Servants' News

Jan/Feb 2000

 

Continuing the Work of the WCG 2

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The Global Church of God?

The Living Church of God?

The Restored Church of God?

The Church of God, a Christian Fellowship?

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the goal of Roderick C. Meredith was to continue the work of the Worldwide Church of God when he began the Global Church of God at the close of 1992. I should know. I quit my job at the WCG to begin working for the Global Church of God—at that time, in Mr. Meredith’s home. I ran the equipment to video tape his first services. After a couple of months, I became secretary of the board of directors.

Those first few months required a certain amount of faith. There were no other full-time ministers supporting Mr. Meredith. He took a cut in pay and went without health insurance for a while. We wanted to start a mailing list, a magazine, and a radio program—but we had no idea what resources we would have to do it. Money and volunteer help came from many people that Mr. Meredith did not even know. People who had been “nobodies” in the WCG wrote articles, organized services and did many other things that would have ordinarily been the work of “ordained” people.

Everyone who worked with the Global Church of God frequently ate lunch together. Nearly the entire Pasadena congregation would eat dinner together on Saturday night. In some ways, it was like one big happy family. Old doctrines were discussed, new teachings were discussed. Not only had the GCG rejected the Protestant teachings of Tkach, it seemed like it would address some of the old problems of the WCG as well. We began to find and read the Scriptures showing that God does not always correct bad leaders, and that believers are responsible for the leaders that they follow.

Our goal was to warn the world and teach truth through radio, TV, magazines and the spoken word. We expected to be a leaner, probably smaller, but possibly stronger work than the WCG. To me, Rod Meredith seemed like the ideal person to lead this “new Work of God”. He had been with Mr. Armstrong for 40 years, had extensive writing and speaking experience, had a reputation for upholding “the law of God”, and had been the head of WCG Church Administration during the big growth years. He had a reputation as a moral man. Though he also had a reputation for being “harsh”, he seemed eager to change that—to hear people out and to be “slow to anger”.

Other WCG ministers began to take note and contact us. We thought that God was calling those faithful to Him to join the GCG, to help continue the work of the WCG. In some cases, that was probably true. But we were also acquiring people who simply wanted to get in on the “ground floor” of a new church organization that might “make it big” someday. Others came who had their own agendas.

After several months, and several more ministers joining, it began to be “business as usual”: The ministry was in charge, they would make the decisions, and we could be fairly sure those decisions were right because, after all, this was “God’s Work”.

If there is anything that we can learn from Christ’s letters to the “seven churches” in Revelation 2 & 3, it is that He still works with churches that are not perfect. Just because hierarchical government and other doctrines taught by the GCG and its off-shoots are not biblical, does not mean that He cannot work through them. These church organizations are providing Sabbath services, Feasts, teaching and many other things for their members. Yet, they are not growing rapidly and it would be very difficult for any one group to claim that they are “the one” that Christ is using to warn the world. I think there are two reasons why the GCG and its off-shoots are not growing and accomplishing what they hoped to accomplish:

  1. The leaders are too eager to “protect the Work”, rather than do what is right when it appears that it might “hurt the Work”. “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked” (Deut 25:1). Two often in these groups, if there is a dispute between a big contributor and a small contributor, the “judge” justifies the big contributor. If there was a dispute between a minister and a member, the “judge” justifies the minister.
  2. They have little direct guidance from God. Of the many board meetings I attended, Mr. Meredith usually did a good job of getting the counsel of many, but I almost never remember anyone saying “I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me” or asking God to show them via a vision, dream or sending somebody to them with the answer to their question. Yet it is clear that New Testament apostles were guided in this way. Often, decisions were made by doing “what Mr. Armstrong did” rather than by asking God for direct leading.

Now, the leaders of these groups do pray for God’s guidance in their decisions, and they believe that their decisions are of God. So, how can this writer say that they, “have little direct guidance from God?” Do I claim to know God’s mind? I think we can answer that question from these groups’ history. We can look at the goal of the GCG (doing a big WCG-style work), we can look at decisions made that were thought to be “guided by God” and we can see the fruit of them.

Top Down Government (Mostly)

The founding documents of the Global Church of God placed Rod Meredith in charge. I remember Mr. Meredith saying, once people make the decision to leave the WCG, it will be much easier for them to leave the GCG if he does something wrong. In other words, the people would “vote with their feet” and leave. I remember having no objection to this. The GCG started with nothing, and starting over again with nothing would have produced little difficulty at the time.

But after the GCG grew for a couple of years and had physical assets, people began to think about preventing the thing that happened in the WCG: someone with different ideas getting control of the corporation and using it for a different purpose. So, the GCG bylaws were amended so that a 90% vote of the board could remove Mr. Meredith. It was difficult to understand how this would work, since there were only 7 people on the board at the time, two of which were Mr. Meredith and his wife.

I had left the GCG by the time the UCG-IA formed in the spring of 1995. It was a devastating blow to the GCG; they had hoped that most of those WCG ministers and congregations would come to their organization, but only a few did. Many ministers had worked for Mr. Meredith before and did not want to work for him again. In an effort to show that he was not an absolute dictator and to appeal to these ministers, Mr. Meredith agreed to change the percentage vote that could remove him to 75%.

He also agreed to ask his wife to resign from the board as she was seen by many people as simply giving him a “second vote”. Finally, Donald Davis, a close friend of Mr. Meredith’s who helped him start Global from the very beginning was asked to resign from the board for “personal reasons”. Nevertheless, it was Mr. Meredith who appointed successors. Did God choose these successors, or were they “decisions of men”?

Disagreement Hidden till Too Late

During 1998, Mr. Meredith and others were earnestly desiring to expand the media outreach of the GCG and really try to reach a big part of the world. They purchased time on WGN, the super-station in Chicago that goes nearly everywhere via cable. They purchased time on other stations as well. To do all of this, they had to borrow money. They hoped that the increased outreach would bring in new donations from new listeners. It brought in some, but it brought far more debt. Several employees of the GCG loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to it. At one point, the GCG owed 1.4 million in various loans. Again, did God make this decision, or was it of men?

This debt was the given reason why the board members felt they had to remove Mr. Meredith from being head of Global. Most of the board members were against going into debt, and they wanted to spend more for local congregations rather than on “warning the world”. In addition, there seemed to be an ever-growing personality rift between the board and Mr. Meredith.

As is common for CoG groups, none of these serious problems were shared with the brethren. My first confirmation of the brewing split in the GCG was Mr. Meredith’s article denying rumors of a split in the August 31, 1998 issue of The Journal, News of the Churches of God. (The Journal is available for $22 for 12 monthly issues from PO Box 1020, Big Sandy Texas 75755.) From experience in the WCG, I learned that proclamations of “unity at headquarters” would often come just before a reshuffling of positions or a split. Also, sermons against gossip would be given when a leader had actually done something wrong.

Nearly all the Church of God groups need to learn that “credibility” does not come by hiding the problems and sins of the leaders, but by openly confessing them and correcting them.

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear (1Tim 5:19-20).

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (Jms 5:16).

The Big LCG/GCG Split

Even though Mr. Meredith cut back spending, went off a lot of stations and dropped the debt down to $900,000, the board still voted to remove him. Rod Meredith immediately began to start a new organization, the Living Church of God. Nobody should be proud of the events that followed. The members received a series of letters from both the LCG and the GCG: full of accusations, counter accusations, partial stories, defenses, and selective ignoring of issues where there was no good defense.

The scriptures indicate that “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and conflict between doing God’s work and obeying man’s law was everywhere. Rod Meredith believed that God called him to preach the end-time warning and to do the work he was doing. He believed he was part of the spiritual government of God. Yet now, all of his writings, telecasts and even the mailing list he had built up legally belonged to the GCG—controlled by its board. The GCG board’s complaint against Rod Meredith was his taking the corporation into debt. But his leaving the corporation absolved him of responsibility to pay the debt, and made the GCG board responsible to pay it.

There are several accounts of unethical, unbiblical or illegal conduct on both sides. As one example, Rod Meredith and Don Davis attempted to pay off some of their own loans to the GCG by writing GCG checks after Don Davis had been removed as a co-signatory on the GCG account. The check payment was fortunately stopped— which prevented Meredith and Davis from being prosecuted for check fraud. On the other side, the Global Church of God retained television and accounting employees whom they could not afford to pay and certainly did not need—simply so they would not go to work for the Living Church of God. They refused to give (or sell at a reasonable price) the copyrights to Mr. Meredith’s literature so he could continue to use it. There are many other issues on both sides. Christ will be the ultimate judge of each person.

The issue was further complicated by the fact that most international offices of the Global Church of God were separately incorporated. The GCG board in the USA did not control them. Many remained loyal to Mr. Meredith and severed all ties with the GCG board. But some countries, such as Belgium, remained with the Global Church of God. Others were divided.

England was an especially unusual case. Some wanted to remain with GCG, but many others formed a new Living Church of God. David Sheridan, a member in England, helped to form both corporations. He had incorporated the principles of Matthew 18:15-17 into their founding documents—it was the responsibility of corporate directors that had a problem with somebody else to first go to them, then to take others as witnesses, then to take it before the whole body. This was not just a suggestion—it was “law” for that corporation. When members of the board took actions against others without following this procedure, Mr. Sheridan filed the appropriate documents with the British “Companies House” and they were removed as directors from the corporation. The other directors had a chance to respond to his actions, but they did not. So the Living Church of God is having to regroup there under yet a different name.

As it turned out, about 80% of the members of the Global Church of God left and went to the Living Church of God. After all of their advice to Mr. Meredith to live within budget, the Global Church of God failed to cut expenses down to levels appropriate for their greatly reduced income, and they quickly went through the reserves that they had. I am sure that they thought that since they were trying to “do the work of God”, that He would send the funds to do it. They tried to work out a long-term solution to pay off their creditors. They tried to get the LCG members to help pay the old loans. But Don Davis had a demand note—a loan that was due whenever the holder asked to be repaid. They were running out of money to pay current bills and they could not pay him.

On September 17, 1999 the Global Church of God dissolved itself “for the benefit of creditors”. A court-appointed receiver took over to find the assets, sell them, and pay off the creditors—they will probably receive a few cents for each dollar they were owed. Much of the equipment and furniture was auctioned off on a Saturday—preventing the Living Church of God from buying it. Fortunately, the copyrights to all of their literature were sold later, and the Living Church of God was able to obtain them. After 18 months of rewriting some of the booklets, they can now use their old booklets and programs if they desire.

Most of the directors of the Global Church of God moved to the Dallas Ft. Worth area to start a new organization, The Church of God, A Christian Fellowship. It may be surprising to some Americans, but this is the way the American corporate world works: A group of men can form a corporation, become its directors, lose a lot of money (whether it be their own fault or not), let the corporation go bankrupt, personally owe nothing on its debt, and then go start a new corporation doing exactly the same thing that the last one did. One would hope they would have learned from their mistakes, but the law does not require them to do anything different. The Church of God, A Christian Fellowship does seem to be living within its means. They do not have the money for a big evangelism program, so they are not doing one. It has published one issue of a new magazine, The New World Ahead, which is available on the internet: www.newworldahead.org. This issue contained a number of articles all centering around the “armor of God” and I think it would be very helpful to many people.

Where Was God?

But where was God in all of the decisions that led to these actions? How can any of the GCG split-off groups claim that they are “the one group” showing the outside world the way to peace and harmony in the Kingdom of God when their own history looks like it does. Numerous friends and family members were separated by this split. About a million dollars was wasted in repurchasing equipment, reprinting booklets, reforming corporations, retraining new employees, etc, etc. The members and the people to which these groups minister were the real losers.

How much different would it have been if Mr. Meredith and the board had humbly acknowledged their differences to their ministry and membership and asked them to pray for a peaceable solution? What if they had asked their members to vote on whether they should spend more money on evangelism or not? What if they had asked them to vote on who should be in charge? Is that heresy? Is that playing politics?

In reality, when the group split, each member was forced to “vote with his feet” and decide which group he or she would attend. I am not saying that all church decisions should be made by a vote of the members—but I am saying that what actually happened was certainly worse than having the members peacefully vote. The split that occurred looked much more like “a fight for control”, not people humbly seeking God’s will. Even now, to an outside observer, these groups do not look like they have any great doctrinal disagreement—they preach almost exactly the same thing! So why can’t they get along?

Dave Pack: An Unsolved Problem from the Beginning

We have said nothing yet about Dave Pack’s Restored Church of God. (It is not related to the recent WCG split-off, the Church of God Restored, or John Allen’s Restoration Church of God.) Dave Pack stayed with the GCG when the LCG split off of it. During the Spring of 1999, he formed his own group, the Restored Church of God, claiming that he was following Herbert Armstrong better than any other group. He wrote stinging letters against all of the other groups on a number of doctrinal and personal issues. But this is not a problem that started at this time. Dave Pack was a problem that “Church of God” leaders had failed to solve for decades.

Dave Pack has been a wolf in shepherd’s clothing and should not be any kind of minister or servant among the people of God. The only apology I will make for that statement is for not having clearly stated it sooner in the pages of Servants’ News. I base this conclusion on direct personal experience and the testimony of dozens of witnesses.

Dave Pack is a brilliant man, a powerful speaker and a commanding personality. He has the ability to stir people into thinking they are special to God and that they are being used in a powerful way when they work for Mr. Pack. For those who work “on his side”, he is able to see everything they do in the best possible light, and to have unending mercy to overlook their sins and errors. But to those he opposes, he seems to have an unending ability to recall minute details of years-old conversations and twist them into the greatest of sins. Many witnesses claim that he simply made up lies about them and spread them to others in a most believable fashion. Several people have specifically said that they did exactly what Dave Pack asked—unjust as they thought it was—only to be disfellowshipped for it later.

Dave Pack was one of the first ministers to join the GCG in 1993. The office was small then, and Mr. Meredith shared the details of many of his calls with us. Dave Pack spoke of the hundreds of brethren that were going to come to the GCG with him. When the dust settled, there were about 70. Mr. Pack was a “shepherd” who commanded his “sheep”—not one who knew and cared for his “sheep”. (In great contrast, John Ogywn, who always made visiting brethren a priority, knew almost exactly who would stay in the WCG and who would leave to join the GCG with him.)

Soon, complaints of Dave Pack’s abuse began to make their way into the GCG office. He disfellowshipped far more members than any other GCG minister. Dave Pack asked me (head of the computer department) for names and addresses of people outside of his own area of responsibility. After I refused to give him any special treatment, he began telling Rod Meredith that he needed another computer manager who would get the ministerial reports out on time. (None of the other ministers complained about receiving late reports—Mr. Meredith assured us that he knew that it was one of our lower priorities and that he was not taking Pack’s threats seriously).

The problem was that no one stood up and said: “this manipulative, unjust behavior does not belong in the ministry of God and if Mr. Pack does not change, he will be removed from the ministry.” I think many people, maybe even his superiors, were afraid of him. Mr. Meredith did make efforts to correct him. He once said that he would have removed him, except that he was so loyal to the GCG and kept bringing so many new members. The question should have been, “How does God want us to deal with unjust behavior?” not “How many members and how much money does he bring to the GCG?”

When I left the Global Church of God and started Servants’ News in 1995, I probably heard as many abuse complaints about Dave Pack as I heard about all other ministers put together. They are recorded as hundreds of pages of call logs, letters, e-mails, etc. I wrote several letters to Mr. Meredith during this time and failed to mention all of these complaints about Dave Pack. I believe I was wrong for not doing so. Even though we did not agree on many things, Mr. Meredith, upon hearing of all the complaints, might have taken action sooner.

Nevertheless, Mr. Meredith continued to receive his own complaints about Dave Pack and eventually removed him from being a salaried minister and a director, though not from the GCG ministry. Rather than telling the membership the truth, he simply said that Mr. Pack needed more time to devote to the business which he inherited from his father.

Dave Pack was a major force encouraging the other board members to remove Rod Meredith—by one man’s account, he was the main force. But Mr. Pack did not remain long in the GCG; he had too much else to accomplish on his own. His official reason for departing is that the GCG was not following the teachings of Herbert Armstrong, but the pickiness of points he argued was almost beyond belief. Mr. Armstrong changed his own teaching to a much greater degree than the changes Mr. Pack was arguing about.

Early in 1999, he began to send his sermons all over the world apart from the GCG’s method of sermon distribution. He encouraged Bill Shepherd, his volunteer website designer, to take his week of vacation from his government job in order to help him. He told him not to worry about having vacation for the Feast that year, that he would hire him to work with the RCG. He later encouraged Bill to take off all of his “emergency days” because he was going to hire him, so Bill did, and the government laid him off. But Dave Pack changed his mind and decided not to hire him. He told him that is what happens in the business world and that he should not get in a bad attitude.

That was the “last straw” for Mr. Shepherd and nearly all of the other Restored Church of God office staff. Most of them quit, and half of the Akron congregation left.

Don Tiger Joins With Dave Pack

One of the few individuals left helping David Pack is a new addition to his staff: Don Tiger. We first mentioned Don Tiger in our November 1998 Servants’ News as being the source of CD-ROM’s containing old HWA and WCG literature. Don began collecting WCG literature on his own and later joined the Philadelphia Church of God who promised to help him distribute it. Over the years, it became clear that the PCG wanted to send out only a portion of the literature—Don Tiger was gradually fired, demoted, then disfellowshipped. Then he joined a PCG split-off that seemed to want to help him distribute the WCG literature—but they also tried to modify it.

Now, he and Dave Pack are working together to try to make all the old WCG literature available, unedited, on CD-ROM and to make most of HWA’s literature available in printed form. They have even set up a separate Herbert W. Armstrong Library Trust Fund (PO Box 23283, Wadsworth OH 44282) for those who want to contribute to the publication of these materials without contributing to the Restored Church of God. Though the RCG only has a few hundred members (and seems to disfellowship a few of those rather regularly), Don Tiger stated that over 10,000 households have expressed interest in obtaining HWA literature.

This writer hopes that Dave Pack will actually help Don Tiger complete his efforts—not simply use him as a way to access thousands of former-WCG brethren. My view of why this is important, is completely opposite to theirs. I believe that a thinking study of WCG literature turns up many contradictions, failed prophecies and excessive demands for money. I believe that Mr. Armstrong taught a lot of truth but some error, and that he was not the “human head of the Church on earth” as he claimed to be. The WCG discontinued much of its own literature so they would not have to defend errors in it. Most CoG split-offs know this so they either edit his old literature or do not publish it at all. Don Tiger and Dave Pack somehow believe it is “all truth”. They will certainly attract many other former WCG members who believe the same. How will they sort out exactly what is truth when Mr. Armstrong made conflicting statements or when prophecies did not come to pass?

I think, for the RCG, “Mr. Armstrong’s truth” will become whatever Dave Pack says it is. Notice this excerpt from a letter from Karen Ray. Karen Ray spent three years of her life working closely with Dave Pack documenting the changes in the Worldwide Church of God. The book they produced helped many people to see the changes, but Mrs. Ray, like nearly everyone else who has worked with Dave Pack, quit because she could not accept his manner of dealing with others:

The test for us [the Rays] personally of whether Global truly had a better government came in the spring of 1996. These are some of things I was told by Dave Pack at that time:

1) No matter what the “headquarter” ministers of the GCG did or said, we were never to ask or send in any questions. People who wrote letters to “headquarters” always “left” the Church. Only people with bad attitudes wrote to “headquarters.” Because we had already sent questions to “headquarters,” Rod Meredith and Carl McNair had a greatly lowered opinion of us. If we insisted on sending in questions, we would be “punished”. Anyone who thought they needed to ask questions belonged in the UCG.

[Points 2 & 5 removed for space.]

3) If something in the church's literature seemed wrong to us, it was none of our business. If we felt something was wrong in the church's literature and we read it anyway, it was our own fault if it upset us, because we should have known better than to have read it. If we let anyone know what was in literature the church was promoting, we were guilty of sowing division.

4) Ministers do not need to use Matthew 18 in their dealings with brethren. Even if a minister treats a person unjustly, a person with a good attitude will tolerate the severest injustice. If a person leaves the organization over being treated unjustly, they have a bad attitude so it's good they left. (He called them “a boil that needed to be lanced.”)...

After Dave Pack told me all of the above and more, he said I should not analyze anything he had said lest I convince myself that he was wrong and I was right. He then told me I had to be done “studying,” I had to “put away” my computer, and could not read anything that contradicted his ideas.

In addition, Dave Pack was disfellowshipping or finding other ways to force out of Global dozens of brethren from many different states in 1996. He had spies watch them, made phone calls behind their backs, and solicited letters against them. He sowed much discord using outright lies and double talk. Because he was telling so many lies, brethren began tape recording their meetings with him, and he cried, Blackmail!

We and many others wrote and called Rod Meredith about Dave Pack. Depending on who he was talking to, Rod Meredith either apologized for or denied the things Dave Pack was doing. He told one man that Dave Pack was destroying Global, but that he was afraid to confront him because he might leave and start a competing “work.” He told us personally that he was too busy to do anything about it himself.

Conclusion

Dave Pack is clearly a wolf—he devours sheep. The GCG and LCG need better skill at dealing with wolves. They should be ashamed to have lost (and to have kept) members due to the “scare tactics” used at left. If Mr. Meredith had removed Dave Pack from his ministry in 1996, he might well have avoided the GCG/LCG split. He certainly would have saved many brethren from needless suffering.

The leaders of these organizations need to realize that when they tell brethren that God takes care of problems from the “top down”, the leaders make themselves responsible for correcting these problems. I realize that Mr. Meredith and other leaders in these organizations really are concerned about how the brethren feel. But the leaders need to develop the faith to trust that God will bless them for making a sound judgment. If they have kept a bad minister or taught a wrong doctrine, admitting the error will cause difficulty. But that difficulty will be less than that caused by hiding the error until it becomes evident on its own.

These leaders also need to think about what they promise to their people. If leaders tell members that their church organization is the only one they should look to for Bible truth, are they not taking responsibility for all of the truth that their members might learn elsewhere, but do not? If leaders tell members that they will have a supernatural revelation when it is time to flee to a “place of safety” before the tribulation, are they not making themselves responsible for the suffering of the members if such a revelation never comes? Should the members trust that their leaders will have such a revelation if God has apparently never give them any revelations about who should be on the board or who should be a minister?

For More Information

Living Church of God; PO Box 501304; San Diego, CA 92150; 858-673-7470; www.livingcog.org

Church of God, a Christian Fellowship; PO Box 161698; Fort Worth, Texas 76161; 877-846-2072; www.newworldahead.org

Restored Church of God; PO Box 23295; Wadsworth, OH 44282; 330-334-2266; www.herbertarmstrong.org

The Global Church of God is now defunct.

God works with many different people in many different ways. When I left the WCG, I did not know how to conduct a Sabbath service on my own. I thought I needed an “ordained minister” to do many of the things that the Bible simply tells believers to do. I believe that the Eternal still works with people in all of these groups. Some people feel a minister must “tell them what to do”, so they tend to seek out these groups. May the groups teach them to grow!

But like a nursery with aging children, I believe the function of these groups is becoming less and less necessary. Most of them are shrinking in size. The number of independent Sabbatarian groups, and the number of church organizations that are willing to work with other Sabbatarian groups is growing. It is nice to see that the Living Church of God and the Church of God, A Christian Fellowship do not have titles that make them sound like the one true church of God on earth (such as “Worldwide”, “Global”, “International”, etc). I would not encourage these groups to immediately disband, but to stop penalizing their members for associating with Christians in other groups and to actually encourage joint activities between groups. If they continue to produce services, broadcasts, booklets and whatever else Christ wants them to produce, they can be confident that He will keep the required members in their organizations and the required money coming in to do it. It is a lack of faith in their own mission and teaching to think that they must keep their members from fellowshipping with other Sabbatarians lest they lose them.

—Norman Edwards

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