The World Tomorrow was broadcast on national television each week. About
3,500 people attended the Feast of Tabernacles in South Africa, Zambia,
Zimbabwe and Mauritius.
Today The Plain Truth has dwindled to below 8,000. About 2,000 subscribers
pay a subscription price. The WCG sponsors no TV broadcast and provides
no Bible correspondence course.
A total of 2,113 people attended the WCG's South African Feast in 1995.
According to a WCG source, the income in southern Africa dropped 30 percent
in 1994 and a further 50 percent in 1995.
Twelve of the original 22 ministers who remain with the WCG are said to
support the doctrinal changes that have resulted in these decreases.
Replying to a caller's question on Believe It or Not, "What justifies
the existence of the Worldwide Church of God when one could join the Catholic,
Methodist or Anglican faith?", Mr. Klynsmith-seemingly unaware of the
irony of his answer-stated that one of the best indications of a Christian
organization was its fruits.
Mr. Klynsmith claimed that 80,000 people are still baptized members of the
Worldwide Church of God. (The pastor general, Joseph Tkach Jr., has stated
that 75,000 members have left the church in recent years.) Mr. Klynsmith
suggested he held a deep commitment to the WCG's new teachings, yet at times
appealed to Old Testament laws and the need for society to obey them.
The British-born Miss Turkington seemed astonished at one stage when she
thought Mr. Klynsmith had said he observed "the Feast of Crumpets."
In commenting that "probably everyone's heard of The Plain Truth around
the world," she revealed the extent of the familiarity in this part
of the world with the name Herbert W. Armstrong.
Heavy emphasis on church government profoundly
influenced the South African church.
Neither Mr. Klynsmith nor his assistants-media officer Peter Hawkins,
pastor John White and minister's wife Wendy Holladay-seemed able to persuade
any caller why he should attend the WCG or change his doctrinal viewpoints
on heaven, hell, the resurrection, abortion, the death penalty or homosexual
A Catholic caller said she found Mr. Klynsmith's explanations of WCG doctrine
of the latter three issues to be "very wishy-washy." In general,
Mr. Klynsmith tended to defend Pasadena's position with public-relations
prose, deflecting specific hard questions with vague answers.
Mr. White apparently found himself unable to persuade his own East London
congregation of his new theology when it recently left him to keep the Feast
of Tabernacles with the United Church of God. He now claims that he believed
in 1980 what the Messrs. Tkach later taught about the New Covenant.
Yet, long after Mr. Armstrong died, in 1986, Mr. White publicly stated:
"I tend to be somewhat of a stickler for the law," and "True
Christians keep the Ten Commandments." He also has asserted that he
was the most conservative of the South African ministers. Many members have
said Mr. White's contradictory signals have unsettled them.
A tape from a former World Tomorrow presenter proved to be the catalyst
that convinced the East London congregation to sever ties with the Worldwide
Church of God. East London members said they felt the tape, by WCG spokesman
and Ambassador faculty member David Albert of Big Sandy, Texas, to be an
unprofessional attempt to minimize past doctrinal teachings of the church.
On the Radio 702 talk show, Mr. Hawkins claimed that many of Mr. Armstrong's
booklets concerned side issues that were blown out of proportion and became
Mr. Klynsmith said on the program that the younger Mr. Tkach had been appointed
his late father's successor by a democratic process involving the WCG council
of elders. Miss Turkington commented that the appointment sounded "more
like nepotism" to her.
In what host Turkington described as an articulate, heartfelt and poignant
comment, a caller named Mike stated that two generations of youngsters had
grown up in the WCG believing that they had the truth.
"But, now that the church has moved away from its teachings, I have
no clue what the truth is and question Christianity and the existence of
God. We went from the plain truth to what is truth, and personally now I
wonder is there truth?"
Mike suggested the WCG ministry was responsible for the state of affairs.
He questioned the objectivity of ministers who remained on the payroll while
accepting draconian changes to the doctrines they had taught for decades,
the teachings that had brought most members into the church.
Miss Turkington commented to Mr. Klynsmith, "Cynics might say you're
just blowing with the wind because you don't want to go under."
He disagreed, asserting that the WCG's leadership was intellectually honest.
He attributed the many changes in doctrine to extensive research, seeming
to imply that Mr. Armstrong's research methods and understanding of the
Bible were suspect.
Another caller, 19-year old Miranda, said she was happy with the WCG. "With
all the changes we are almost free to do anything."
Gerald, a member of the WCG for 20 years, said, "The church is a different
church from what it ever was." He called it a "totally different
organization from 18 months ago."
Claude, who came into the WCG in 1978, said he believed that adherents to
Islam and other non-Christian religions could be part of the Body of Christ.
Beverly felt Mr. Tkach had been courageous in making the changes.
Mr. Hawkins confirmed that he believed the new WCG doctrines adhere more
closely to the Bible than do those of any other group.
Jacko felt the WCG had surreptitiously changed its doctrines. Jacko's views
were supported by Koen, who called for more forthrightness from the Worldwide
Church of God's ministry.
Mr. Klynsmith noted that the WCG "respected those who wanted to focus
on Christ during Christmas," and Mr. Hawkins praised two Dutch Reformed
ministers for their doctrinal changes.
A caller who never came on the air asked Miss Turkington to ask why a former
WCG minister-who was said to have been dismissed for immorality and told
he would never again be a minister-was being allowed to preach again. This
caller brought up an issue some in the region feel strongly about and could
lead to further division.
During the Radio 702 program, two witnesses phoned in to report what some
subsequently dubbed "Klynsmith's Comet," a green orb flashing
across the night sky for 10 seconds, and wondered whether it was an omen
of things to come.
Mr. Hawkins suspended
Four months ago, on March 25, a better-known comet, Hyakutake, was at its
most prominent on the day Mr. Hawkins was suspended from his ministerial
duties. In the exactly 17 weeks between these two events, Mr. Hawkins apparently
reached the point he could no longer preach the doctrines he had endorsed
on Radio 702.
A month after Mr. Hawkins' suspension, on April 21, WCG executives Randall
Dick, assistant director of church administration, and Michael Feazell,
Plain Truth Ministries executive, convened a regional conference to address
the WCG's South African ministry, partly as a result of a memo Mr. Hawkins
had sent his fellow ministers about his doctrinal stance.
Mr. Dick and Mr. Feazell chose this 70th anniversary of the birth of Queen
Elizabeth II to announce to the British-born Hawkins that he would be expelled
from the ministry and his office-related job of 25 years.
Signs of a downward trend in income, attendance and enthusiasm have long
been evident among WCG members in Southern Africa. In his first sermon as
regional director to the Johannesburg Central church, Mr. van Belkum had
warned about "a Laodicean attitude" already prevalent. In a watershed
sermon here in 1993, the longest-standing business manager, Bryan Mathie
(now retired), stated that income had begun to slide from 1992. He spoke
of the South African operations of the WCG as on the verge of bankruptcy:
"Unless we turn the ship around we'll sink . . . We're in a crisis
situation . . . Twenty-five percent of heads of household have not made
a single contribution in the year ending November 1992."
The later severe hail damage to many of the ministers' and staffers' cars
at the church's summer camp was seen by some as a warning from God.
Around Passover 1994, Jonathan McNair, pastor of the Port Elizabeth and
East London congregations, publicly declared his objections to the way Pasadena
WCG headquarters was drifting doctrinally, which led to his dismissal.
About that same time minister Frank Nelte was suspended and later dismissed
from his job as minister in the Cape Town area. He has continued actively
to minister to many around the world via the Internet, writing articles
on his doctrinal views.
Syd Hull, John Bartholomew, Neil Becker, Pieter van der Bijl and Mr. van
Belkum all likewise left the WCG ministry, citing the church's drift into
apostasy. Malcolm Lee left for reasons still ambiguous.
Johannesburg Central lost its long-held and beautiful location, the German
High School hall. In the wake of Mr. Tkach's New Covenant video, recorded
Dec. 24, 1994, it lost both its ministers, two of its four deacons and most
of its sermonette men.
On June 24, 1995-the day the World Cup final, which South Africa won, was
played-only 77 people attended Sabbath services. Thirty-two years earlier
this congregation had started with 33 in attendance.
Mr. Waterhouse's heavy emphasis on church government had profoundly influenced
the South African church. Reinforcement of this doctrine by the subsequent
regional directors, Ernest Williams, Bob Fahey, Roy McCarthy, Les McCullough and Mr. van Belkum, led the South African operation to be considered by
some the most loyal to Pasadena.
However, the glue of church government is what still holds many in the Worldwide
Church of God, even though they no longer agree with many of the doctrines.
Mr. Waterhouse himself now says he places obedience to God's truth above
loyalty to superiors who pervert that truth.
The tendency of the regional directors, in the name of love, to refrain
from revealing the extent of Pasadena's problems over the years has led
to a double shock for those who found out the truth later, and in some cases
it has led to utter disillusionment.
On Nov. 21, 1993, the writer of this article delivered a speech in the Johannesburg
Graduate Club that seemed to stir deep feelings. It was the first time anyone
in the area publicly and formally proposed that holding fast to God's truth
is more important than obedience to church government that abandons that
The church speech club consisted of many of the men in the Johannesburg
Central congregation at the time. Half of these men left the WCG about a
year later over this very issue, after the implications of Mr. Tkach's New
Covenant teachings became clear to them.
Most came to associate with other members who had been meeting in the homes
of Mr. and Mrs. Roger Herbert, Tony Levy and Brian Cochrane - forming the
nucleus of the United Church of God in South Africa, which officially began
Aug. 19, 1995, three months after a group of American ex-WCG ministers met
and organized the UCG in Indianapolis, Ind.
In his sermon on the first day of Unleavened Bread 1995, the pastor of Johannesburg
Central, Mr. Bartholomew-a former Mirage-jet fighter and Boeing 707 pilot-stated
that he wasn't looking for religion when God called him. He couldn't preach
what he didn't believe and understand.
He reminded the congregation that, if its leaders did not speak according
to the law and testimony, it was because there was no light in them.
Mr. Bartholomew was relieved of his speaking duties of 25 years without
a hearing, left the WCG and became the key minister involved in the formation
of the South African United Church of God. He organized the UCG Feast in
1995, which was attended by 168 including guest speaker Brian Orchard. David
Hulme and Roy Holladay, both members of the UCG's California-based council
of elders, visited just before the Feast, taking questions from any interested
Configuration of churches
Mr. Becker serves the East London congregation as a minister (average attendance
37). Mr. van Belkum has been assigned the Durban area (attendance 41).
Mr. Hull, now heading the Global Church of God's operation from Johannesburg,
left the WCG in 1994. "I told the then regional director I was not
prepared to go along with the apostasy and preach heresy as it would violate
my conscience and be harmful to God's people," Mr. Hull says. "I
love the people of Worldwide. I didn't want to leave or stop being a minister.
But I felt great relief when I got out of its new church administration.
I had no motive other than adhering to God's truth."
The people in Global came here because of their own decision, Mr. Hull says.
"Originally we distributed magazines to WCG members because we felt
we had a duty to give them a witness. We sow the seed. God calls. Now we're
concentrating on preaching the gospel to the world. I'm just astounded at
the response we're getting."
Eighty-eight people attended Global's Feast in 1995, including evangelist
Carl McNair. Mr. van der Bijl pastors Global's Cape Town congregation.
Former WCG deacon and now local elder Mike Venish is the leading local figure
in the Philadelphia Church of God, which has churches in Johannesburg and
Cape Town. Ron Fraser, head of the PCG's British office, oversees its South
African arm and was guest speaker at the Feast in George in 1995, with 140
attending. On two days a direct satellite link captured two of Pastor General
Gerald Flurry's sermons from the PCG in America. About 30 have left the
PCG since then, some disfellowshipped.
Because of their view that they have a mission to warn the WCG and its daughters,
the PCG has sent many in those associations their literature. It has also
placed several advertisements in national magazines.
Gordon Terblanche, who left the ministry of the WCG many years ago, still
observes the Feast and most of what the church used to teach. He recently
started advertising again and says he believes he has a responsibility to
reach Afrikaans speakers with the gospel. About 25 attended the Feast in
Plettenberg Bay with him in 1995.
Science teacher, and until recently longtime member of the WCG, Steven Thomas
startled other members throughout the country by sending them an issue of
his Why magazine, which discusses matters previously left to the ministry.
Mr. Klynsmith outlined the "care group" idea to Worldwide congregations
some months ago, a concept meant to reach and show love to nonmembers. Since
many of the people who have stopped attending the Worldwide Church of God-whom
I've spoken to since then-have never received a phone call from their minister,
the WCG's commitment seems questionable.
The Worldwide Church of God in southern Africa has lost at least a third
of those who attended its services. Considering that 27 percent (almost
1,000) of God's people in southern Africa didn't go to the Feast of Tabernacles
this past year, few ministers seem to be leaving the 99 to seek those they
consider to be lost sheep.
As the first person Mr. Waterhouse employed in the South African office
of the Radio Church of God, I know that if he could see the trauma that
has befallen his beloved people here he would weep. A few here can testify
with me that in the early years he warned time and time again of the condition
we now endure: Because of lawlessness, the love of many has grown cold.