Sunday, August 4, 2013

Was 1980s WCG Really a Golden Age?

Many HWA sectarians hold the nostalgic idea that all was rosy and good within WCG once those pesky "liberals" had been purged. A golden age for "God's Church".

Notice how LCG's John Ogwyn describes it in God's Church Through the Ages.
Mr. Armstrong, from Tucson, Arizona (where he was still recovering from heart trouble), named Dr. Meredith to his old job as director of the ministry, seeking to restore stability to the Church and the ministry during this troubled time. At the same time, Mr. Armstrong sought to "set the Church back on track" doctrinally after the liberal, watered-down doctrinal approach of the 1970s. By the time of his death in January 1986, The Plain Truth had a circulation of more than eight million copies printed in seven languages. Attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles approached 150,000 worldwide.

When Joseph Tkach took the helm of the Worldwide Church of God upon the death of Mr. Armstrong in January 1986, the Church was a seemingly unified body. It appeared focused on the Work of God that lay ahead and committed to the Truth. There were problems beneath the surface, however. They became increasingly obvious, at first faintly and then more clearly.
Notice how PCG's Stephen Flurry describes it in his article The Legacy of Herbert Armstrong.
Herbert Armstrong was systematically getting the Church “back on track,”...

The attack did nothing to weaken Herbert Armstrong or the WCG. The Church was cleaned up, and the members who stood by Mr. Armstrong through the battle against the state were strengthened by it. The fruits of cleaning up the Church became clearly evident over the next several years.

Greatest Growth in Church History

The WCG had its greatest spurt of growth during 1980 to 1986—right after a tremendous amount of turmoil both inside and outside the Church, at a time when many ex-members of the WCG were claiming Mr. Armstrong was incompetent and senile. The surge forward by the WCG in the last years of Herbert Armstrong’s life proves, without refutation, just how powerfully he was being used by God.

Contrast the Church in the late 1970s to the year Mr. Armstrong died: the annual income went from $75 million to $200 million; Plain Truth circulation went from 1 million to peak at over 8 million; the television stations carrying The World Tomorrow, numbering 50 in 1978, grew to nearly 400 worldwide at the end of Mr. Armstrong’s life.
Notice how RCG's Dave Pack and Bruce C. Ritter describe this time in the booklet, Herbert W. Armstrong - His Life in Proper Perspective, Chapter 8.
In 1981, a youth magazine (Youth 81, 82, 83…) was launched. Each issue offered articles that pointed teens in the Church in the right direction, while helping them prepare for life’s challenges. Y.E.S. (Youth Educational Services) lessons and activities were established for young children and preteens, teaching them God’s ways.
The Feast of Tabernacles became the largest annual, multi-site convention on earth. Live services conducted by Mr. Armstrong were beamed via satellite into most festival sites, enabling tens of thousands of brethren in countries around the world to hear the same sermon and sing the same hymns in unison.
The Plain Truth magazine matched, and even surpassed, the quality and excellence of the world’s leading news magazines. It reached almost 8.2 million subscribers, translating to approximately 25 million readers. Along with The World Tomorrow programs on television and radio, this resulted in record numbers of phone calls requesting literature.
Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in prophecy, which had been gutted to one-quarter of its size, was returned to its full size and strength.

Full-page ads were published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, among others. ...

Congregations that had stagnated or diminished in size for years suddenly bounced back to life. The Church was again growing at almost 30 percent per year. Many thousands of Plain Truth readers and millions of World Tomorrow television viewers and radio listeners responded to the gospel and were moved to live a new way of life!
Statistical growth soon returned to the near-explosion level that had been enjoyed by the Church in nearly every category in which they had so recently been declining.
The book also describes HWA's resumption of activities, list some of the numerous assets HWA acquired (which are presented as evidence of God's favor), and his writing of Mystery of the Ages.

Now we see how some COGs remember that time it is time to ask the following question:

Was it really a golden age?

Many within the COGs deeply yearn to return to that glory. Dave Pack has recently been trying to exploit this yearning among many within the other COGs to get them to join his group and get their three tithes and extra offerings.

What really happened in 1979-86?

The unity everyone loved was created by destroying friendships and relationships with anyone who failed to conform to WCG's demands or were accused of being in league with the "dissidents" and "liberals". One example of this may be seen in     Pastor's Report.

Many WCG members continued to fear going to doctors or taking medicine because of HWA's anti-medicine superstition which he stole from the Jehovah's Witnesses.

HWA banned racial interracial marriage. It is very hard to get more racist than that.

Women were not allowed to wear makeup. In one article HWA even accused the problems of the 1970s were caused because WCG allowed women to wear makeup. HWA banned makeup because he saw his daughter Beverly wearing too much makeup one day and he disapproved so strongly he banned makeup. HWA reimposed this ban partly to coerce his wife, the former Ramona Martin (nee Crittenden) hoping this measure would compel her to divorce him. It did not work. He had to divorce her.

HWA claimed that Jesus Christ would return within the 20th Century. He even said this in Mystery of the Ages, a book so greatly revered among those who wish to follow HWA. It bears useless fear inducing false prophecy. (PCG erased those words in their copies so you will not find it there.)

HWA told WCG children that Jesus Christ would soon return, before 2000.

HWA was a divorced man.

In December 1984, HWA belittled a TV ad for a charity trying to feed staving children as "an emotional appeal for donations". Unlike most people he could have done a lot to help that charity but, not only did he choose not to help but he unfavorably compared it to The World Tomorrow program and praised himself as the only one really working to solve the world's problems.

HWA claimed the Plain Truth had eight million issues in circulation. Actually it was never higher then "slightly over six million." (Larry Nichols and George Mather, Discovering the Plain Truth, p. 39) Why did HWA lie about this?

What sort of golden age is this?

Here in WCG people are forced to adhere to vicious Jim Crow laws forbidding interracial marriage while the United States had banned that form of racial discrimination in 1967. Women were forbidden to wear makeup while just about every other woman did so without a moment's thought. (And, no! They were not trying to seduce men as HWA accused them of doing.) People lived in the false fear that Christ would return before the year 2000. The children were taught that very soon, probably before they grew old, Christ would return, causing them to fear falsely and ignore planning for their lives.

This golden age does not seem very pleasant, just or godly.

Despite all this many in the COGs wish to remember only what they wish.

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