From the Legalistic Armstrongism of Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God to the Glorious Grace of Christ; An account of Robin Brace's theological journey from darkness into light.
(Originally written in 2002, revised and slightly
edited/updated, 2003, 2004 and 2006; given a new web page format in 2008)
ARTICLE QUOTE: "...He (Mr Armstrong) blustered and ranted with the typical over-confidence of a former advertising man, blithely unaware of the inadequacy of his knowledge. In fact, he was quite typical of those who had come under a Millerite/Adventist worldview influence..."
I feel that I must start this account in my early childhood. From a tiny child I believed in God. I cannot remember a time when I did not believe that God was there, but as a tiny child - of course - I knew nothing about Jesus.
Growing up was very different in the 1940s and 1950s from the way things are today - everybody believed in God and atheists were considered to be very strange creatures by all. Neither of my parents went to church very often but both had huge respect for Christianity and that seemed to be normal during that period. Strangely enough one of my sisters now tells me that, at one time, she and I went to Sunday School but, oddly, I have no recollection of that whatsoever.
The earliest event which could be called a 'religious experience' occurred when I was about 4 years old. It was a warm summer's day and I was playing in the garden. All of a sudden I heard this sound which - to me - seemed incredibly beautiful. The sound went on and on. I decided to lay on the daisy-covered grass just to listen. Then one of my sisters came along (they were all older than myself), and I asked her what that incredible sound was. "Why, it's church bells ringing," I was told.
Oh, there was one other unusual occasion; I was with
my parents and the sister closest to my age, Wendy, and we had
gone to Battersea Funfair in London. All Londoners will know
where that was. I was, perhaps, slightly older now but still very
young. I was entranced by all the colourful attractions which my
young mind struggled to take in. All of a sudden I can distinctly
recall asking my parents, "Is it like this is heaven?"
I can still remember my Mum and Dad falling about laughing!
I heard a bit more about Jesus specifically at school assembly. Every Friday morning the assembly was a Christian service. The old-fashioned 'wireless' was put on for the broadcast service (why was it called "wireless" when it certainly wasn't?) We were all required to listen to that Friday service and I now rejoice about that - I detested school all my life but I loved the Friday service. Those broadcasts told one all about Jesus, although my understanding of the rudiments of the gospel at that time was, of course, poor. But I loved the radio service and the hymns which we sang to it. In fact, my dislike for school life in general was so strong that I just wished those Christian assemblies could have lasted and lasted! And yet, it was more than that: I found the experience of being taught about Jesus to be deeply moving - but I did not know why.
Since this is a testimony of discovering the glorious grace of Christ and not an autobiography, there is obviously much which I now have to leave out. But I grew into a rather shy and moody teenager who absolutely loved reading, and listening to jazz. My interest in the Bible was sparked both by a school friend who was a Jehovah's Witness and by The Plain Truth magazine which was sent out free of charge by the Worldwide Church of God sect/cult (which, from now on, I will call the 'WCG'). No, I am not going to debate here whether they were/are a sect or a cult, this is mainly our 'out of Armstrongism' testimony - we have many other articles which discuss the make-up of the cults and sects.
At the time I discovered "The Plain Truth" magazine (I'm afraid it wasn't the "truth" at all, but it took me years to discover this), I was 15 years
old. We had just moved house and the previous occupants of that house had a trainee church minister lodging there. He had been receiving this free 'mag' called 'The Plain Truth' every month. They just went on dropping through our letter box. Eventually it became obvious this man was never going to come back and pick up these mags so - I'm afraid curiosity got the better of me and I had a look at one; this was easy since they were just pushed into a kind of open-ended wrapper. I was fascinated by what I read. This magazine was talking about the reality of a God who
must be obeyed and so was my JW friend. I was also learning to
play the trumpet at the time (I came from a very musical family), but
I recall looking at my trumpet one day and thinking,
'I am never going to be a trumpet player, I am going to grow up preaching and warning about the end of the world to come' - but I thought there was little time; that Christ could return so soon I might not even have time to eventually get married, which I really longed to do - no, there was no particular girl but constant painful crushes on almost every pretty girl I saw!
At about age 16, I had an incredible dream which shook me, but I am not going to recount that here. I will provide a link to my article on dreams at this article end and I describe the dream there.
My approach to the Bible became dictated by these early influences, although the JW I knew had far less affect upon me than the Plain Truth (so-called) magazine. I was riveted by this free mag. I just never knew that religion could be that exciting as I read of some of the really way-out (and, frankly, often quite zany) ways which this publication said that Bible prophecy would be fulfilled. Oh yes, and this would all happen "within the next few years." Within a few years the WCG's self-styled 'apostle', Herbert W. Armstrong, was saying that war would break out in Europe around 1972. This, readers were told, would usher in the 'Great Tribulation' and Christ would return three and a half years later! Later it was said that Armstrong did not set dates - well, he did and he didn't. But many people inside these groups - I have to say - tend to be quite easily taken in and gullible and since the WCG actually had a booklet called 1975 in Prophecy , which was a clear reference to 'the crisis at the close' and to Christ's return, that was good enough for them.
Katynia (known to everyone as 'Tina') in 1972 at aged 21, five years before meeting and marrying Robin in 1977. The couple met in May and married in September of that same year. Robin and Tina have always considered May 8th to be a special day since it is the date on which they met for the very first time.
I feel I must just say one or two things about Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the WCG. He had been an advertising man and always had that brash confidence of people coming from that profession. He came from a Quaker family in Des Moines, Iowa. Herbert always like to mention that he was related to British royalty; whether or not he was, it might be more pertinent to mention that he was related to the notorious 'border reiver' Armstrong clan of outlaws who had caused havoc on the English/Scottish border around the 16th century!
In 1977 I met, fell in love with, and married Katynia - we met in May and married in September! The deep and fully commited love which quickly developed between us has only become stronger over thirty years. We went on to have four children and, eventually, two foster children as well whom we didn't have any difficulty in loving as much as our own children. But I have decided not to name or picture our children on this particular page.
But - to get back to the early days, that is, just after we were married - I still had not done anything about my interest in, and enthusiasm for, the teachings of that religious mag. I had a very deep belief in God and was quite knowledgeable about the Torah (the 5 books of Moses) having studied the WCG's 'Bible Correspondence Course' (which appeared to spend about 80% of its time in the Old Testament, especially the books of Moses). Soon my new wife would say, "We should be going to church - do you know of a church to go to?" Well, the rest (as they say) is history. We contacted local representatives of the WCG and were eventually invited to services.
This was now spring, 1981. I was baptized by immersion at that time. The WCG may have had a problem with the Trinity, but I can honestly say that their minister baptized me, 'In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit' and I knew that this was a lifelong committment to walk with Jesus Christ. So, although we were now attending the WCG (and would do so until January, 1994), I realised that my baptismal committment was between myself and God, looking beyond any particular group of worshippers. Apparently some WCG people did not understand that, but I did; so even in those early days I understood that baptism was a covenantal agreement between myself and God, not between myself and the WCG, therefore I have never felt the need to be 're-baptized.' Much, much later, just after finally leaving the WCG, my wife Tina recalls having a phone conversation with a newly-appointed WCG "minister" who plainly only understood baptism as initiation into the WCG (just months earlier this man had quipped to me, "I don't know why they have asked me to give sermonettes, I have very little Bible knowledge..."). But now I am getting ahead of myself. Tina, by the way, was not baptized until around 1989. The WCG so-called 'apostle,' Herbert W. Armstrong, died January, 1986. I have much reason to recall that month because we moved house and our last daughter, Laura, was also born in the very same month.
When Armstrong died, there was real excitement among a few that "God's apostle" now having been taken from the world, the time had arrived to go to 'The Place of Safety.' We had been taught that we would spend the three and a half year 'Great Tribulation' in a desert location probably around Petra, Jordan while there was nuclear mayhem in the world, with the 'United States of Europe' having attacked both Britain and the United States! Please don't laugh but, even long before then, a few had started making arrangements to leave our society by selling up what they had. We heard about one guy who intended taking a caravan (trailer) with him, he had already loaded it with so many things for the journey, that the weight of them forced his floor to collapse - he apparently did not know that all road vehicles, including trailers, have weight restrictions!
September 22nd, 1977.
Armstrong was not a genuinely righteous man who walked with God but who erred in certain areas (as some WCG people still like to say), he was, I'm afraid, a false teacher who picked the bits out of the Bible which he liked - ignored the rest - and then formed a theology based on that. On a personal level, however, he was sincere and really did seem to think he was the only person on earth God was actively directing. Since he was enthusiastic about Old Covenant law, he formed a legalistic theology. Jesus occupied a much lower place in his teachings. Armstrong falls into the category of people who distort the message of the gospel, turning it away from liberty and strongly towards legalism, a la Galatians, Chapter One - read it! What Armstrong never understood is that the moment one does this, the gospel becomes of no effect. Yet, despite this, I think that he was fairly sincere within himself. But his Bible knowledge was quite thin and he was only able to be sincere within that very narrow parameter of biblical knowledge which he held. He blustered and ranted with the typical over-confidence of a former advertising man, blithely unaware of the inadequacy of his knowledge. In fact, he was quite typical of those who had come under a Millerite/Adventist worldview influence. These people possess quite a narrow band of prejudicial 'knowledge' which (they feel) must not be challenged. There are current and former WCG people out there who will not be able to move on in understanding until they accept that Armstrong was a man who - sincere or not - ended up perverting the Word of God. Am I saying that he was wholly evil? Of course not, he was like all of us - a mixture of many things. Yet, sincere or not, biblically, he was a deceiver. I continue to be alarmed that some current WCG people still cannot accept this, which is precisely why they have not moved forward in Bible understanding as much as they should have done by now. There are too many out there who are still trying to hold this sort of tension between many of the things which Armstrong taught, and "the new teachings." You cannot do it. You need to go back to basics. Stand back: What is the primary message of the Holy Bible? What did Jesus teach? Does the message of the gospel which is to be taken to the world have anything to do with obscure verses in Leviticus or Deuteronomy? Of course not! If it did, only Jews would have any chance of salvation, but salvation - through Christ - was now freely offered to all! He was the inaugurator of the long promised New Covenant! For any wanting in-depth teaching on exactly where the Adventist-type cults & sects go wrong, please refer to my article, The Move Away From Legalism. Well, I could go on, but must not. We now need to move on.
In April, 1991, I was appointed as a 'sermonette man.' In other words, I became a lay preacher within the WCG. This was now quite an invigorating time. Armstrong had died, and the new leader of the WCG was Mr Joseph W. Tkach, an American of Russian extraction. This man proved to be amazingly honest and forthright and - without question - the Holy Spirit worked through this humble human vessel in bringing the message of Christ and the gospel to those living in the dark deception of a cult! Obviously, he was hated by the 'old guard' ministers, and splinter groups started to break off who wanted to keep the real kosher Armstrongism going! I am pleased to say that on two occasions I actually got to shake hands with this man and to exchange a few pleasantries with him.
It might seem very odd to some that such a group as
we were should have suddenly developed an 'evangelical wing' but
we did and, in our local area, I was immediately part of it. The
minister who appointed me to preach was - at least to a degree -
'reformist', but our local minister was hard-line 'old guard' and
this obviously led to a few problems. To be frank, when our
'local elder' preached, the congregation got a different message
to when I preached, but since I wholeheartedly supported the new
direction which the WCG was taking, nobody ever actually stopped
Looking back, it is now obvious that my doubts about Armstrong's original teachings had been growing for some while; even before Armstrong had died, I was beginning to have serious doubts about some of his claims. A few of us were very uncomfortable with his lavish lifestyle (he even had a personal jet aircraft!), and while he still lived (as far as I can recall), I started to reject his prosperity and success teaching which he upheld in a booklet called, 'The Seven Laws of Success.' The booklet was so unchristian and inherently flawed that it was an embarassment. I remember being so happy that the booklet quietly disappeared from circulation soon after Armstrong's death.
Joseph Tkach Snr. who replaced Armstrong as WCG 'Pastor General.' Mr Tkach preached at Wembley Conference Centre, London, twice during the late 1980s endearing himself to British WCG members with a warm and caring approach which had often been absent from WCG leaders. He further endeared himself by showing a firm resolve to cut back on previous lavish WCG overspending within its ministry.
Joseph Tkach, Armstrong's successor, valiantly set about over turning the very deep errors which had been part of our WCG existence. My own understanding was also moving on at about the same pace and in the same direction, especially when I started preaching. I strove to be meticulous in my speaking preparation, and my much deeper study of the Bible at this time was starting to uncover all sorts of areas where the WCG had clearly been wrong. I hate to say it, but many of the Armstrongist legalists now started to show their true colours. Tkach even received death threats at this time. These people were not interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ, only in perpetuating Armstrongism. The most vital problem of many within such groups as the WCG is that they all tend to uphold 'justification by works' (though they will rarely admit it). They preach a works-based salvation. But the New Testament clearly upholds Justification by Faith Alone. This is especially clear through the writings of Paul, especially in the Book of Romans. Romans has (correctly) been called the most heavily doctrinal book in the whole Bible. We should have been paying particular attention to such books! But, in fact, only about five verses were ever quoted out of this book by Armstrong and he kept quoting them simply because they appeared - on the surface - to back up his extremism. Of course, if one is prepared to twist the Scriptures, pulling them totally out of context, it is easy to abuse the Scriptures.
The correct understanding of justification; that
Christ's righteousness has to be imputed to us, and that we can
never earn entry into God's kingdom, came as a wonderfully joyful
revelation to me. I now knew that my salvation was a gift from
God and that my 'membership' of the WCG had little or nothing to
do with it! Neither did such matters as whether or not I observed
the seventh day Sabbath! After all, the Sabbath is not one of the
few things mentioned in Acts 15, where the early Church made a
decision, guided by the Holy Spirit, about which laws would be
relevant for Gentiles to be made aware of! And, as Paul clearly
showed, those who wanted to be justified by law had better make
sure that they keep the whole law! - of course, none have
ever succeeeded in that. The law was only ever intended as a
teacher in order to show us how evil we are and how much we need
In contrast to that, WCG legalism was
intrusive and pervasive, yet it was also quite selective.
Armstrong was very enthusiastic about certain Old Testament laws,
even while he ignored others.
Armstrong had been was very enthusiastic about:
Tithing allowed Armstrong - and his senior ministers - to live in a fair degree of sumptuous luxury even while many WCG members lived in a financially precarious world! Yet he amazingly always upheld the myth that he lived a very simple existence with no money of his own. Truth is: Tithing has now become so tainted by thousands of false teachers inside and outside of 'evangelicalism' that every honourable biblical teacher should now firmly separate themselves from a practice which has no New Testament authority! I have written a long article on the practise of tithing which is HERE.
This is the teaching (which had also been quite popular with certain Victorian-era religionists) that the British were descended from one or more of the 12 tribes of Israel. The whole theory is heavily dependent on ancient lores and legends and is clearly imposed upon the Bible. I'm afraid that Mr Armstrong's flawed booklet on the subject just did not stand up to any serious investigation or scrutiny. Obviously, he got the theory from others (although he always denied this). Amazingly, it was British-Israelitism which many found difficult to leave behind when the post-Armstrong WCG started to admit that the theory was flawed.
Robin and Tina around 1984, a period during which they were considered WCG 'stalwarts.'
3. The Sabbath
Earlier on, I wrote that Armstrong was enthusiastic about Old Covenant law, but this was actually quite patchy. The law he most cared about was the seventh day sabbath. The seventh-day sabbath was a fascination for Armstrong and he peddled the usual myths and failures in understanding of all the seventh-day people. How sad that a bright and intelligent man like Armstrong wished to ape the abuse of Christian history of the seventh day people! I won't go into this here because we have several articles which cover this subject in some depth, but the simple truth is that the early Christians soon departed from "keeping" any particular days at all. Yet they soon preferred to assemble on the First Day, partly because it became a 'rest day' in the Roman Empire but mainly because, as the day of the resurrection, it seemed a most appropriate day to meet to worship the risen Christ. In fact, even in the New Testament itself we see evidence of Christians beginning to meet on Sundays. Armstrong appeared to believe the Roman Catholic myth that they themselves changed the day that the Sabbath should be kept (even though we know from various early writings such as the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas and the writings of Justin Martyr that Sunday was the day on which Christians assembled many, many hundreds of years before there was ever such a thing as a Roman Catholic Church!) Odd how he accepted this particular unhistorical Roman Catholic myth when he was usually so quick to point out others. I also believe that many of the early WCG writers were confused that the early church writers often referred to the Church as catholic - but they simply meant 'universal' - this was never meant to be a reference to the Roman Catholic Church as an organisation. Sometimes Armstrong, and the men he so inadequately trained, would scream about what "The Roman Catholic Church" were doing in the 4th or 5th centuries AD apparently blithely unaware that no Roman Catholic Church even existed for several centuries after that! But a person who delves into church history on a kind of hobbyist level is not going to understand some of these things. For more information on the Sabbath/Lord's Day question go HERE.
4. Leviticus 11 and 'Unclean Meats'
WCG people were forbidden to eat pork and bacon a la Leviticus 11, even though the New Testament states that unclean meats were cleansed. Moreover, Acts 15 makes it clear that such topics as the Sabbath and the eating of such meats were not to be included in the instructions passed on to non-Jewish Christians.
Most of Armstrong's conclusions on Bible Prophecy came from various other groups/writers with just a few touches added by himself. Obviously, in some areas he was correct, but in most areas he shared the great misunderstandings of other seventh-day groups. He had also obviously been a little influenced by the Scofield Reference Bible, an early dispensational work no longer exactly held in the greatest esteem as a model of biblical understanding and learning; indeed, even many holding to 'dispensationalism' are now willing to admit that Scofield was not without error in his writings. How very sad that Mr Armstrong had not chosen some of the truly great Bible expositors such as Matthew Henry or Henry Halley as his guides.
6. The Jewish holydays of Leviticus 23
Of course, Armstrong would not have called these 'Jewish' because he accepted the great error that only Judahites were ever considered to be Jews. There is no doubt, of course, that these Holydays contain great spiritual lessons for us, but it remains the case that they formed part of a covenant which is now obsolete in Christ. But in the old-style WCG, families were required to observe these days just as they were required to keep the sabbath from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset. Failure to keep these days meant disfellowshipping and actually, within Armstrongism, it had to mean that because justification by works (which is actually a Christian heresy) could not be undermined.
Armstrong accepted the old fundamentalist error of Noah's racial purity needing to be preserved. For this man, "Noah was perfect in his generation" was a reference to race which needed to be preserved. Members were banned from marrying people of another race. Eventually Armstrong's hypocrisy came out here when, after the death of his first wife, he met and married a beautiful woman who was said to be half-Cherokee. Obviously this man was quite prepared to flout the rules he imposed on others within his own life. The marriage was doomed to failure and did not last long.
So what kind of appraisal of Herbert W. Armstrong
would I come up with? Well, in many ways he was indeed a sincere
man. I believe (though thousands would disagree with me) that he
really and truly thought that he was the only religious leader
upon this earth that God was using. Yet one of his own favourite
lines was, 'You can be sincere, but sincerely deceived.'
The irony is, how much this applied to him! Armstrong was really
a gifted advertising man and salesman - this was his forte. His
personality was warmly persuasive, and his enthusiasm was
infectious. He was the sort who could sell you a dead donkey,
then make you so grateful that he had allowed you to buy it off
Yet tragically, it is easy for individuals who are so gifted in those particular areas to deceive others. Ideally, Armstrong should never have been allowed anywhere near the Holy Bible - and yet, his own views were one thing which he might well have been entitled to, but his cardinal error was in influencing thousands of people to accept his great errors in understanding as (literally) 'Gospel Truth.'
Yes, undoubtedly God allowed those of us who left the WCG and who are now Christians, to travel down this particular path to true Christianity. Similarly, the apostle Paul had been a Pharisee. Yet, I am sure that while he later recognised that God chose this route for him, he was not exactly proud of his past. Neither, to be perfectly frank, are my wife and I exactly proud of our own route to Christ. Yet it is a fact, and we don't attempt to hide it.
The beautiful seaside resort of Tenby, Wales became a popular WCG location for its "Feast of Tabernacles" (annual assembly) during the mid 1980s.
Confusion reigned over large sections of the WCG around 1993/94 and rumour often ruled the day. I was unofficially told that a fairly high-ranking U.S. minister was coming to the UK and intended to set up a personal meeting with me, another rumour said that I would be offered the position of local elder, but by this time Tina and I felt ourselves to be evangelicals and I had serious doubts about being a WCG 'local elder' - in the event, while the particular minister did come to the UK, he neither rang me nor came to our home. I would say that he probably had more important things to attend to at the time.
My wife and I finally left the WCG in January, 1994.
The very last thing which we ever did was to arrange a children's
party in our local congregation. This had to be held after sunset
on a Saturday evening in order to comply with 'sabbath
regulations,' and this was several years after Armstrong's
demise. Legalism continued to pervade large areas of the WCG then
and apparently this is still the case especially in certain
congregations. The next summer, however, I did attend three more
services after being assured that 'the WCG was now entirely
changed for the better' (but I found this claim to be wholly
incorrect, although there was certainly now a great deal of
confusion within the group, which had not previously been the
case). On the first of these final three occasions of attending,
the 'sermon' was given by a minister about to be fired for
wanting to stay with Armstrongist teachings. He boasted quite
brazenly about how he had got the WCG to pay a first-class air
fare for his recent visit to the States. Upon hearing this, my
wife and I agreed there and then that we would never contribute
another penny to this organisation! In fact, this man had caused
havoc and the WCG had been warned about what he was doing, but
had chosen to ignore it. The infuriating thing was that because
this man was a "minister" (the WCG placed their ministers in an
elite category - far above ordinary members), he had been able to
manipulate a first-class air ticket even though he had been
undermining the WCG Pasadena leaders, and especially Joseph Tkach
Snr for several years - this was just the final straw.
On the second occasion, it was just myself from my family attending (my wife never attended the WCG again), I heard a sermon from a man who preached just as though Armstrong was still around. The message was full of theological flaws and I distinctly remember thinking, 'How much longer will these people have to be exposed to such flawed teaching?' The preacher, a WCG 'veteran,' propounded the notion (which Armstrong himself had upheld), that Martin Luther had tried to 'do away' with the Old Testament - absolutely not true, of course; it seems that there was some confusion between Luther and the heretic Marcion among some WCG 'oldtimers' - and here was a main problem: many still thought that if Armstrong had said something, then it must be correct - no need to confuse oneself with looking up the historical facts.
I only ever attended the WCG once more after that, but this was just in order to speak to the congregation's new minister, whom I will call 'TL.' That day while at home, my wife had earnestly prayed that the Lord should reveal to me whether there was any future for us in the WCG - after all, we were now conservative evangelicals and would only hang around if the WCG were now fully committed to reform. Well, my wife's prayer was richly answered! After a long after-service talk with the new minister, it was absolutely clear that we would leave. He told me of a decision made by the WCG's British office at Borehamwood that they would go for a 'half-way' approach somewhere between what Armstrong had taught (please remember, this was now about eight years after Armstrong's death!) and the Christian approach - I could hardly believe what I heard, but Tina's prayer was clearly answered and we never returned, neither did we ever regret our decision, even for one moment (by the way, I was informed about the UK WCG's decision to go for a 'half way approach' some time after they had started courting the UK Evangelical Alliance by insisting that they were now fully evangelical).
Robin Brace started to preach 'sermonettes' in the Llanelli, Wales WCG congregation in April, 1991. He is pictured here around, or possibly just before, that time. The meeting hall can just be seen in the middle far right of the picture.
The prevarication of the WCG at that time proved to
be a serious error for the organisation. There was a need to own
up to the whole truth about Armstrong and his teachings, but -
instead of this - a vacuum was created in which congregations
were apparently allowed to believe almost whatever they wanted
to. One hears that this remains the situation in many
congregations - yet this is far from the picture of a wholly
evangelical group which is usually presented these days to
mainstream Christians. At a time when there was an urgent need
for the WCG to be served by Bible-believing and well-trained
evangelical preachers, the group only had its own 'ministers' and
its 'sermonette men' to fall back on. I could say a lot about
some of these individuals (many of whom, in the UK at any rate, I
knew personally), but I will pass over on it.
If the organisation had been more decisive at that time, they could have held on to scores of us who could have been of great assistance in bringing real biblical truth to its people; but there were a few ambitious people in the WCG at that time who wanted to be leaders and saw the confusion as a possible way of pushing themselves forward - they did not want the evangelicals to be hanging around! Again, I knew some of these men personally - I dislike being ungenerous, but I would have to say that the biblical knowledge of some of these individuals might be best described as being comparable to a moth's knowledge of advanced jet propulsion theory - I don't say this of every single one but of many who came to the fore in the mid-1990s! One US-based local elder who was pushed forward at the time without the necessary training and knowledge e mailed me about a year ago with a most amazing story of his experiences, but they are experiences which I cannot reveal here because of the confidentiality which a Christian minister is bound to observe. But certainly, in adopting a 'middle ground' approach - at least here in the UK - only the indecisive and unsure could be satisfied. It was also undoubtedly a major error in continuing to allow so many leading ministers who were so strongly associated with Armstrongism to remain in leading positions in the organisation. This has spoken volumes to those evangelicals whom the WCG like to think are now wholly supportive of them.
In the autumn of 1995 I commenced my theology degree at Cardiff University, graduating with honours in 1998. Sadly two years later Cardiff University stopped offering theology degrees which seems a pity because Cardiff theology degrees had been considered prestigious; study of both Hebrew and Greek were considered important. I was astonished to find that I had a flair for languages which I had previously been unaware of. I found the study of Greek to be especially beneficial. Cardiff was not considered an 'evangelical' place to study theology, but this worked in my favour because I learnt that liberal theology is flawed right the way through and my evangelical, Bible-believing approach was actually strengthened. But only a small part of the material we were subjected to was truly liberal and none at all in my final year when I could choose my own study modules.
Even before leaving the WCG I had discovered the
glories of good evangelical theology (not to be confused with
charismatic theology). It was a joy to discover that while
Armstrong had so arrogantly claimed that he was the only leader
on earth upholding biblical teaching, in fact, there were a
wealth of good biblical teachers who had written much good
material. Please see 'Our Recommended
Books.' Tina and I are conservative evangelical,
theologically closer to Baptist than Presbyterian but really
seeing ourselves as non-denominational. I was accepted as a
prospective Baptist minister in 1998, but have never pastored a
congregation. Rather, I have preached really widely in the
southern UK as a guest minister, and have written a great deal.
Many of the things which I have written can be found on various
Christian sites right across the internet. I have also
contributed to one or two Christian papers. Only a very small
part of my writing has been concerned with Armstrongism; for the
most part, we would now prefer to put that behind us. My writing
probably 'majors' on Justification by Faith, the necessity not to
add to the true Gospel, and on the fascinating topic of Christian
Inclusivism, but I also increasingly write under the somewhat
differing discipline of Christian philosophy. But both Museltof Countercult and
Apologetics and also UK Apologetics continue
to regularly point out heretical teachings/ministries which
financially exploit sometimes naive people.
Internet evangelism seems to be the area which our Lord has mainly called me to minister in, and it is a most fascinating area which I take real joy in. Our web sites seem to have developed their own 'congregation,' thus my 'flock' are not a few people living locally to a meeting place, but are people from all over the world! People are regularly coming 'on-site,' reading our material and asking me questions and they live in various parts of Canada, USA, Australia, India, Philippines, UK and other places too. Since we launched our first, somewhat humble, site in November 2001, we have had many thousands of site visitors!
Robin and Katynia Brace on University of Wales, Cardiff, Graduation Day in July, 1998. Mr Brace achieved an honours level Bachelor of Divinity degree, including 'A's in the study of both Hebrew and Greek, and another 'A' for his dissertation, The Doctrine of Election in Calvin and Karl Barth. More information Here.
So, what of the present 'reformed' WCG?
First of all, I take real joy when any from such a group as the WCG truly find Christ and are able to ditch the legalism. I know this applies to a group of people in the WCG, perhaps even a sizeable group. However, I am afraid that there are still huge questions from its past which the WCG organisation has never really satisfactorily addressed. At UK Apologetics/Museltof Countercult and Apologetics , we have to counsel with many who believe that their lives were ruined by their involvement in this group. They have been left confused, angry and bitter at the way they were treated. Sure, I encourage these people to seek the Lord's help in helping them to forgive. But the road is hard for many of them. It is also interesting what a large group of former WCG people are now outright atheists! Some of these things are the legacy of the old-style WCG! The situation is made harder by the WCG's apparently ongoing cult-like approach of completely writing off any people who leave their organisation. My wife and I - through the grace of Christ - have been able to put our experiences completely behind us, unfortunately many others cannot do so quite so easily. We should pray for these people.
A major step which WCG congregations must now take in order to conclusively show that they are now a wholly Christian group (with no cult-like tendencies) is to no longer send member's financial contributions to the US headquarters. Local congregations should control their own funds as is common place in the Christian world; I have heard a suggestion that this move is on the way – if so, I will rejoice! With regard to tithing, Mr Tkach Snr was brave to tell the truth that tithing is a practise which cannot be backed up from the New Testament and that it should be discontinued, but I have heard that tithing has again been encouraged since that time – if this is so, it is very disappointing.
I have a full package of helpful articles specifically targetted to those who have come out of Armstrongism available HERE.
So let us all glory in the glorious grace of God the
Father who so magnificently and so generously drew us to His Son
in whom alone is salvation for our souls! My joy of discovering the grace of Christ from within the legalism of Armstrongism, is well summed-up by the words of Charles Wesley in his wonderful 1738 hymn, 'And Can It Be,'
"...I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee."
Robin A. Brace
(Revised and slightly edited/updated, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2015).
A Postscript to my 2006 Testimony Edit; Where we Stand Right Now on Armstrongism and the WCG
You may wish to take a look at A Brief
Biography of Herbert W. Armstrong
Was Herbert W. Armstrong REALLY An Apostle?
My article on
dreams which describes my incredible dream at aged 16 is
HOW SHOULD A CHRISTIAN INTERPRET DREAMS?
Have you had an experience of Armstrongism? You can E Mail me HERE to tell me about it.
A FEW EXTRA POINTS ABOUT US...
WHY NOT JOIN OUR E LETTER LIST?
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RECOMMENDED CHRISTIAN BOOKS
WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT OUR WORK AND MISSION...
THE MOVE AWAY FROM LEGALISM
('The Move Away From Legalism' has been called, "The single best article to give a cult member who is starting to have doubts").
RECOVERING FROM ARMSTRONGISM
MUSELTOF COUNTERCULT AND APOLOGETICS
WITNESS TO THE WORD