By Janice Price
July 4th is the day we generally celebrate America’s independence, but this year I have reflected more on spiritual than physical independence. Mainly because my brother presented me with a DVD drive and I was finally able to view the video “Called to be Free.”
This video, produced by Living Hope Ministries ( www.lhvm.org ), is about a dramatic theology shift in the Worldwide Church of God (www.wcg.org ) and how the changes affected the church structure and membership. Joseph Tkach, Ron Kelly, Mike Feazell, Dan Rogers, and other ministers and members of the Worldwide Church of God reminisced in interviews. They talked of their individual experiences and how each of them came to see the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong were off the Christian track and the WCG was not the church –the one and only true church of God - but a cult.
Admitting decades of doctrinal errors cost the church dearly in membership and financial stability. Discussions were heated, friends and families divided over doctrine, and some ministers left with large portions of their congregations following them into one of several breakaway churches.
Some members embraced the new theology, but others adamantly refused to acknowledge that Herbert W. Armstrong could be wrong, even to the smallest degree. Some remained with the WCG but held fast to the core belief of the Saturday Sabbath and the Holy Days. Some decided the changes meant it no longer mattered what church one attended, so why continue to drive twenty or thirty miles each way to services? Some adopted one doctrinal belief system, others another. It was a confusing time when everyone’s faith was tested.
Members who remained with the WCG began to understand they had been living under the Old Covenant instead of under the New. Although he was once preached as the messenger spreading the Good News (Gospel) of the coming Kingdom of God, it was now understood Christ Jesus is the Gospel. The Holy Spirit, previously considered “it” - the power of God – suddenly became “he.”
Despite the initial joy of finally coming to know the true Jesus, there was a lot of anger at the church for having taught and strictly enforced legalism. For many there was an inward anger. How could I have believed this? Denied my children a normal childhood over this? Lost my marriage and my family over this? Lost my career over keeping the Holy Days? Lived in poverty, carrying the burden of two tithes and a third tithe every three years, to support the high living lifestyle of Herbert W. Armstrong and those in authority at headquarters in Pasadena?
This was not the usual church split over a point of doctrine. This was more like the combined United States Armed Forces marching off to war together - basically in step and in one direction – until about half of them suddenly execute an about face and try to march in an opposing direction, while still intermingled with the troops marching to war in the original direction.
All of this was not gleaned from the video. The video just brought memories of that time flooding to the surface. Some were bad memories; I witnessed some of the ugly side of the transition. But I also witnessed the miracle. It’s always a miracle when God opens anyone’s eyes to see Spiritual truth.
In 2 Corinthians3:15-16, Paul writes: But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
For some reason, God was preparing me. I was reading outside literature and learning things I knew were not sanctioned by the Worldwide Church of God. Others were also, but many were caught unprepared for such a major doctrinal shift. Still, the same Spirit that lifted the veil from my heart, lifted it from the hearts of the other WCG members who were willing to accept a course correction.
I’ve had several memorable Independence Days in my life, none of which had anything to do with the fourth of July. But coming out of spiritual darkness into God’s light was the greatest Independence Day of my life.
© 2005 Janice Price