I was reading a post on the excellent Ramblings of Sheldon about abuses in the Sovereign Grace Ministries. ramblingsofsheldonThis linked me to the Wartburg Watch, where I read in the request for comments about the Worldwide church of god. thewartburgwatch.com
So I got to reading about the now ex-Worldwide church of god, or should I say supposed to be ex church. wiki/Grace Communion International
The church has now changed its name to Grace Communion International gci.org and some of its doctrines, but it still exists although the numbers are decreasing according to the wikipedia page. So why does this astound me as much as it does.
When we look into the history of the church, we find a church rocked with sex and money scandals. A church that made false prophecies about the end times, which never got fulfilled. A church that believe in a form of British Israelism (wiki/British Israelism) which has been shown to have no historical or biological evidence. A church whose founder Herbert Armstrong has been labelled a false prophet and a heretic by a former dean of the college campus that they used to run, although the Grace Communion International disagrees to what degree he was a false prophet gci and Uncle Herb
But what can we learn from this story of the former Worldwide Church of god.
1) Churches can do anything, people will still believe if leaders have enough charisma to blind their followers.
There are sections of the GCI church who still hold Uncle Herb in high esteem after all of these changes in the church.
2) Change your doctrine/name if it is affecting business and money income.
This is an interesting aspect of the WCG, as Uncle Herb died in 1986 yet the major reforms only came in 1995. I would guess these reforms came around the same time as a boost in numbers was needed. Also the WCG and now GCI has an interesting tithe system which brings them a lot of money every year, really learning about this is worth it as they believe in the Levitical laws of tithing, which can be up to 30% of your income in some years.
3) Cults do change into churches.
In sociology you learn that the difference between a cult and a church is purely based on numbers of followers. This is denied by many religious groups, but the fact is that in the beginning this WCG was classified as a cult under uncle Herb. However, now the GCI is classified as a church.
4) Borrow your sacred texts from others.
If you actually go read the various christian scriptures and then go look at the Greek mythologies and further back at the Egyptian myths, you quickly start to see resemblances. The WCG was no different in borrowing from other churches what they thought was good to defend their positions, just as Islam borrows from Christianity etc.
These are interesting points to consider as we see churches around the world nowadays starting to reconsider their views on homosexuality for example. However, for the last 2000 years they have been preaching that same sex marriage or sex is wrong. Churches are hypocritical and will remain hypocritical as long as they can make their money.
On a side note maybe the GCI in the United Kingdom just actually does not care about image, or know that it is not necessary to dupe strong believers....after all their website is still Worldwide Church of God http://www.wcg.org.uk/