead, on 12/28/12 he ignored the issues that I raised (cf. Revelation 3:14-19) and issued an improper and error-filled letter against me. Dr. Meredith attacked the messenger (me) and would not deal with the message or issues raised. He wrote things about me that he should have known were not true and then passed it on to the LCG ministry, who then got it posted all over the internet. This was just another example of how LCG did not seem to believe that Matthew 18 applied to its leaders and that there was insufficient "love of the truth" at LCG (see also Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God). Attacking the messenger and not dealing with the issue was highly inappropriate (as was publishing statements against me that were not true).
This, combined with other earlier responses, clearly demonstrated insufficient love for the truth and that further attempts at reconciliation then were futile. Therefore, the Continuing Church of God was then formed as it was clear that LCG no longer could possibly have the Philadelphia mantle (especially since an LCG minister had started to suggest that to me about a year earlier).
It should also be noted that a must-play sermon from Dr. Meredith was played in many LCG congregations on this falling away subject in May 2013, which improperly confirmed Dr. Winnail's position. Some details are in the article The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings.
LCG has, for some apparently carnal reasons, chosen to define itself by a doctrinal change that is wrong and in conflict with scripture. Why would any choose to overlook this?
In addition, it also wrote that if one did not agree with its biblically incorrect view on the identity of the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians (see Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2?), one does not understand biblical prophecy. Hence, in at least two different ocassions in which it promotes prophetic error, LCG is teaching that this is what defines it as a church. Yet, many still support it.
Many have recently asked me for a list of doctrinal differences between LCG and the Continuing Church of God. The following is not all inclusive (there are more that I will likely add later), as far as doctrines, unlike Charlotte, CCOG believes:
Anyway, while there are others, the above gives some reasons why those who wish to truly be part of the Philadelphia remnant would want to consider supporting the Continuing Church of God.
The bottom line is that because LCG has integrity issues (which are more important than many doctrinal differences) and other factors, it no longer can hold the Philadelphia mantle and it has demonstrated that does it did not have the ability to be able to complete the final phase of the work.
If you believe that you are Philadelphian, and you suspect that LCG could possibly be more Philadelphian than the Continuing Church of God, then I have a mild challenge. Please watch the entire two part sermon The Falling Away Part 1: From the Bible and Church History and The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others and study the related article The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings with your Bible. If after you study those, you do not believe that the Continuing Church of God is correct, then I would agree with you that LCG is a probably better choice for you. But if you watch them and act like the more "fair-minded" Bereans to search the scriptures and the other source materials I refer to in order to see if what I said is so (Acts 17:10-11) and you find it to be, then you need to ask yourself how a group like LCG that promotes such blatant error, and is sticking to those errors apparently for at least the sake of its organizational unity, can possibly still have the Philadelphia mantle?
Are you like the Bereans or are you sure that what I am saying is not so?
I have not bore false witness on these matters (for those who want to know a little more about why I left LCG, please check out the article Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God).
As far as gospel proclamation priorities go, let me state that in its first month of official existence, the Continuing Church of God. reached more people with parts of Christ's gospel of the kingdom than any other non-GTA group as far as I have been able to tell. Basically, two million or so via radio and 100,000 or so via the internet. Thus, CCOG has the fruits that Philadelphians should be looking for. And since then? CCOG has reached millions more via radio and hundreds of thousands more on the internet, as well as put out printed materials in two languages, and internet materials in at least four languages (for specific details, please check out CCOG's weekly Letters to the Brethren).
There are a few complaints about/against LCG that perhaps should be addressed here. They vary in terms of relevance.
1) I have heard that LCG and groups like it are a cult.
The Bible shows that the true Church of God would be a little flock (Luke 12:32) and called a variety of names (including cult per Acts 24:2,5,10-14, New Living Translation). For more information about Christians being part of a 'cult,' please check out the article Is the Genuine Church of God a Cult?
2) I have heard bad things about Roderick Meredith (plus HWA did not appoint him to take over the Church).
So have I. Some of his statements are not Philadelphian and contradict facts I am aware of. Also several public statements made in 2012 and 2013 clearly contradict the Bible. But he has made efforts to proclaim the gospel (in a manner that will not get him kicked off television stations), does claim to believe the Bible, etc., despite publishing clearly false items about Bob Thiel--which is something he has not repented of.
3) I have heard that some member(s) or minister(s) in LCG has (have) made one or more mistakes.
This is true, though some who say things like this often do not have the whole story, though sometimes they do.
Though imperfection, per se, is not a biblically sanctioned reason to not be part of a group (though requiring one to believe something against one's conscience, would be a valid reason, cf. Acts 24:16; and there are other valid reasons; such as knowingly and publicly bearing false witness).
4) I do not believe in hierarchical governance.
Those who state this do not seem to understand what the Bible teaches about governance and also clearly do not accept the 18 truths that HWA stated were restored to the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God, hence I would not expect them to support groups tht profess it unless they are led to do more Bible study on the topic.
HWA himself taught:
But to go on with the things that have been restored...The government of God has been restored to the Church, and the government of God has been placed in the Church. You read that in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12. Christ is the head of the Church and under Christ in the administration of the government are an apostle or apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then all are called elders, all ministers all the way up clear down to the lowest. So then there are teachers and elders both speaking elders and preaching elders, deacons and deaconesses. And the Church is restored in that form of government. The Sardis Church even didn't have the right form of government (Armstrong HW. Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era. Sermon, 12/17/83).
The government of God is of necessity government from the top down. It cannot be 'government by the consent of the governed' (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages. p.49).
Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote about Jesus' idea of governance:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
People who wish to live by every word of God should realize that God supports a biblical hierarchical governance (see also The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government). The reality is that having a biblically proper form of governance helps protect people from various heresies and unstable doctrine. However, this is not to state that LCG now properly accepts God's form of governance (it has demonstrated inappropriate interpretations sometimes and refuses to truly accept the order in 1 Corinthians 12:28--and absolutely shows signs of what Dr. Meredith used to refer to as institutional IDOLATRY), but unlike some other groups, it claims to.
Despite its claims, it has refused to accept that God could now have any in an office above an evangelist (letter of 12/28/12 and FOT sermon 2012), despite what the Bible teaches (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God). So, there is a problem amongst those in LCG who claim to believe in hierarchical governance as they have demonstrated an unwillingness to humbly accept how God has handled certain matters.
5) LCG does not truly practice Matthew 18:15-17.
Sadly, to a significant degree, this is true. I tried to work with LCG on this in 2011 and 2012, and instead they violated it so much in 2012, this was a factor in my departure.
Notice something I wrote in a letter to Dr. Meredith on June 9, 2011:
I should perhaps let you know that I was once told by of the Charlotte staff that "Matthew 18:15-17" does not apply around here" (meaning Charlotte). I asked, "Shouldn't it?" And this staff member responded, "Of course it should, it just doesn't."
The person who told me that Matthew 18:15-17 did not apply to Charlotte, specifically told me he was referring to the top leadership--the evangelists and some others there in LCG Charlotte. This employee gave up on Matthew 18 with them. Although I tried repeatedly, this matter was not addressed. And, instead of keeping promises or responding to my Matthew 18:15-17 comment, it was ignored. But I complied with Matthew 18:15-17 as no church leader is above scripture.
LCG has ignored Matthew 18:15-17 both ways. The first is that certain leaders function like Matthew 18:15-17 does not apply to them if they have faults (like not keeping their promises), but also that they can violate it related to those who were affiliated with their organization.
Related to Matthew 18:15-20, notice something I posted in January 2013:
01/05/13 a.m. As expected, some associated with the LCG ministry have leaked the 12/28/13 letter to me to anti-COG sources on the internet. They can later try to explain this to God as obviously several with insufficient love of the truth or trust in the word of God would not actually want to first talk to me to find out if these things are so (Matthew 18:15-20). The reality is that that letter contains false accusations, improper statements, and a variety of false statements. The Bible warns against spreading such things, for "whoever spreads slander is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18).
01/04/13 a.m...Yet, on September 6, 2012, with possible disregard of Matthew 18:15-17 and matters of prophetic authority (1 Corinthians 12:28), Dr. Meredith publically criticized Bob Thiel without previously discussing the related matters with him; nor did Dr. Winnail take certain steps related to promises related to doctrinal matters (Revelation 3:14-19).
Paying lip service to God's governance is not the same as truly accepting it. LCG has on several occasions I am aware of, violated Matthew 18:15-17 both ways.
The rationale? Basically, it appears to be that since Herbert Armstrong ordained Dr. Meredith as an evangelist so long ago, if something is or is not fine with him, that is God's government at work. That is simply not true. Here is something he wrote me on December 28, 2012 as part of his rationale for dismissing things about me (bolding and italics his):
Therefore, as the one Christ Himself has put in the office of Presiding Evangelist...I want to tell you...recognize that authority for your own good.
I have never challenged that Dr. Meredith was ordained as an evangelist. Yet, he and others need to realize that Christ expected His leaders to actually follow His words better than Dr. Meredith has, especially in the past couple of years. Dr. Meredith and others need to live by every word of God and not decide that they can overlook portions that are not convenient to their understanding of church governance.
To make sure this is clear, I did attempt to tell Dr. Meredith certain of his faults per Matthew 18:15-17 privately, and also tried to get others to assist as Matthew 18 says to do when that did not work, then finally I have told "it to the church" (Matthew 18:17) as Jesus said to do.
But, LCG not only did not approach me first, nor bring in others to discuss the matters with me, instead they publicly "told it to the church" on two or more ocassions and then what they told contained false witness. Nor would LCG correct any of it when told. Those who feel that LCG has proper church governance need to re-examine that.
6) LCG has old leaders and will not be around long enough to support the organization.
It is true that LCG is led by one in his 80s who has health and other issues, and refused to accept admonitions that he requested (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:13).
God places leaders in the Church (1 Corinthians 12:28) and it is He, and not man (or an organization per se) we should look towards.
The teachings and practices, not the age of, leaders is the issue all should consider.
7) I have heard that LCG has integrity issues.
Sadly, this is more true than it should be. See also Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God (En el idioma español: ¿Por qué Bob Thiel dejó la Iglesia del Dios Viviente?)
The Living Church of God contains a mix of people. Back in/near 2009, despite it still then (in my view) holding the 'Philadelphia mantle,' when I was asked if I felt that the majority in LCG were Philadelphian, I responded with "No."
But, I felt then, as I do now, that although there are scattered Philadelphians, that LCG has more Philadelphians in terms of number of people than any other group--though as some die out and certain doctrines creep in, this is changing and there are now truly less Philadelphians in LCG than I used to think that there were.
What I have noticed in the past year is an excessive willingness to abide by positions coming from Charlotte even if they disagree with the Bible, actual facts, etc. Decades ago Dr. Meredith considered this type of reliance on a church to be IDOLATRY (yes, he capitalized that in his writing about that in the article: Meredith RC. Second Commandment. Plain Truth, March 1960, p. 27). Nowadays, he seems to consider such idolatry to be loyalty.
This is highly disturbing yet most in LCG do not understand the ramifications of that as sin, nor its relationship to Laodicea:
17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:17-20).
I personally believe I was called to support the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God and be part of the work (hence COGwriter, etc.) and that LCG itself no longer properly represents it, but that the Continuing Church of God now does--and the CCOG's commitment to truth and its gospel proclamation efforts demonstrate it for any who are truly willing to look at the facts.
It has been my experience that about a third of those in LCG (and probably a higher percentage of its employees) realize that LCG has significant integrity, hypocrisy, and/or doctrinal issues. Yet, most dismiss them as insufficiently important for many reasons. They rationalize that since LCG does have a major media presence, does have more congregations to attend than CCOG, Dr. Meredith was ordained by the late Herbert Armstrong, and LCG has a ministry that they are comfortable with, that somehow God will work it out and they do not have to be that concerned themselves--this attitude is close to, if not truly, Laodicean and idolatrous.
The Bible, of course, teaches, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Many forget that the late Herbert W. Armstrong left the old CG7 for similar reasons that I left LCG (see also the article Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God).
If you believe that Herbert W. Armstrong was right then, are you willing to do what is right now? Will you support the truth or a compromised version?
Some articles of related interest may include:
Do You Believe God Used Herbert Armstrong to Raise Up the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God?
What is a True Philadelphian?
The Thyatira Church Era
The Sardis Church Era
The Philadelphia Church Era
The Laodicean Church Era
Are the Laodiceans the Modern Sadducees and Pharisees?
Thiel B. What About the Living Church of God? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2002/2005/2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013 0608
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