WCG joins evangelicals

By Mac Overton

The National Association of Evangelicals announced May 7 that the Worldwide Church of God was accepted into full membership by the NAE, the nation's largest association of evangelical churches.

The NAE announced that its board of directors had "voted overwhelmingly to accept the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), headquartered in Pasadena, Calif., into membership."

A news release from the association stated that "the application process included examination of doctrinal changes which have taken place in the once-controversial denomination."

NAE vice president David Melvin told THE JOURNAL that the vote was taken April 15, after the WCG had formally applied for membership via letter in March.

Real change

Mr. Melvin said the WCG has really changed. "It's not a new day of compromise and opening our arms on NAE's part. They [members of the Worldwide Church of God] have become a different body. God has really transformed them."

He said that people involved in the Carol Stream, Ill.-based NAE have watched the WCG for years, and NAE officials have talked with WCG leaders and were conducting an in-depth analysis of their beliefs for six months.

"NAE is founded on the premise that the Bible is the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God," said the NAE's President Don Argue in the press release.

"I respect Joseph Tkach [Jr.] and the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God who did not rest in the refuge of their historically held doctrines, but sought the truth through careful study of the Scriptures-even at significant cost to the denomination.

"And we thank God for His faithfulness to them. We appreciate the gracious and open manner in which this church's leaders answered questions about the struggles that led them to a biblically based theology."

Mr. Melvin said that Pastor General Tkach spoke to the NAE board in March, detailing doctrinal changes in the Worldwide organization since 1988.

WCG changes listed

Mr. Melvin said the list of "changes" Mr. Tkach cited included:

nVisiting doctors is not considered to be a sin.

nThe use of cosmetics and observance of birthdays are not considered to be sins.

nInterracial marriage is not considered to be a sin.

nBritish-Israelism is wrong.

nHerbert W. Armstrong was not an apostle in the sense that the original apostles were.

nBinitarianism, a belief in two beings in the Godhead, is incorrect.

nTrinitarianism is correct.

nJesus made the Old Covenant obsolete.

"In the past several years, the church has revamped its beliefs, even as the leadership apologized to mainstream churches and its own members for teaching false doctrine for so long," stated Larry Stammer, religion editor of The Los Angeles Times, in an article May 10.

"The Worldwide Church of God now believes in the Trinity and, like all evangelical as well as old-line Protestant churches, teaches that salvation is achieved by God's grace through faith alone," wrote Mr. Stammer. "Moreover, a number of its congregations have begun to celebrate Christmas and Easter."

The NAE press release stated that "these dramatic changes, however, have cost WCG nearly half its membership that once topped almost 90,000 people in the United States. Today the denomination has nearly 50,000 members in the United States and 73,435 members worldwide. More than half its 802 churches are located in the U.S.

There are 1,046 ordained WCG ministers worldwide, 678 in the United States.

Greg Albrecht, director of church relations for the WCG, was quoted in The Los Angeles Times as saying: "It's historic . . . because we have been an exclusive, separatist group not seeking any kind of affiliation or accommodation with what we've called 'the world.'

"On our part it signals a new openness and a realization that we are not the sole body of Christ. We're simply by his grace a small part of it."

Mr. Albrecht also said that acceptance by the NAE did not mean the WCG had completed its "reformation."

He pointed out that the headquarters congregation last month held its first-ever "Resurrection Sunday" Easter service.

Mr. Albrecht also said that several WCG congregations are beginning to meet on Sunday as well as holding the traditional Saturday services.

(Although Mr. Albrecht didn't mention it, at least one WCG congregation has disassociated itself from the WCG and begun meeting on Sundays. See THE JOURNAL, April 30.)

The NAE includes 43,000 congregations nationwide from 49 member denominations.

Other denominations represented include Reformed, Pentecostal, Free Church and Holiness.

"In essentials unity, in distinctives liberty, in all things charity," is the motto of the National Association of Evangelicals, which describes itself as "a forum, a voice and a resource for the evangelical community."

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