Thursday, March 31, 2005

The little church that ate itself

Number two in our top four countdown is the Worldwide Church of God. It once claimed 150,000 members, but now officially numbers itself in the high 60s. That's rubbish, claim some "in the know": its more like mid 20s.

How art the mighty fallen.

And presiding over the whole messy disaster is God's little helper, Joe Tkach, Jr.

Why Joe? Because he was elected as church president? Nope, never been any kind of election. Because he was the best man for the job? Hardly! Joe leads the church because his daddy put him there.

From what I've heard, Joe had a reputation for loopiness as a student at Ambassador College. On graduating he became a ministerial trainee. I guess he wasn't very good because he got laid off. But then a miracle! Joe's dad, also named Joseph Tkach, became the new WCG Pastor General on HWA's death. Suddenly our Joe was back in the game. On Dad's death, Little Joe inherited the sect.

Almost single-handedly this divorced and remarried ministerial reject has, since climbing into the apostolic high-chair, brought the sect crashing about his ears. No mean feat.

Complicating the picture of colossal incompetence is the "evangelical factor". The church Joe downsized has left behind its cultic doctrines to embrace the evangelical mainstream. A host of bubble-brained enthusiasts (including Hank Hanegraaff) embraced the idea of a heretical cult transforming itself into a nice, respectable church. They were too lazy to pose the hard questions.

Evangelical doctrines have been adopted, that's undeniable. But cultic, top-down rule remains. There is a rubber stamp church board - but it's appointed by guess who... and it gets worse. The WCG is less than forthcoming about property sales and financial information. Accountability? What's that? Priesthood of ALL Believers? Oh surely not! This is one church where the members are kept firmly in their place: at the bottom of the spiritual food chain.

If you ask one question too many, it'll be suggested (none too subtly) that you might like to find a new church home (you see, consultation and consensus don't rate highly among WCG's priorities.) So that's exactly what tens of thousands of members have done over the past several years. But fear not, Joe won't be left high and dry. Those bequests and wills provide a steady income stream to keep the corporation chugging over.

WCG has slumped - probably to below the active membership of the leading splinter. It took a special man to manage that trick. Church leaders paint it as a reformation. More accurately it has been an act of self mutilation.

And isn't another evangelical sect exactly what the world needs right now? I mean, why not just go down the road to the local Nazarene, Baptist, Salvation Army or whatever service? Why stay with a mock-evangelical sect that disempowers its members and suppresses debate? Why raise your kids in a church community where they can only aspire to be peons?

And so the good ship WCG steams over the horizon and into obscurity with Cap'n Joe at the helm.

Next time we'll look at the biggest kid on the block: the United Church of God.

Till then...

1 comment:

Felix Taylor, Jr. said...

Hank is enthuiastic over the changes because he sees a door ($$$) that he can get into and he has used that door to his advantage.