Gerald Flurry founded the Philadelphia Church of God in 1988 and claimed to be Herbert Armstrong’s successor. The PCG’s Philadelphia Trumpet is very similar in design, content and acronym to the old Plain Truth. Indeed, some Trumpet articles are slightly rewritten old WCG articles.
The Philadelphia Trumpet’s current circulation is 250,000. It continues to emphasize world events and prophecy. The world events articles are often well written and very informative. Many WCG-like groups would love to have a magazine like it. Nevertheless, in its 12 years of existence, it has failed to come remotely close to producing new members in the way that the old Plain Truth did. The reason is fairly obvious, but hard to see for those who are not looking:
People want a live prophet, not a dead one. Herbert Armstrong never claimed to be a prophet, but his writing and broadcasts claimed that he understood world events in the light of Bible prophecy. When he said “Russia would not attack America” or “the United States has won its last war”, many people regarded this as “truth from God”. People want a “prophet” when they do not have faith that the spirit of God in them will show them the future (John 16:13, Acts 2:17; 20:23).
Gerald Flurry has made a few attempts at prophesying world events, but they did not work out very well. His February 2000 Philadelphia Trumpet cover said “He Was Right! Remembering Five Decades of Accurate Forecasting by Herbert W. Armstrong.” Mr. Flurry knows that he could have just as well filled his magazine with 50 years of Mr. Armstrong’s prophetic error. Any person considering joining the PCG could easily search the Internet and find this out.
The PCG has had a number of groups split off and is now shrinking. Exact numbers are hard to find. Members who ask questions about the lack of growth are frequently disfellowshipped. The promise of “a place of safety” seems to keep many hanging on. What proof does anyone have that Gerald Flurry can deliver on that promise?
The United Church of God—an International Association started in 1995 to be like the WCG, but to improve upon its governance. It was started by elders who set out to produce a church government where one man could not take over, change doctrine and disfellowship all opposition even though the majority of elders opposed him. This plan actually worked! When the first UCG-IA president, David Hulme, began moving the organization back to one-man rule, the Council of Elders saw it happening and, in accordance with their constitutional authority, voted him out.
Beside giving the elders a voice in corporate policy and leadership, many felt that the members should have a voice in local policy and leadership. A number of the UCG-IA local congregations were run by local boards—not by the corporate ministry. Most of these local groups wanted to associate and work with the UCG-IA while making some changes to the running of their own local congregations. However, the UCG-IA “Church Administration” essentially told a number of these congregations to “follow corporate policy or leave”, and a lot of them left (Big Sandy, Birmingham, Bloomington (Ill), Boston, Detroit, Lansing, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Toledo, Waco, etc.)
In many ways, the UCG-IA has been a half-way house between the WCG’s central hierarchy and the independent congregations individually reporting to Christ. Brethren who left the WCG for the UCG-IA were usually able to keep many of their friends and continue similar religious practice, but at the same time realize that the one-man headquarters rule is not necessary. Realizing that one-man local rule is not necessary is the next logical step.
This writer believes the UCG-IA does good work by providing the Good News magazine, booklets, a correspondence course, a local television program, Feast sites, youth programs, etc. Find out more about this material from PO Box 541027; Cincinnati, OH 45254-1027; 513-576-9796.
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