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English Speaking Protestantism

Worldwide Church of God

Doctrines Derives much from the Adventist tradition, in particular from the Church of God (Seventh Day) an emphasis on Old Testament teachings. The church's doctrines include a denial of the trinity, a literal belief in scripture and observation of three ordinances, baptism by immersion, annual observance of the Lord's supper and foot washing. It observes Jewish festivals and denounces holidays like Christmas and Halloween. It is claimed the Church has a special role to play in the end of the world, and is the church of the last days described in Revelation. The church also contains elements of British Israelism, the idea that the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons were the ancient tribes of Israel, which has often been connected with racialistic ideas about white supremacy.

History In the 1920s Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986) was an active participant in the Oregon Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day), which had split from the main church. The Church of God (Seventh Day) is a group of independent Adventist churches, organised congregationally, who descend from those Millerites who although they believed in the Jewish Sabbath refused to accept the validity of Ellen White's prophecies. Otherwise their doctrinal beliefs were similar to the Seventh Day Adventists. In 1931 Armstrong was ordained a minister and he began in 1933 an independent radio ministry which became known as the "Radio Church of God". Armstrong continued to participate in the virulent debates going on in the Church Of God in the 1930s, supporting the cause of those who wanted a more authoritarian church structure and observance of Jewish feast days. He was also growing interested in the doctrines of British Israelism. By 1937 he cut off further contact with his old church.
After World War II he moved his ministry to Pasadena, California where he founded a college in 1947. In the 1960s he began a television ministry and 1968 the church adopted the name Worldwide Church of God and began to gain increasing numbers. By 1974 the Church's journal reached two million readers. But the church began to be plagued by controversy over its ban on divorce and dating of Pentecost. As a result various splinter groups left including one led by Armstrong's son, Garner, who had been involved in a major church scandal. In 1978 the Church was placed in receivership following a lawsuit by ex-members. This action was ruled constitutionally unfair by the courts and since then the church has continued to expand.
In the church total authority over all matters, such as doctrine and appointments, is placed in the hands of the Pastor General, who was Armstrong till his death in 1986. The church distributes millions of pieces of free literature, the main journal being The Plain Truth with a readership of 20 million. Its flagship television programme The World Tomorrow has a world wide audience. All this supported by the tithe offerings of members alone. Unusually the church owns no permanent buildings of worship and services are for members only. Recruitment is done through the church's media presentations. Many details such as its authoritarian power structure have led to bitter attacks from ordinary Protestant churches who label it a cult.

Symbols See Adventists.
Adherents Had 89,014 members world-wide and 63,686 in the USA in 1988 (Detroit, 1989, 526). In 1994 there were 2881 members in the UK (UK Christian Handbook, 1996, 280).

Main Centre
 300 W. Green St., Pasadena, CA 91129, USA