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From the Fringe to the Fold
For most of a half-century, no book on cults was complete without a chapter on the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong. The late Walter Martin, in his classic "The Kingdom of the Cults," devoted 34 pages to the group, documenting how Armstrong borrowed freely from Seventh-day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormon doctrines. And it was during my own research and writing on cults and new religions in 1988 that I became aware that something unusual was happening.
I had earlier written to the Pasadena headquarters requesting literature and statistics from the WCG but had received no response. Then came that phone call I will never forget. It was from Michael Snyder, assistant to the director of public relations, who had just discovered my letter and was calling to find out if there was still time to incorporate new information into my book.
The conversation that followed was nothing short of astonishing. I knew that Armstrong had died in 1986 and that Joseph Tkach, Sr., had succeeded him as pastor general. But I was not aware of changes that signaled a dramatic turnaround in the church.
From Snyder I learned that books written by Armstrong, once the defining literature of the movement, were being revised or taken out of print. I also learned that Joseph Tkach, Sr., had informed the church membership that he would not shrink from his responsibility to correct any doctrine proven to be in error. But most astonishing was Snyder's own testimony of faith, which convinced me he was a brother in Christ.
In the years following, I have had many more meetings with leaders in the church and have closely followed every change in doctrine and practice that has transformed ...1