Mr. Covington's dealings with the majority of WCG
ministers and with Mr. Tkach, Mike Feazell, director of church administration,
and Greg Albrecht, editor of The Plain Truth, "have led me to
a painful conclusion: Your administration shows no willingness to address
the core, most damaging aspects of the WCG system. As a result I must resign
from the WCG ministry."
Mr. Covington is "encouraging WCG congregations
to hold open forums to prayerfully consider local incorporation, local governance,
and local maintenance of funds. Where that is not possible, I am encouraging
members to leave and join healthy Christian churches where they can find
help and healing."
He said he decided, after addressing his concerns
with the Tkach administration over 19 months, that "it had became apparent
that I was actually enabling a sick system that does not desire genuine
change for Jesus."
He said he acknowledges the goals of Mr. Tkach
and other church leaders, "yet you have implemented these changes through
our historically abusive dynamics."
Mr. Covington likened "the 1996 WCG to a husband
who used to beat his wife seven days a week and now has cut back to four.
And the wife is supposed to be satisfied with his progress! Worse still,
he's holding seminars on domestic violence!"
He informed Mr. Tkach that he had asked Ken Blue,
author of the book Healing Spiritual Abuse, to list the symptoms
that might point to a spiritually abusive group. Mr. Blue's response: "The
first thing you look for is a hierarchy. In the New Testament we are all
brothers. There are no number ones, twos and threes . . . The second thing
I would look for is an emphasis on rules and regulations rather than on
a relationship with Jesus."
Mr. Covington said those words appeared in The
Plain Truth Dec. 20.
Mr. Covington continued: "The abusive organization
has two major empowering dynamics, two legs which work independently: an
authoritarian hierarchy and legalistic rules . . . Without addressing these
fundamental structural issues, the doctrinal changes of the past five years
seem merely cosmetic."
The recent Plain Truth writer said the magnitude
of the WCG's doctrinal shift toward orthodoxy "has indeed led some
outsiders to believe genuine repentance was taking place in this group,"
citing Mr. Hanegraaff and Dr. Tucker. "These observers cannot possibly
understand what it is like to be a member of this church. They miss the
dynamics of this system which remain abusive."
Nine WCG problems
Mr. Covington cited "nine fundamental
problems" he feels the WCG must change to "become a healthy Christian
- Authoritarian hierarchy: The church has a totalistic
nature; the "pastor general" is all powerful.
- Lack of accountability: The pastor general is
legally accountable to no one.
- Closed communication: Open and honest discussion
is still thwarted by the church's structure.
- Manipulative tithing: Current heavy emphasis
on tithing seems characteristic of past exploitation.
- Financial control: Congregations still send 100
percent of their donations to church headquarters.
- Local congregations not a true priority: He doesn't
believe that congregations will benefit from the sale of the church headquarters
grounds for an expected $250 million.
- Chaos and confusion: "Jesus" is lost
among ever-changing policies, programs and crises.
- Lack of respect for lay members and ministry:
The current administrative approach is condescending.
- The WCG organization is most important in the
hierarchy, more than Jesus or people. The corporation comes first, the
In a response to Mr. Covington's letter by the
pastor general on the WCG's home page of the Internet, Mr. Tkach wrote,
"The continuing doctrinal and organizational development of the Worldwide
Church of God has come across as too fast for some members and ministers
and too slow for others. We are sorry that David chose to leave during a
period when the church is experiencing far-reaching change and spiritual
growth of a historic magnitude."
Defending the WCG's hierarchy, Mr. Tkach referred
to forms of church government, including congregational, presbyterian and
episcopal. "This fellowship has always been episcopal, which is hierarchical,
but . . . the church has been actively working toward broad changes in congregational
Dr. Bacchiocchi's GCG experience
Dr. Bacchiocchi responded to a comment
on the Internet signed "Randy K. Whited" that "generally
speaking [those from a WCG background] have a history of mistrust of scholarship
and scholars in general. If you have followed our heritage, you are aware
of this general sense. There are exceptions and things are changing. However,
these years of influence are not so easily set aside."
In reply, Dr. Bacchiocchi wrote: "What you
say is very true, and it is evident when reading some of the literature
produced by the Worldwide Church of God. I find that writers often jump
to conclusions from a superficial reading of a text. They can [get by] with
their fanciful interpretations by keeping their membership in ignorance.
Scholarship is a serious threat to any church whose doctrines derive from
sensational but senseless biblical interpretations. Members trained to think
analytically soon discover the fallacies of the doctrines taught by their
church. Thus the best course of action is to keep members in a state of
ignorance so that serious questions will never be asked."
The SDA scholar said, ". . . This truth was
brought home to me recently by the inconsistent behavior of the Global Church
of God. Last January, I was invited by the editor of their World Ahead
magazine to visit their headquarters to be interviewed on my new book, God's
Festivals in Scripture and History. I accepted the invitation with the
understanding that the interview would inform the readers about the availability
of my book."
Here is Dr. Bacchiocchi's description subsequent
"The interview was published in two parts,
in the February and March issues of The World Ahead, under
the title `Does It Really Matter Which Days You Keep?' In the February issue
at the end of the interview, the readers were invited to write to the editor
for information about my Sabbath and Festival books discussed during the
interview. Apparently, a good number of people wrote, some of whom may have
complained about some aspects of my research with which they did not agree."
He said that, as a reaction to the complaints,
"the leaders of the Global Church of God decided not to give information
about how to obtain my books to anyone. In spite of this, some succeeded
to locate me and told me by phone and by letter how disappointed they were
by the refusal of the GCG to let them know how to get in touch with me.
"I find this kind of conduct reprehensible
for several reasons. First, because it shows that they were only interested
to use me as long as I could support their teachings. Second, because they
reneged on their promise to inform the readers about how to obtain my books.
Third, because they operate on the assumption that by shielding their members
from scholarly literature that challenges their positions they can ensure
the continued support of their members.
"What they fail to realize is that a faith
that cannot be defended is not worth holding to."
Dr. Bacchiocchi said the GCG policy "reflects
to a large extent the traditional policy of the WCG ... My impression was
that the WCG operated as a secret society which tried to shield its ministers
and members from any scholarship that could have undermined confidence in
"It is not surprising that when doctrinal
changes were introduced, some of which were badly needed, over 70,000 members
and 500 ministers left. Church members who have been trained to accept as
truth only what had been packaged by their leader were not prepared to think
for themselves and decide what needed to be retained and what needed to
Dr. Bacchiocchi said his "fervent hope and
prayer" is that "church leaders will come to realize more and
more that they have nothing to gain by shielding their members from responsible
biblical scholarship that ultimately can help them to understand and experience
more fully God's revealed truths."