Unusual Church of God group conducts first service

PASADENA, Calif.--The newly formed Worldwide Church of God Restored (WCGR), a group within the Worldwide Church of God that holds to doctrines taught by WCG founder Herbert W. Armstrong, held its inaugural service at the Elks Lodge here, across the street from the former Ambassador College campus, on Pentecost, Sunday, May 23.

"About 50 people gathered together on Pentecost," reported Harry Curley, an independent Church of God member who attended. "The core group was filled with excitement and enthusiasm, very similar to the excitement many experienced when United started."

Hal Finch, a WCGR founder, said members of the group "look at ourselves as completely different from other groups." Although most disgruntled WCG members believed only two options were available to them in view of what they considered the "apostasy" in the Worldwide Church of God, the WCGR founders came up with a third option.

First two options

The original two options were to leave the church to join another church (one of the multitudinous Church of God offshoots) or stay in the WCG while holding onto their core beliefs.

The WCGR, Mr. Finch said, offered a "third option": Recognize the WCG leadership while rejecting its religious teachings.

The brethren gave an offering during which it was announced that the WCGR's policy was to give 50 percent of its offerings to the WCG unless the donor designates otherwise.

Organizers announced plans to hold weekly services in Sunland, about 20 miles northwest of Pasadena.

In the main message, WCGR cofounder Mardy Ben Cobb called the WCG "a sunken ship." He said members of the Worldwide Church of God Restored stand apart from WCG offshoots for the following reasons:

  • They fully acknowledge WCG pastor general Joe Tkach Jr. as the head of the church. They compare him to a "bad king," Mr. Curley said. He is still worthy of the honor his position entitles him to.
  • They send offerings to the WCG.
  • The group is led by unordained men.

According to a document read by Mr. Finch at the start of services, the Worldwide Church of God Restored has three main goals:

  • To restore the faith once delivered to those within the church who remain steadfast to the truth restored through Herbert W. Armstrong.

The group will maintain a circulating library containing all the works of Mr. Armstrong. In addition, the WCGR will sponsor a series of national Bible studies dedicated to reintroducing what it says are 22 major doctrines lost from the WCG over the last 15 years.

  • The WCGR will proclaim the gospel as a witness to all nations through radio, television, print media and the Internet.
  • The WCGR wants to feed the flock and provide a nurturing environment for those within the community of faith to grow in grace and knowledge.
  • The WCGR wants to sponsor a Feast site in the western United States.

With one hall in Southern California, members elsewhere may either link up by telephone to services or listen to provided audiotapes until other local meetings are established.

Existing efforts

The Journal asked Dave Havir, pastor of the United Church of God Big Sandy (not affiliated with the United Church of God -AIA), what he thought of the "third option."

"The Worldwide Church of God Restored is an interesting concept, but it is certainly not new," remarked Mr. Havir. "For the past four years Ron Wallen has been helping people in Mississippi and other parts of the southeastern United States. These individuals have tried valiantly to remain in Worldwide, even though they oppose the new direction of that church. It might be helpful for the two cofounders of the Pasadena group to contact Ron Wallen. He can probably share some of his experiences, which might help the new group in Pasadena."

Also, The Journal reported in the Oct. 30, 1998, issue (on page 7) about a Feast site in Foley, Ala. The site was organized by elder Larry Brown of DeKalb, Miss., a man who believed God wanted him to stay in the WCG even though he did not agree with the drastic changes in official church doctrine. About 400 people who normally attended WCG church services attended this site.

The WCGR has started a radio program. It is on KPRO, 1570 AM, Riverside, Calif., every Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The group's address is WCGR, 530 New Los Angeles Ave., No. 115-214, Moorpark, Calif. 93021.

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