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Cult ministry Christian Research Institute
claims big part in WCG's doctrinal changes

By Mac Overton

In a recent letter to supporters, the leader of the Christian Research Institute (CRI), an Irvine, California-based ministry which witnesses against religious cults, said CRI had played a major role in bringing the Worldwide Church of God into the Christian mainstream.

Hendrik (Hank) Hanegraaff said that WCG leaders had learned from CRI in closed-door meetings in which "we found common ground around the truth of God's Word."

"It is, quite simply, one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of the Christian Research Institute," said Mr. Hanegraaff, in a letter dated Oct. 6, 1995.

Mr. Hanegraaff described attending the funeral of Joseph Tkach Sr., late pastor general of the WCG, on Sept. 26. He is pictured on page 8 of the Oct. 3, 1995, issue of The Worldwide News talking with Joseph Tkach Jr. at the funeral.

"We were gathered together for a funeral," he said. "It was a mournful time. A time of loss. But it was also a glorious homecoming for a Christian leader who had been called home by his Lord."

He termed Mr. Tkach as a man "who risked losing his reputation, his livelihood, his career and world respect in his all-out devotion to finding and proclaiming the truth."

Mr. Hanegraaff wrote that, while at Mr. Tkach's funeral, he remembered the funeral of Dr. Walter Martin, founder of CRI,

"I could not help but think of how much these two men had in common," he said. He described Dr. Martin as "the father of the modern-day countercult revolution. The other was Joseph Tkach Sr., head of the Worldwide Church of God--the man who led a multi-million dollar, worldwide sabbatarian religious movement from the status of a cult to a firm standing in the church of Jesus Christ.

"As the funeral continued, I thought about how God's hand had worked over the years to lay the foundation for this unparalleled event: a contemporary cult willing to lay it all on the line for truth as revealed in God's Word.

"I pondered how CRI's commitment to essential Christian doctrine, rather than denominational divisiveness, had earned the confidence and respect of leaders within the Worldwide Church of God.

"And how through my meetings with these [WCG] church leaders they came to understand that CRI's goal was not to denounce darkness, but to build a lighthouse in the midst of the gathering storm. Not to gore, but to guide. Not to retaliate, but to reason.

"You see, these leaders had inherited a legacy from their founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, that made them proud to distinguish and distance themselves from the `historic Christian faith'," he wrote.

"Yet, as they listened to the Bible Answer Man (a radio program produced by CRI) and read the Christian Research Journal (a quarterly magazine from CRI) they realized that our goal was redemption, not ridicule; to reach, not repel.

"They met privately with me, behind closed doors, and discovered that CRI did not have a personal agenda, but a biblical agenda [emphasis in original]," he added. "And they came to trust CRI, not because of human eloquence or persuasiveness, but because we had found common ground around the truth of God's Word."

Mr. Hanegraaff said that "this extraordinary breakthrough set the stage for a critical phase of ministry: To help the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God fulfill their vision for evangelism!"

He said that "evangelism and sound teaching" are needed for the WCG. "Consider for a moment," he wrote, "the magnitude and delicateness of the task now facing leaders of the Worldwide Church of God [in asking these questions]:

"How do we tell people who have served faithfully in the church that they have been misled for decades?

"How do we teach our people to read the Bible for what it says rather than through the lens of years of false teachings?"

Mr. Hanegraaff likened the change in doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God to the breaking down of the Berlin Wall.

". . . what you and I are now witnessing in the Worldwide Church of God is only a faint foreshadowing of what God is going to do in the days ahead in cults all around the world."

After soliciting donations to help CRI continue its witness to cults around the nation, Mr. Hanegraaff said that "as I extended my arms and embraced Joseph Tkach Jr. at his father's funeral, comforting him in his great loss and encouraging him in the hope of the resurrection for all those who belong to Christ, I couldn't help but feel that Walter Martin, in another place, was extending the same embrace to Joseph Tkach Sr."

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