I originally wrote our Testimony of the years we spent in the WCG ('Worldwide Church of God') organisation in 2002 and have slightly edited it about three times since then, and added some photos in my 2006 edit, the sort of thing which can really bring a testimony to life.
My Personal Credentials
Some have asked what my "credentials" are. I am a Christian journalist/minister and my wife and I are one-time members of the Worldwide Church of God - actually from spring 1981 to January 1994. Mr Andrew Silcox appointed me as a lay preacher (a 'sermonette man' to use WCG parlance) in April 1991 and since my studies were starting to show me that the WCG had been wrong in some quite major areas, I quickly moved on to the pro-evangelical anti-legalist reformist wing of the WCG - in short, my wife and I became stalwart supporters of the reforms of Joseph Tkach Snr. But we left in 1994 and I then took a theology degree starting September 1995, graduating with an honours Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1998.
I received a report that a WCG pastor referred to me as a "failed minister" - I think that is actually more than a little harsh because I was actually accepted as a prospective pastor in 1998 (when some others who had come through the same degree were rejected), and - truthfully - my ministerial credentials are stronger than the guy who made the comment. But it is true that no ideal pastorate came up and I started to prefer the life of an itinerate 'guest minister' (hit 'em hard with a strong sermon, then move on before they can stone you!!). I was eventually invited to pastor in southern Ireland but this was shortly after my wife and I had commited ourselves to becoming foster carers in our own area and we had taken on a little girl whom we quickly came to love as much as one of our own. Moving to the Irish Republic would have meant losing our foster carer status and this little girl would have had to be moved to other carers. This child was actually blood-related to us and her father had died, so I think that this explains why we did not want to move her on to other carers at that time. So I guess we will never know what pastoring a Protestant evangelical church in southern Ireland might have been like!
Following a slight heart attack in February 2002, I now preach far less and mainly write - considering all preaching requests on their own merits. The internet ministry commenced in 2001 and has grown from the sort of inauspicious beginnings which often made me wonder if anybody ever saw any of our web pages to the point where Museltof Countercult and Apologetics and UK Apologetics receive many thousands of 'hits' every year and I counsel with hundreds of Bible questioners - all sorts of questions from people of all sorts of religious backgrounds. One surprising and totally unexpected result of this internet ministry is the large following which we appear to have developed in India - the majority of preaching invitations which have come to me in the last five years have been to preach in that country. This is certainly something I could never have imagined happening.
The Current WCG and its Apparent Continuing Rejection of Former Members
But now back to the WCG. To cut a long story short, my wife and I rejoice at the changes within the WCG, yet we continue to have serious doubts in certain areas. I think that the article The Worldwide Church of God: Are We There Yet? which appears on the Watchman.org website (nothing whatever to do with us), probably accurately sums up where my wife and I and, indeed, scores of former WCG people who are now evangelical Christians currently stand.
Robin and Tina Brace, Tenby, 1984.
(The couple attended two 'Feast of Tabernacles' at Tenby, Wales with the WCG during the mid-late 1980s).
About two years ago a WCG member in Edmonton, Canada was in touch. He had read our testimony and was enthusiastic about it and he obviously supported moves to move the WCG into the evangelical world. He said, 'In view of what you have achieved, including your opposition to the old Armstrongism, you must have had several requests to preach within the current Worldwide Church of God; do you accept these requests?' The guy was a little taken aback when I told him that I had not received (and still have not) a single request to preach within the 'new look' Worldwide Church of God. It is true that during the last three years or so I have had a very small amount of friendly e mail contact with two or three of the leading figures based at Pasadena (if they are still based at Pasadena), all of whom have praised my testimony and ongoing work in helping those former WCG people who have been left confused and bitter. There has been no other contact.
Yet I must be honest and need to candidly state that there are still allegations flying around that some WCG ministers still occasionally behave in an arrogant and abusive way towards certain members. The old WCG certainly looked upon their ministry as 'elite Christians' who seemed to be placed upon pedestals, and one hopes that this approach is now firmly discouraged. The Watchman article which I recommend above does bring this point out.
The attitude towards founder Herbert W. Armstrong is also still a major problem for certain people. Was he a false prophet? But surely if he was the founder of this organisation he must have been a 'man of God'? (many WCG people would reason). It is understandable that the WCG ministry has a major problem coming up with a consistent approach here and maybe there is some ducking of the real issues but I don't want to add to the problems by stating any more on that topic here and now.
Another complaint which one still hears (and to be frank it is our own experience), is that former members who chose to move on (I don't mean "move on" into the legalist Armstrongist groups - since that would hardly be 'moving on'), are still inclined to feel shunned by former WCG friends and feel somewhat ostracized. My wife and I have been invited to no friendly WCG reunion-type evenings or meetings, and, as already stated, I have received no invititations to preach (none of this is to say that we would necessarily accept any such invitations, we would consider any such invitation on its own merits). However, we have certainly held on to about three very close friends, two of whom remain within the WCG. But at least a few others have ignored attempts to re-open former friendships. One friend has candidly stated,
' You are probably not all that welcome because of where you stand within your ministry and the fact that you are now a Christian journalist and if you were invited back once or twice you would quickly see through the serious problems which we still have within the Worldwide Church of God, problems which certain people would prefer not to admit.'
Robin and Tina Brace at Penzance in 2006, during a Cornish holiday.
Upon hearing that John Halford was no longer the WCG 'man at the helm' in their UK base of operations (on about two occasions over about ten years I took matters of importance to Mr Halford but found that there was no 'meeting of minds' between Mr Halford and myself), I e-mailed the WCG's new British leader, Mr Henderson, in July 2006 congratulating him on his appointment and remarking that I felt that the former "frostiness" between the UK WCG and myself should surely now come to an end. Sadly, the e-mail went unanswered so presumably Mr Henderson wants the frostiness between the WCG British office and, probably, the leading UK-based ministry which attempts to counsel with and to help former (and some present!) confused WCG people to continue. How sad.
I asked Mr Sherwin Scott, a deacon in the British WCG, about a story I had heard that former WCG people who have become somewhat active in the evangelical world continue to be 'blacked' by the British office. He said, "I am fully confident that corporate WCG, U.K. and U.S.A. are in harmony with evangelical Christianity and will definitely not "black" either former or current members who are or want to become evangelical Christians."
But I might immediately add that since WCG deacons are under very strict orders to pass on such contacts to their ministers, the continued WCG 'silence' since Sherwin contacted me would tend to confirm my point.
Robin A. Brace, Autumn 2006.
Update, May 23rd 2007.
On May 13th, 2007 I received a somewhat annoyed e mail from a gentleman who claimed to be the son of the Mr Henderson whom I briefly mention in the penultimate paragraph of this article. The e mailer complained that I was quick to judge Mr Henderson (even though the comment in this article is the only time I have ever referred to him at all!), and accused me of "pride" in expecting to be asked to preach in the current WCG. In fact, of course, I actually have no wish to preach in the WCG at all and only mentioned the possibility because a Canadian-based e mailer, who is apparently a current WCG member, had thought that it would be a good thing if the UK WCG invited me to do so. For my part, I simply think that it might be a good indicator of the WCG's much-expressed willingness to move away from its heretical past to invite people like myself to preach. Having said that, I would think it somewhat unlikely that I would take up any such invitation; for one thing (as mentioned earlier in this article), I rarely preach these days at all since writing takes up so much of my time.
The e mailer who claimed to be Mr Henderson's son (I obviously have no way of substantiating this), also suggested two or three reasons why my e mail to Mr Henderson went ignored (not, I must say, entirely convincing), and the e mail, in general, had a disappointingly irascible tone. Hmmm.... things do not appear to change too much at the UK WCG 'headquarters.'
Robin A. Brace, May 23rd 2007.
Update, October 12th 2009.
A very good friend of mine who had been a WCG member for many years (and put much money into their coffers!), died in Spring, 2009. My wife and I attended his funeral in Cornwall, England. We were shocked that despite this fine man's many years of WCG involvement, not a single WCG member attended his funeral! We also learned that a former WCG minister had apparently attempted to stir up some trouble by refusing to attend or to have any involvement in the funeral service despite our friend's widow personally inviting him. She was understandably upset and offended. I was personally furious when learning of this man's behaviour. I asked the WCG's British office to confirm that this man was, indeed, no longer in their employ. To my amazement, they refused to confirm or deny whether the man still had involvement with them. One might think that they would wish to quickly distance themselves from such rude and ungracious conduct, apparently not. I then went to one of my friendly WCG contacts in the States (quite a senior minister), but he too failed to get the British WCG to confirm or deny this man's continuing involvement with them!! Using my own sources, I did later discover that this man was no longer in the WCG. The behaviour of the British WCG in this matter is pretty hard to excuse and calls into serious question their much-expressed intention to put their extremist days behind them.
I see that the US-based WCG's new name, 'Grace Communion International,' is apparently being rejected by their British office, who want to hold on to 'The Worldwide Church of God,' and are only prepared to say that they are "associated" with 'Grace Communion International.' Amazing! One might think that the old name (seriously tainted by now) needs to be dropped as soon as possible to refect the organisation's much-expressed desire to move away from Hebert W. Armstrong's numerous errors in biblical understanding!
Robin A. Brace, October 12th 2009.
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