When Herbert W. Armstrong survived a heart attack in 1977, many of his followers believed he had been resurrected and would not die before Christ returns. Consequently, news of the sect leader’s death last month was greeted with dismay by many in the Worldwide Church of God. Armstrong, 93, died January 16 at his Pasadena, California, home.

One week before he died, the founder and “pastor general” of the Worldwide Church of God named Joseph Tkach as his successor. Tkach, 59, had served as director of church administration since 1980.

As the new chief executive officer, Tkach will oversee Armstrong’s organization, which claims 80,000 baptized members and congregations in 56 countries. He will head the sect’s 12-member Council of Elders and oversee its nonaccredited Ambassador College in Pasadena; a junior college in Texas; the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation; “The World Tomorrow” radio and television broadcast; and The Plain Truth magazine, which claims a free circulation of 8 million.

Armstrong’s 55-year-old son, Garner Ted Armstrong, was the heir apparent to his father’s mantle until he was excommunicated from the Worldwide Church of God in 1978. In a telephone interview with CHRISTIANITY TODAY, the younger Armstrong said his father had rebuffed repeated efforts at reconciliation. Garner Ted Armstrong, who heads the Tyler, Texas-based Church of God International, said he will not return to the Worldwide Church of God. He said his own organization has 5,000 members and annual revenues of $2 million.

Ralph K. Helge, attorney for the Worldwide Church of God, said that sect’s income last year exceeded $140 million. He said no decision had been made regarding the “World Tomorrow” broadcast, which is syndicated over 374 ...

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