Article Info

published: 12/30/12
updated: 12/13/13

The Worldwide Church of God




What is the Worldwide Church of God?

The Worldwide Church of God was a religious group claiming to be the only genuine form of Christianity in the world - who many orthodox Christians considered a cult - that underwent a complete theological makeover after their founder, Hebert Armstrong, died in 1986.

Many believe this is the only time in history that the majority of followers from a pseudo-Christian group corporately converted to evangelical Christianity.

Who is Herbert Armstrong?

Herbert Armstrong was an ordained minister in the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination.

In 1934 he began pastoring a congregation in Eugene, Oregon and soon began teaching on the radio in that city, calling the show “The Radio Church of God.” In the 1940’s Armstrong fell out of favor with his congregation and denomination over theological issues and transplanted his radio ministry to Pasadena, California. Ambassador College was also founded by Herbert Armstrong’s ministry soon thereafter.





In 1956 Herbert Armstrong published a short book called “1975 in Prophecy!” which became the hallmark piece of literature in the movement. The booklet foretold of a soon-arriving nuclear war that would lead to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This teaching characterized the group for the next two decades. The group grew during this time and in 1968 was renamed the Worldwide Church of God.

The 1970’s were tumultuous for the Worldwide Church of God. There were splinter groups who disassociated from the Herbert Armstrong's group, internal tension between Herbert Armstrong and other Worldwide Church of God leaders, and even conflict in Herbert Armstrong’s family that effected the group, which including his marriage to a woman 50 years younger than him.

What were the Worldwide Church of God’s Beliefs?

The particular teaching that caused Herbert Armstrong’s split with his Eugene, Oregon congregation as well as the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, and characterized the Worldwide Church of God, is called British Israelism.

The doctrine is built on an interpretation of Genesis 49 where the patriarch Jacob is blessing the future generations of his family. While most interpreters view this passage as historical narration, advocates of British Israelism understand it to be, in part, end times prophecy. Herbert Armstrong believed the future generations of Jacob included Great Britain and the United States.

Furthermore, Herbert Armstrong rejected the doctrine of the Trinity and reject the biblical teaching that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, both of which conflict with traditionally orthodox Christian theology.

Who is Joseph Tkach?

Joseph Tkach was the man designated to replace Herbert Amstrong when he died. At first privately, and then publicly, Tkach and other leaders began to question some of Herbert Armstrong’s teachings, which they began to believe did not align with the Bible. Doctrines in question included British Israelism and the Saturday Sabbath.

Under Tkach’s leadership, the Worldwide Church of God began to go down a path that would eventually take them to evangelical Christian theology, including belief in the Trinity.

In the end, all of Herbert Armstong’s teachings were considered to be heretical when measured against the Bible’s teachings and the group’s new leaders called Herbert Armstrong a false prophet.

What is Grace Communion International?

Grace Communion International is the name of the converted followers of the old Worldwide Church of God.

The group is proudly evangelical Christians and is an accepted member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Their denomination total approximately 42,000 people in 900 congregations in 90 countries.

What is “Called to be Free”?

“Called to be Free” is the DVD documentary of the Worldwide Church of God, including the story of how they were founded, the controversy that envelope the groups, and the story of Joseph Tkach, who led the group away from Armstrongism and toward the evangelical Christian faith. (Links to the DVD and VHS are in the left hand column.)