Friday, February 10, 2012

A Group Started on the Wrong Foundation—Another Voice Speaks Out

Hello! My name is Larry McElroy. I am currently a pastor in The Restored Church of God serving in the Kansas City area.

I first became aware of God’s Truth in 1966 while listening to WSM Nashville. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong came on the radio after the Grand Ole Opry ended on Saturday night. At the time, I was attending the University of Iowa and a friend who was in a comparative religion class mentioned I should listen to this religious newscaster. The World Tomorrow became a regular listening habit. When Mr. Armstrong challenged my thinking concerning Christmas, I went to the dormitory library, looked up Christmas—realized it was not what I had been led to believe—and shocked my parents when I went home for Christmas break and told them I could no longer keep it. I became a co-worker in 1967 and was baptized in the spring of 1969.

Events so happened that I moved to Phoenix, AZ, in December of 1973 and met a delightful young lady, Christine Tyndall. We were married in 1974; later I was ordained a deacon (1984) and a local church elder (1992).

Upsets and upheavals occurred in WCG in 1972, 1974, 1978 and especially 1979, when the state of California tried to take over the Church. However, the greatest challenges to truth and doctrine began after Mr. Armstrong died (1986) and Joseph Tkach became the Pastor General.
  • Changes to the Ezekiel warning began in 1988
  • Changes in the Healing doctrine
  • Emphasis on healthy eating standards phased out
  • Use of make-up accepted
  • Wearing of crucifixes
  • Later, the “nature of God” tapes by Dr. Stavrinides
My wife and I noted these differences (some of them small and subtle; others not), but they didn’t shock us as they should have. The gradual process of going to sleep seems so “natural” and “comforting.” My wife blamed it on her own inability to “understand the changes.” Later the behavior of numerous ministers’ children was like a kick in the stomach, with some marrying outside the Church. How could this be (ll Cor. 6:14-18)? The results were inevitable—several went back to the world, keeping Christmas and other pagan holidays, and never returned to the WCG. Next, the dress code went into a nose dive—long hair and earrings for men and revealing outfits and make-up for girls—all done to accommodate the world! Since when does God’s Church lower the standards to accommodate the world and neglect the standards (II Thes. 2:15) of a Christian Ambassador (II Cor. 5:20; I Peter 2:9)?

We continued in WCG until early 1995. Members, including ourselves, were asking questions, but the pastors were quiet—“just wait, things will work out.” People were leaving, copying many of Mr. Armstrong’s audio tapes and beginning tape programs, emailing and faxing written materials around the world. Many were looking and listening for answers, and getting little direction from their local ministry. Confusion, anxiety, distrust and bewilderment ensued!

What was happening? Many in the full-time ministry kept “retreating” until they hit the wall of the Sabbath and Holy Days. From my perspective, they were “hiding behind the flock” instead of leading! Sheep were taking the “big hit”—their lives broken, truth destroyed, and homes divided. Mistrust of the ministry set in, and many started their own groups. The flock was left undefended!

Mr. Tkach wrote the following: “The Sabbath and the Holy Days become holy time for us as we devote them to God, but they are not holy time in the sense that the old covenant is still in force. When the people of God, who are made holy through faith in Jesus Christ, devote time to the worship of God, that becomes holy time. It becomes holy time because it is devoted to God, who is holy, not because time is itself holy” (Pastor General’s Report, page 4, January 5, 1995). Later, “The sign of true Christians is faith in Christ, not keeping the annual festivals. So, like the Sabbath, we keep the festivals to celebrate salvation in Christ” (Ibid). SUCH GARBAGE WAS DUMPED ON THE MINISTRY! Where was the outrage? I pounded my fist on my desk when I read this! But most pastors still said, “Just wait, things will get better.”

We left the WCG in the spring of 1995 prior to the Passover and slid over into the then-forming United Church of God (UCG). (Other groups didn’t appear to be more viable at the time.) The atmosphere was somewhat joyous at the beginning. UCG seemed to appear out of the blue as an answer to prayer. After we left United in 1999, we learned they had been planning UCG for several years prior—and didn’t want to say anything to show their hand. We had no concept this was contrived in such a manner! What about the sheep—thousands of people were without an answer—defenseless. Many now bludgeoned to spiritual death because these men didn’t stand up for the truth? These were the men who for the most part lead the UCG today.

Examples Reflecting the Mindset of UCG Leaders

My first meeting with UCG pastors and elders was in 1995. An evangelist, now leader of UCG, came to Phoenix. A meeting was held with the pastors, local church elders and a few deacons—a large group, as Phoenix had three UCG congregations. The evangelist asked for questions. The first came quickly from a pastor: “When do we get a raise?” I couldn’t believe my ears—after all that had happened, this was crude! But it was also very telling—the word “hireling” comes to mind. Where was the love for the brethren? Where was the desire to lead God’s people to safety? Later in the meeting, finances were discussed. After some discussion, I raised my hand and commented, “Mr. Armstrong said we should prepare to lower our standard of living.” That comment was the “lead balloon” of the day!

Later my wife and I attended the 2nd and 3rd conferences of UCG, held in Cincinnati, OH, and Louisville, KY, respectively. Our first conference had to some degree a Feast-like atmosphere, but it featured wrong government, voting, politicking and coveting for power. Several major questions were asked: “How soon before we get insurance? How soon do we have retirement?”

What an outrage!

At the 1996/7 UCG conferences, we witnessed several things that were mind-boggling, but they seemed to faze no one:
  • Those nominated to be on the Council of Elders posted resumes including their titles and accomplishments, and why they would be good for the position.
  • After the 1996 elections, one newly elected council member came by us and said in a loud voice and with raised arms, “hey, we won—let’s go out and celebrate!” I couldn’t believe my ears. I Iooked at my wife; she looked at me—how could anyone treat such a responsibility so superficially, so flamboyantly?
  • Voting to change church doctrine became an option
  • The designation of a “Home Office,” not a “Headquarters.”
A regional meeting of UCG ministers brought another revelation. The meeting was called to discuss, among other things, communications with the brethren. A number of UCG Good News writers were present. The discussion consensus was that we should write no article or give any message that would “offend anyone.” I raised my hand and asked, “Were people offended when Christ spoke the truth, when Mr. Armstrong spoke the truth?” Again, quiet—another “lead balloon!”

Within the next two years, politics on the Council led to UCG’s president leaving and establishing his own group. This was no surprise, as voting creates division! “Voting is politics,” I told my local pastor. But most UCG ministers thought this was the way to circumvent “one-man rule.” How deceptive is human nature, which naturally deviates from the teachings of Mr. Armstrong, whom God sent to “restore all things.” Wrong government led to wrong decisions, which led to greater division and to UCG spiraling ever deeper into the blindness of the seventh era.

The Passover doctrine and the Passover service were officially changed by the Home Office. This resulted in going back to Mr. Tkach’s view that “there is no such thing as physical sin.” When I discussed this with my local pastor, he stated, “That was just Cincinnati,” and that we didn’t have to agree. Yet to be an elder in good standing, I was required by UCG bylaws to support official doctrine. I couldn’t accept these changes and declined to officiate in the Passover service.

By 1999, my wife and I felt entirely out of place with the voting/balloting for offices and other issues. We had attended the UCG teleconference where the other men were talking about whom they were voting for and why. I had nothing to say. We began to realize we had gone to sleep, and had compromised some vital teachings given to God’s Apostle and true Church.

By Their Fruits

My wife and I discovered that UCG leaders did not go back to the truths established by Mr. Armstrong—they simply continued on from where they were since leaving WCG. Mr. Armstrong’s name was given lip service when it fitted the need to quell members who had serious questions. These men for the most part forgot or conveniently set aside the offices God gave to Mr. Armstrong, an apostle, and as the Elijah to restore all things to the Church after the Sardis era. They didn’t want to recognize Mr. Armstrong’s office. If they did, they would be unable to change the most profound doctrine of the Bible—government—or any other doctrine! Many of these men don’t believe in Church eras, else they would have to admit where we are in time and admit their feet are firmly embedded in the quicksand of Laodicea! Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16, 20). This is the standard to evaluate the leadership of any organization. What is the fruit borne of UCG and other offshoots and splinters?

Where to After Leaving UCG?

We left UCG in the fall of 1999 after a “lifeless” Feast in 1998, with few sermons that even applied to the 1,000-year reign of Christ and the saints, and NOTHING about the Last Great Day! Nothing but filler—no life-giving, “body-building” spiritual food to sustain a weary flock!

Where was the truth? Where was the true Church? Where was the Ezekiel warning being sounded? Who was doing the Work? Where was the flock being fed? How do you find your way when you are lost? These questions demanded answers—where would the answers come from? We were in Laodicea and in need of a serious wake-up call!

We got it! The adventure of a lifetime began—the journey to find the true Church of God. We were yet to wander in a toxic spiritual wilderness for some time. There were many lessons for us to learn—even unlearn. But eventually we arrived “back home.”

Today, an increasing number are returning to the full Truth they once loved. They see the dramatic difference between The Restored Church of God and the splinter groups. They see the unity of purpose and doctrinal purity found nowhere else. They see God’s hand in His one, undivided unified Church.

What about you?