Church of God, International (CGI) was initially founded by Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) after he was disfellowshiped from the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in 1978. This article will primarily discuss teachings of CGI that differ from those that WCG taught as of January 1986 and the Continuing Church of God (CCOG).
First, background information may be helpful. It is my understanding that the GTA supporters felt that there were a lot of problems at WCG and that GTA was on the correct side of the argument. Those who remained faithful to WCG felt that GTA had been properly disfellowshiped for problems, including alleged sexual improprieties. Approximately 2 decades later, GTA was involved in a publicly reported sexually-related scandal, and many left CGI to found the Church of God Outreach Ministries (CGOM) (Ron Dart, a high level CGI official, also left to found the Christian Educational Ministries). There were many who felt that GTA may have been falsely accused, and they remained in CGI. However, after reviewing a variety of evidence (including possibly a videotape), CGI's remaining leadership felt it had no choice but to disassociate itself from GTA. GTA then left and founded the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association and the Intercontinental Church of God.
CGI is now a much smaller group. From an impact standpoint, its biggest presence was in Jamaica. It does not maintain a presence in many countries and does not seem to be a highly effective or active COG.
CGI teaches many of the same doctrines as the other COGs. As a matter of fact, it appears to this author that many of the other small groups essentially edited CGI's statement of beliefs to call them their own. Here is a link to CGI's official statement of beliefs. CGI does have beliefs that differ from those who were once part of WCG do. This article will attempt to document some of them.
Although the COGs which remain faithful to the teachings of WCG prior to the apostasy, such as CCOG, teach against celebrating birthdays, CGI has a different view. "All enjoyed the birthday cake and meal after singing "Happy Birthday" and wishing him many more years." (Gobble, Norma. Fayetteville pastor turns 86. The International News, Vol 22, No. 1).
An article of related interest may be Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays?
This has been a hot topic in probably all the COGs. CGI has had its changes in this area as well. "The Board created the Executive Committee in 1995 as provided in the Constitution and Bylaws of the CGI. The Committee was to act in the place of a CEO and handle the day-to-day decisions implicit in the operation of the home office. That Committee is now dissolved. "We felt that the corporation needed one head to be able to do business like other corporations do in the world," said Board member James Throgmorton of Pocahontas, Arkansas...When asked why the Executive Committee did not request the Board's appointment of a CEO earlier, Mr. Stinson answered, "We felt that, until the dust settled following the horrendous scandal the church had to endure, it was best to leave the Executive Committee in place, but it was realized from the early days of the post-scandal situation that in time it would be best to appoint a CEO." The scandal, causing great controversy in 1995 and 1997, involved Garner Ted Armstrong, the church's CEO until his resignation from that position in 1995. He resigned from the church altogether in December of 1997. Mr. Stinson continued, "Given the fact that we have a CEO [Charles Groce] who does not take a unilateral approach in making decisions and resolving difficulties, but instead is well-known for soliciting input from his peers, I believe that having a CEO is best for the church" (Cary, Darren M. Board appoints CEO for CGI. The International News, Vol 22, No. 1).
An article of related interest may be The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government.
Then Chairman Charles Groce
The Journal reported the following:
W.W.: Charles, there seems to be
some confusion regarding your position
in the CGI. Some see you as the
president or top man. Are you the
president, vice president, pastor general
Mr. Groce: It is correct to say I am
presently chairman of the board of
directors, a position subject to reelection
every three years. We certainly do
not have a pastor general. (May 31, 2011)
CGI has written the following about changing doctrine, "Can a CEO of the CGI ever be empowered to change official church doctrine? "Oh no, absolutely not," replied Vance Stinson. "That requires input from all the ministry, and the voice of the brethren will not be ignored either, should something like that come up" " (Cary, Darren M. Board appoints CEO for CGI. The International News, Vol 22, No. 1).
CGI, like some other groups, does not teach the doctrine of third tithe.
"CGI believes that there is lack of clarity regarding biblical third tithe, thus it does not teach its members to pay third tithe. Garner Ted Armstrong rejected third tithe by the mid 1980s. But there is a principle to support the poor, which we feel we meet through the Social Security system, etc. We also provide for some assistance from the Church as we deem appropriate". (Stinson, Vance. CGI HQ, Telephone interview, 3/27/01).
Is CGI correct? Here is a link to the article titled Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today? which addresses biblical and historical aspects of third tithe.
Identity of the Children of Israel
WCG, prior to the apostacy, taught that the prophecies regarding the tribes of Israel included the modern descendants of Israel, especially the U.S. and the other British descended nations. CGI does not emphasize this like WCG used to (some ministers teach it, some teach against it).
Instead CGI teaches, "God's judgment on the "mountains of Israel" (6:3) pertains to the people dwelling in "the land," which would soon be made "more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblah" (6:14). This is clearly speaking of the promised land, or "land of Israel" (cf. 7:2,7,23). Notice that "mountains of Israel" is associated with "the land" that was about to be made desolate. This is speaking of a people dwelling in the land, not a people that had been deported many years earlier. In his visionary trip to Jerusalem, Ezekiel saw the "great abominations that the house of Israel commits" in the Temple (8:36). When Ezekiel, in a vision, saw the slaying of the wicked inhabitants of the city, he lamented, "Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?" (9:8). God's reply connects the "house of Israel and Judah" with "the land" in which the Temple stood (verse 9). If "Israel" were defined narrowly as the far-removed, "lost" tribes of the northern kingdom, such language is meaningless. " (Ezekiel's Timeless Message What Is the Real "Work of the Watchman"? CGI Home Page).
Here is a link to a free documented online book that comes to a different conclusion: Lost Tribes and Prophecies: What will happen to Australia, the British Isles, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and the United States of America?
WCG, prior to the apostacy, taught that the prophecies of the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3 regard successive eras of the Church throughout its history. CGI does not teach that.
CGI teaches, "If the seven churches represent seven church eras, then the burden of proof rests upon the shoulders of those who hold this theory. The book of Revelation itself does not present them as eras, and gives us a good reason for believing that they are not." (The Q&A Book, Church of God, International).
CGI has taught, "What about the concept of "church eras"? Did God forordain that His church would pass through specific, different, "eras", or "phases" throughout history...There are some grave difficulties with this view...For many years I myself believed this concept...There are only seven churches. Therefore, by written, oral and tacit admission, the "era" theory presupposes that each era supersedes the other...WHY should more than one third of the number be presupposed to extant contemporaneously in the last days? (Armstrong, Garner Ted. Where is Your "Place of Safety". CGI Booklet, 1985, p.3).
I will attempt to answer the last question raised. The reason is that there are only "a few names" (Revelation 3:4) in Sardis, not an entire era of the Church extant at the end. Regarding Philadelphia, only those who "Hold fast what you have" who will be around when Jesus returns (vs. 11). For additional information, you may wish to read What is a True Philadelphian?
Another article of related interest may be The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 which discusses "Church eras."
Place of Safety
WCG used to teach about going to a place of safety (some other once part of WCG still do. My article on Petra also discusses this subject). CGI teaches against that concept.
CGI has taught, "During many, many years it was supposed that those who are taken to a "place of safety" are those who are WORTHY (Luke 21:36), while those who are left behind are obviously UNWORTHY, and must suffer the pangs of torment, torture and martyrdom in order to cleanse and purify there minds and hearts through physical torture...Is THIS SCENARIO TRUE? First, take a look at what this doctrine presupposes. It assumes that at least THREE of the so-called "eras" are extant now!...Fot years, many ministers have taught FALSELY that the Almighty God will use physical punishment; the GREAT TRIBULATION, martrydom and torture before death as the final means of expiating guilt; the final manner in which God will cleanse unrighteousness, and bring about brokenhearted REPENTANCE in recalcitrant, unyielding or "Laodicean" (lukewarm) people!...IF God has determined you are one He must supernaturally PROTECT from the terrible times ahead--and He knows your strengths and weaknesses--THEN HE WILL PROTECT YOU! It does NOT MATTER HOW OR WHERE! (Armstrong, Garner Ted. Where is Your "Place of Safety". CGI Booklet, 1985, pp.3,5,11).
Sadly, CGI seems to have overlooked Revelation 12:17 and Daniel 7:25: "And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17), "He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand, For a time and times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25). Thus, John and Daniel both show that not all the saints will be protected.
An article of related interest may be There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra .
Herbert Armstrong, Not Elijah and Not an Apostle
"From the beginning, CGI has always rejected the notion that Herbert Armstrong was God's end-time apostle or a type of Elijah" (Cary, Darren. CGI HQ, Telephone interview, 3/16/01). "I suspect that most of the CGI membership do believe that Herbert W. Armstrong had a special ministry and was used of God. however many of us do not believe he was an apostle or the prophesied Elijah" (Stinson, Vance. CGI HQ, Telephone interview, 3/27/01).
A sermon of related interest might be Elijah, Herbert W. Armstrong, and CCOG.
No Future Elijah?
A June 2004 Armor of God Television Program by Charles Groce is titled "Who Is The End Time Elijah?". In it, he states that it bothers him that certain ministers take certain titles, who they are not. He says there are some individuals today who claim they are the prophesied Elijah. He states that the Bible makes it clear who the prophesied Elijah is; he also states that he is not the prophesied Elijah. He states that if anyone claims to be the prophesied Elijah to prepare the way for Christ's return, it simply is not true. He states that it is only prideful, arrogant individuals would make that claim. He claims that there is no scriptural evidence that anyone today will be that Elijah. John the Baptist was in fact the fulfillment of the Elijah prophesies in Malachi 3 & 4. And that John the Baptist was the end-time Elijah.
Let's briefly look at the Elijah issue. First, CGI is wrong on this as its telecast failed to mention what Jesus taught on this subject. Specifically CGI did not quote Matthew 17:11, "Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things"". The term translated "is coming first" is the Greek term erchomai and refers to something "which do not otherwise occur" and means "to come or go (in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively)"(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.). It needs to be understood that this COULD NOT refer to John the Baptist, because he was beheaded (Matthew 14:10) earlier than Jesus spoke this. Thus, Elijah must have a fulfillment beyond John the Baptist. While it is also true that Jesus said that John the Baptist was a type of Elijah, John could not in the future restore all things unless he was resurrected in the future
An article of related interest may be The Elijah Heresies.
"The CGI differs from Dr. Meredith in the matter of military service and war. Mr. James told The Journal that the CGI "has no policy" against members serving in the military" (Overton Mac. COG leaders react to terrorist attacks. The Journal. September 30, 2001). It should be noted that Bronson James was part of CGI's top management until his death in January 2023.
An article of related interest may be Military Service and the COGs.
Needs to Pay for Articles
The Summer 2010 edition of its International News had the following:
Are you considering writing for the International News? We welcome
you! Below are writers’ guidelines for your consideration.
· Pays $.03 (3 cents) per published word for articles and booklets
on biblical/theological topics.
· Accepts unsolicited manuscripts.
· Pays on publication.
· Does not pay for church reports, poetry, human-interest stories,
or personality profiles (items normally run in the International
· Buys all rights, including the right to reprint, in whole or in part,
in any format.
CGI is the first COG group I am aware of that actually apparently felt it needed to pay to get articles, other from its staff (maybe others do it, but I am unaware of any). CGI has not done well in the USA.
Prophecy: Jesus Did Not Teach Watching World Events
The Journal had the following:
Mr. Stinson: I certainly do watch
world events. I watch TV news and
read magazine and newspaper articles
on things going on in the world. I
think people ought to be informed on
what’s going on.
But let’s be clear on this. When
Jesus said watch ye therefore, He most
definitely did not mean to watch world
events. (May 31, 2011)
I would disagree with the above. Jesus said to watch in chapters such as Mark 13, and this was in the context of world events. Notice the following:
33 Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. 34 It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. 35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming — in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning — 36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" (Mark 13:33-37)
34 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36)
3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"... 15 "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand)...42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:3,14,42)
Jesus is indicating that most Christians would not sufficienly be watching, but that they should.
Internet and Public Proclamation of the Gospel
CGI has an internet presence, but not a particularly effective one.
How can that be determined?
Alexa is an independent internet source that looks at the overall popularity of websites based upon factors such as number of visits, repeat visits, amount of time spent at a website, amount of links clicked at the site, etc. Though some prefer not to believe its results, notice the following review of Alexa ratings:
Alexa Rank Checker is one of the most accurate and freely available tools to find out how well your site ranks up against millions of other sites on the Web. http://www.seomastering.com/alexa-rank-checker.php viewed 10/31/13
The lower the number of an Alexa rating the greater the impact. For example, google.com has an Alexa ranking of 1, meaning it is the most popular website in the world, and facebook.com has an Alexa ranking of 2, meaning that it is the second most popular website in the world according to Alexa (number 3 is YouTube.com). Lower ranking numbers are better than higher ones.
As of 02/09/14, the Alexa ranking of garnertedarmstrong.org is 1,601,099, which is not very good. This compares with an Alexa ranking of 921,041 for Continuing Church of God's ccog.org website and 99,315 for its cogwriter.com website. CCOG reaches many, many more people on the internet than CGI does.
The internet is an important tool to reach all people (Matthew 28:19-20) as Jesus said and to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witnes (Matthew 24:14). Because of some of its teachings and because CGI is not very popular on the internet, I do not believe that ICG is leading what I have termed the final phase of the work and that those most serious about being Philadelphia Christians and fulfilling Matthew 24:14 will support CCOG.
In Jamaica, CGI does public lectures which seem to be helpful. Similarly, CCOG does something like that in Kenya and seems to be similarly effective there.
CGI is on a few, mainly public access television stations according to its website. How effective this is was not clear, but it does show effort in public proclamation.
The Continuing Church of God is not on any television stations, yet its human founder regularly is on the radio as a guest, which allows CCOG to reach people of various backgrounds, and not primarily an audience with a religious focus. Additionally, however CCOG has two YouTube channels (Bible News Prophecy channel and ContinuingCOG channel) which tend to reach more of a religious audience.
There are probably a lot of relatively minor doctrinal points where CGI differs from the old WCG. However, since GTA's departure, its available literature has decreased, thus it is difficult to document many of those differences. It really has no significant gospel-proclaiming impact, other than in Jamaica.
CGI is simply a group out on its own.
Although it has been reported that "The doctrinal differences among the Churches of God are miniscule. You can't get a knifes edge between us on doctrines" (Dart, Ron. CEM Founder Talks About Bickering, Bridges, the Future. The Journal. July 31, 1999. p.6), this author does not believe that one can examine the teachings of groups, such as CGI, and come to that conclusion (nor apparently would Herbert Armstrong, for proof please check out some quotes from HWA on holding fast to doctrine). Here is a related article of possible interest: What is a True Philadelphian?
CGI is not leading the final phase of the work. Those most serious about being Philadelphia Christians and fulfilling Matthew 24:14 should support CCOG.
Laodicean Warning for God's People If you have read this far you are probably a current or former member of one of the Churches of God and may be interested in reading this warning article.
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