The Worldwide Church of God announced that its long-anticipated name change is official as of April 3, 2009. The old WCG is the new Grace Communion International (GCI).
However, GCI is also still the WCG. The church is retaining all rights to the old name, which any of its affiliated congregations and ministries worldwide are still free to use.
But GCI "better reflects who we are and what we teach," said a press release at the church's Web site.
The church, which Herbert W. Armstrong founded in 1927 or 1934, was first the Radio Church of God and became, in 1968, the Worldwide Church of God, based in Pasadena, Calif.
"After all factors and criteria were considered, the Church Board and its Advisory Council of Elders settled on the name 'Grace Communion International,'" states a release at the Web site.
Church leaders "believe the new name better describes what the church has become and will serve it more effectively in the future."
In 2005 a church publication, WCG Today, quoted Pastor General Joseph Tkach Jr. as stating that the old name, WCG, needed to be changed because the "unchurched," upon hearing it, "equate us with groups that have followed the tenets of Armstrongism."
In a letter to GCI members dated April 16, 2009, Mr. Tkach said the board and council had recommended "GCI" at a meeting on Dec. 20, 2005.
However, according to news reports at the time, the actual recommendation was for a variation of the new name.
This newspaper reported that the moniker the church almost adopted was Grace International Communion, or GIC (see "GIC Is Out but New Name Is Still in the Works at WCG," The Journal, Feb. 28, 2006).