Armstrong, Herbert W.

   founder of the Worldwide Church of God
   Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, developed a variant form of Adventist teachings that became quite popular internationally in the last decades of his life. While the church survived his death, it abandoned many of his ideas.
   Armstrong was born on July 31, 1892, in Des Moines, iowa, and raised as a Quaker. After dropping out of high school, he went through a series of job changes and a business failure. With his wife, Loma Dillion, he moved to oregon, where Dillon began to study the Bible and became convinced that Saturday was the true Sabbath (a position known as Sabbatarianism). Armstrong himself began to change his opinion on a spectrum of issues from baptism to evolution. The end result was his ordination as a minister in a small Sabbatarian church, the Oregon Conference of the Church of God, in 1931.
   The most important idea
   Armstrong accepted at this time was British Israelism, which held that the Anglo-Saxon people were the modern descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of israel (those israelites who had been taken captive by the Assyrians in the eighth century b.c.e.), and that the Anglo-Saxon people were the real recipients of God's promises to the Israelites, not the modern-day Jews. British Israelism had gained a following through the English-speaking world in the 19th century, but Armstrong became its major 20th-century advocate.
   In 1934, Armstrong began a broadcast ministry on an oregon radio station. Following World War II, he moved to Pasadena, California, where the ministry blossomed. His following, known as the Radio Church of God, in 1968 became the Worldwide Church of God. He founded Ambassador College to train ministers and developed an international following. Congregations arose in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Caribbean.
   Armstrong's son Garner Ted Armstrong (1930-2003) played a major role in developing the church; a charismatic speaker, he became one of the most familiar faces on television prior to his fall from grace due to illicit sexual affairs. The younger Armstrong founded his own rival group, the Church of God International.
   Armstrong faced a number of controversies in the years after his son left. In 1979, his church was placed in receivership for a short period. Following his death on January 16, 1986, the relatively unknown Joseph W. Tkach Sr. (1927-95) was appointed to succeed him as Pastor General.
   Under Tkach, who was himself succeeded by his son, Joseph W Tkach Jr. (b. 1951), the Worldwide Church of God repudiated all of Armstrong's teachings on British Israelism, tithing, the Sabbath, and others issues. By the mid-1990s, the church had moved to an orthodox Evangelical Protestant theology, and by the end of the decade had been admitted as a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, whose members had previously condemned the church as a cult. In the process, a significant number of members withdrew, the majority realigning in three new church bodies, the Living Church of God, the United Church of God, and the Philadelphia Church of God.
   Further reading:
   ■ Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography, 2 vols. (Pasadena, Calif.: Worldwide Church of God, 1986, 1987);, The United States and Britain in Prophecy (Pasadena, Calif.: Worldwide Church of God, 1980)
   ■ J. Michael Feazell, The Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001)
   ■ George Mather and Larry Nichol, Rediscovering the Plain Truth (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997)
   ■ Joseph Tkach, Jr., Transformed by Truth (Sisters, ore.: Multnomah Books, 1997).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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