[L. Wayne Pyle worked in the area of media planning and promotion for the Worldwide Church of God for many years, and then worked for the Global Church of God beginning 1995.]
San Diego, California
May 14, 2000
You have invaded my personal privacy. I never wrote you, or solicited anything from you. How did you get my address?
Response: From a relative of yours who thought you might have been interested. I did not think that sending a letter would be considered an invasion.
Letter: You have an attitude that shouts off the page. Your lack of faith in what Jesus Christ is doing is pitiful. Your disrespect to and for Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is patently obvious and shameful. You ought to know better.
Response: If Christ has shown me truth through the Bible that is contrary to the teachings of Herbert Armstrong, then I must follow it and teach it, even if it requires going through Herbert Armstrong’s writing line by line and showing where it is inconsistent or contrary to Scripture.
On the other hand, I have greater faith than ever in what Christ has done over the centuries—taking the words of His Apostles and causing them to be written, copied, translated and distributed to every nation on earth. Christ accomplished this mission primarily through people who held doctrines different than yours and mine. There have also been numerous people who have expounded the truth of the Bible in various ways, and those who have done good works in the name of Christ. Herbert Armstrong’s organization was one, but Christ has done much more than that.
Letter: When we were at Worldwide, I was impressed by you and your brother. I thought the two of you were an excellent addition to the Work—a great help to many of us [both worked in the Computer Dept.]. During the WCG apostasy, I was delighted to see you go with Global and use your expertise in the computer department to help Global get started. But then you quit. As far as I can see, you forsook the Body of Jesus Christ. The beloved Apostle John declares: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1Jn 2:19). We are judged by our fruits, and what I have seen from you in the past several years is not good.
Response: I enjoyed the 18 years that I worked for the WCG. Most of that time, I thought it was “God’s work on earth” and I put my heart into designing the best computer systems I could—thinking that they might be used till the Millennium and beyond. I am glad that I did the best that I could with what I knew at the time.
I cannot see how leaving the Global Church of God, a human church organization, means that I “forsook the Body of Jesus Christ.” After all, Rod Meredith left the GCG when he had difficulties with the men who lawfully gained control of it.
Letter: I don’t know why you left. I worked closely with Dr. Roderick C. Meredith for four years from 1995 through 1998. I was able to observe him in all manner of situations. I find him to be a true man of God. A true servant. A man of the utmost spiritual integrity. A man whom Mr. Armstrong himself personally trained over many years and decades. Dr. Meredith spent thousands of productive and provocative hours with Mr. Armstrong—personal hours—quality hours. A man whom Mr. Armstrong personally ordained as an Evangelist, and whom he appointed as the Second Vice President of the Work of the Living God—second only to Garner Ted Armstrong—for many years.
Yet, Dr. Meredith is not perfect. He makes mistakes, but not flagrant ones outside of God’s Law. I’m saying he is not committing adultery, not a drunkard, not abusing his office in the ministry, etc., etc. He truly fulfills the ministerial qualifications I read in 1Timothy 3, and I have consistently seen God working in him through the Holy Spirit. He has good fruits, but he is the first to say he is not perfect.
Response: I agree that Dr. Meredith has a personally clean reputation and has worked diligently all of his life to “do the Work” as he understands it. I stopped working for Dr. Meredith because I was not free to openly talk about the things that I was studying in the Bible—I was supposed to represent the headquarters view.
I was later disfellowshipped from the Global Church of God because unnamed people had read my writing How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? and left the GCG because of it. My difficulty with Dr. Meredith is that after all the years of “training” that you mention, and after claiming to be the head of the church that Christ is using, he is not able to openly answer doctrinal questions as Christ and His apostles did. He may say that he does not have enough time, but there are probably hundreds of people who have left the GCG and the LCG over the issues in my writings.
Would not it be worth a day or two to prepare and record an open debate so that his members could see both sides of the issue and know that he was right? Of course, I believe that the Bible does not support his view and that the real reason most of the Church of God leaders will not answer doctrinal questions in an open forum is because they know they would have a lot of trouble. But I suppose they learned that well from Herbert Armstrong—he stopped answering open questions in the 1960s. It is much easier to look like one has the answer to everything when you can control the questions.
Letter: You, Norm, do not seem to believe that Jesus Christ did indeed clean up His Church—the Worldwide Church of God—from the top down. Is your memory so short that you’ve forgotten who died the horrible death—40 weeks exactly from the day he spoke against God’s holy Sabbath? I have no doubt that Jesus cleaned up His Church, and is still in the process, although I don’t think there is much more to do as far as the Worldwide Church is concerned. It is obvious to many of us that the “of God” is no longer any part of the Worldwide Church organization.
Response: This paragraph illustrates the very problems I raised in my letter—organizations can no longer consistently define what “the Church” is. You said that I “forsook the Body of Christ” (“the Church”, Eph 5:23), by stopping to work for the GCG in December 1994. Yet, you say that Christ “did indeed clean up His Church—the Worldwide Church of God—from the top down” by the death of Mr. Tkach, Sr. in September of 1995.
Which was the body of Christ, the GCG, the WCG or both? And if both, then can we also include the UCG-IA, the PCG, and numerous other groups? How about the Church of God Seventh Day, or some African or Chinese Sabbatarians?
Furthermore, God replaced Joe Tkach, Sr. with Joe, Jr. How did that “clean up the WCG”? The doctrinal changes just kept coming. Did either of the Tkaches—the men at the top—ever tell their members to go to the LCG where the truth was? Did not the members decide to do this from their own study?
Letter: I believe Jesus Christ personally selected Joseph Tkach to succeed Mr. Armstrong, but the selection was not based on any innate good qualities in Mr. Tkach—far from it. Rather, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ selected Mr. Tkach to clean up and clean out His Church! It was the best way at that time for Jesus Christ to see who was really following Him. Jesus knew all along how sick we were as a church. I do not believe this process could have been accomplished under the leadership of a truly converted man—a man loyal and faithful to Jesus Christ and true Christianity.
Response: So what you are saying is that with over 30 years of God’s government, with His hand-picked leader clearly in charge, with every member who openly opposed HWA being disfellowshipped, the WCG became full of people who were not following God. The human hierarchy was unable to tell which people truly followed God and who were just doing whatever their human leaders required of them. But by putting in a bad leader, God was able to see who was willing to obey Him, rather than the human leader. I agree with this.
Numerous Bible passages indicate that most leaders are bad and that God tries each person to see what they will do in varying circumstances. When I saw the doctrinal changes implemented by Joseph Tkach, Sr., I began to study my Bible like never before. I saw that many were wrong. But I also realized that when I came into the WCG, I studied many doctrines such as the Sabbath, Holy Days, Clean Meats and others in detail, but then later accepted many other doctrines based upon “Church Government” and did not study them very thoroughly. So, I have continued to study.
People learn more when they are directly responsible to God than when they are simply responsible for obeying a human religious system. I have learned that lesson both from the Bible and from my own life. As the years go by, and the CoG hierarchies continue to break up, I am sure that most of the other brethren will learn that lesson, too.
Letter: God spared Mr. Armstrong from the heartbreak of seeing so many fail in faith and becoming spiritually shipwrecked. Remember how Mr. Armstrong often questioned the conversion of church members? He would shake his jowls and exclaim words to the effect: “Brethren, I don’t think half of you are converted.” To me, hindsight has proven Mr. Armstrong’s feelings about the Church’s condition to be stunningly correct.
Response: I remember Mr. Armstrong saying that. He would say it in his many sermons about the two trees—how God’s way was give and Satan’s way was get. I know many members who gave much to the WCG most of their lives, cooking their own meals in cheap apartments and buying their family’s clothes in secondhand stores. Herbert Armstrong, by his own admission, wore the best suits, ate in the best restaurants and stayed in the best places. HWA said these things were necessary to command the respect of kings, but John the Baptist found them unnecessary (Mark 1:6; 6:20). Who learned the lesson of “get and give”?
Letter: You, Norm, insultingly insinuate that we in the Living Church of God are “attempting to continue the work of Herbert Armstrong.” We are not “attempting” to do it. We are doing the work of the living God. Mr. Armstrong himself would burn your ears for claiming it was “his work”. Mr. Armstrong always credited the Work to God in Heaven—never to himself. Did you have selective hearing in Mr. Armstrong’s time? Regardless, you, and anyone with you, sadly lack Godly faith.
Response: I realize that Herbert Armstrong frequently credited God for the “Work”. But as Paul’s letters are Christ’s work through Paul, so the WCG was Christ’s work through Herbert Armstrong. The big mistake is that where Paul acknowleged that God worked through other apostles and teachers, HWA claimed that all of Christ’s work on earth, both spiritual and physical, was through Him (see organization chart published in the March 6 Worldwide News, reprinted on page 26, Nov 1998 Servants’ News). The Dec 1998 Servants’ News contains an article about 26 groups that taught the Sabbath, Holy Days and/or clean meats, most of which did not learn any truth about Herbert Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong certainly knew that there were many Holy Day keepers among the 200,000+ members of the Church of God Seventh Day groups. But he virtually never publicly acknowledged that God might be doing a work outside his organization.
It can also be called “Mr. Armstrong’s work” in that he tolerated only people who were at the same level of understanding as he. When Mr. Armstrong kept a Monday Pentecost, he disfellowshipped Sunday Pentecost people. When he switched to Sunday Pentecost, he disfellowshipped those who continued to keep it on Monday. Obviously, HWA was not claiming that God rejects a person for keeping the wrong day—because, whichever is right, he kept the wrong day at some point.
The issue is that HWA would not tolerate a member who was either ahead or behind HWA in their understanding. Understanding the truth a few years early, or taking a few years to understand the new teaching would have gotten most people disfellowshipped. This kind of thing happened with many other issues. It is little wonder that so many WCG members simply followed their headquarters when doctrines began to change.
Letter: If you think God should put a banner of His Church, think again. He is not doing so for a great reason. It is called faith, which you and many others seem to have lost sight of. It is clear to me that if God did put a banner over the Church, many would jump on board quickly but would not have true, abiding faith—the faith God wants and absolutely requires. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Response: I completely agree with you that God is not granting great signs and wonders to a specific group because He wants people to think and learn rather than to just “go where God seems to be working”. I think He deliberately allowed multiple small splits to occur in the WCG that people would not simply all go with the largest one and start a new WCG. I think God wants people to think beyond “which church organization to join”, but to see that there are no church organizations at all in the Bible. Having done both, I think it takes far more faith to live and teach a Christian life not being a part of a “church organization” than it does to be a member of a typical CoG hierarchy.
You have questioned my faith several times in this letter, but what do you think takes more faith for a man with a family of six? To work for a $50,000 salary plus benefits for the GCG, a church of thousands that took in millions per year? Or to start an independent newsletter, not teaching that people must tithe to me, not having anyone pledge to support me, not even taking up collections in services?
Letter: What will you do when I tell you that the Living Church of God is presently experiencing double-digit growth? We started this new phase of the Church of God less than 18 months ago. Did you ever know at Worldwide how long it took for people to come to baptism? Back in the 1950s it took an average of nine years! This is from the time they were added to the mailing list to the time they were baptized. The reason for this is that there were very few ministers and churches in those days. In later years, at our peak under Mr. Armstrong’s leadership, the average was about three years.
Response: I am happy to hear that you were growing and serving new people, though I would guess that most of this growth is people who were still coming from the GCG or other groups. But if you are reaching new people, I praise God for it. I have talked to a number of people in independent congregations who got interested from GCG or LCG, UCG and PCG broadcasts, but then left those groups because, in their view, they all “taught the same thing”, yet each claimed to be the “true Church” and they could not get along with each other. This is the very issue I hoped to address in this letter.
Letter: Mr. Armstrong spoke considerably and devoted reams of publications about God’s government, yet all of that seems to have gone way over your head. Never, ever will God abdicate His rule as the supreme God Almighty, and His rule from the top down. God always, always rules from the top down. You nor anyone else will ever rule over Him or Jesus Christ. Lucifer thought he could. Do you? The core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about government—God’s holy, righteous government, and yes, from the top down. If you think the Church ought to be ruled from the bottom up, you are in opposition to the government of God.
Response: Mr. Armstrong spoke about government a lot in his sermons, and wrote a lot of short articles on the subject, but never wrote one booklet devoted to the scriptures on the subject.
He covered it some in the “Church” chapter of Mystery of the Ages, but the single longest thing I know about is his May 1974 Coworker Letter, which I have reprinted with a lot of related scriptures and comments. Mr. Armstrong’s 1939 Good News article, “Did Christ Reorganize the Church?”, uses more scriptures and accurately shows how the Church hierarchies came from the Catholic Church. My article, How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?, shows how the concept of “ordination” was written into the King James Bible and why some Bible translations rightly do not contain the word “ordain” or “ordination” at all!
Most of Mr. Armstrong’s later speaking and writing on church government consisted
mostly of frequently-repeated, dogmatic statements that are not found in the
Bible. He also accused people who advocate any kind of democracy or republican
government of trying to rule God. While humanism and Satanism do teach that
the individual is supreme, Mr. Armstrong seemed to be unaware that nearly all
Chrsitians who are opposed to human hierarchical government are not
opposed to God being at the top.
I am not opposed to God being in charge forever. (And even if I was, God would remain in charge anyway!) But I do not believe that the Scriptures teach that “God always works through one man” and that we are bound to accept one man’s understanding of Scripture no matter what.
For example, HWA said, over and over, exactly what you said: “the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about government”. But what did Christ say? “Jesus said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”’” (Matt 22:37–39). He also said: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). What is wrong with Jesus’ answers? If HWA was teaching the “core” of the Bible, why did he have to constantly repeat so many phrases that are not even found in most Bibles: “church government”, “church offices”, “hierarchical”, “top down”, “one-man rule”, etc.
I will not rewrite my government paper here, but the clear message of the Bible is that each individual’s obedience to God and learning to love his neighbor is the central message of the Bible, and that God has allowed men to use a great variety of means to work together and to provide justice when one offends another.
Letter: There is not one second of lapse with God. I think what may confuse you is all of the latitude and freedom that God gives each and everyone of us within His law and government. He gives us plenty of time and space to prove ourselves. Are we really willing to submit to Him and those whom He puts over us? Can God absolutely trust us in the farthest, most remote region of the universe forever and ever when we are changed into spirit beings? If we cannot trust Him implicitly now, which takes the faith of God through His Holy Spirit, how can He ever trust us? He will not allow any more satans to disrupt and destroy the universe.
Response: You speak of submitting to “those whom He puts over us”. How do I know whether God has put Joe Tkach, Rod Meredith, David Hulme, the UCG general conference or some other men “over me”? If I try to evaluate all of their teaching and see who has the most truth, am not I deciding, rather than God or them?
I agree that God is looking for people to rule with Christ in the first resurrection (Rev 20:4–5) and He wants those whom He can trust. For thousands of years, there have been millions of people who have unquestioningly followed political, military or religious leaders—even to the death. Following charismatic human leaders for good or evil has never been a rare thing on this planet. But when those leaders sometimes died unexpectedly, their followers were frequently scattered because they were simply following a man. When Mr. Tkach took over the WCG, the situation was little different. Hierarchy did not produce a lot of people dedicated to God in the same way.
I have met believers from hundreds of groups over the last few years, and the ones whom I would trust to follow God are those who have been independent believers for 30 years, keeping the Sabbath, Holy Days, and other laws of God and teaching them to their children and to others. Many have had to struggle with difficult personal situations along the way. They have not done this because there was a local minister there to say “do it or you won’t go to the place of safety with us”, but because they are truly filled with a love for God and a desire to obey Him.
Letter: You remind me of the virgins in Matthew 25:8–9: “And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answred, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them and sell, and buy for yourselves.” Yes, Norm, you have to spiritually buy into what the Church of God has. But it looks like you are not buying. You have gone out from us and are not part of us. But there is time for you to change this dangerous situation.
We in the Living Church of God do accept with open arms brethren from other Church of God groups, and non-Church-of-God groups, as long as they come in pease with godly humility; and there are a number of brethren who come and go from our services. We totally support the idea that ayone and everyone should hold up the Scriptures to prove we are the Church of God.
Norm, my wife asked me why am I writing this letter. She exclaimed, “You know it won’t do any good. He won’t change…” I think my wife is right, but this letter helps order my thoughts on the issues you raise. I hope for your sake, however, that you do change and repent before it is too late for you and your family. God is giving you time to do so, and He is very merciful.
Do not send me any more mail. Your letters are not welcome. I don’t care to see your foolish rationalizations and self-justifications. I say this to your shame. As far as me and my family are concerned, we will continue to do and support the Work of God and remain in God’s Church (Josh 24:15)
L. Wayne Pyle
Response: Wayne, I’ve known you for quite a while, and I can remember what it was like when I was in a church organization and when somebody else “left it”. I think I realize what you are feeling for me and that you and your wife want the best for me and my family and I thank you both for that. I realize that you do not want me to send you the answer to this letter, but since it is being published, you may eventually see it anyway.
I can also honestly say that I am familiar with the teachings of the WCG/LCG, as well as my own biblical studies of church government. I cannot, in good concience, go back to a hierarchical church organization and say, “I believe God is restoring His government through you—let me join you.” You, on the other hand, are apparently familiar with only the WCG/LCG teachings. I have had people from the various Church of God groups find some problems with my writings, but the major parts they simply have no good answer for. I have written many things to Mr. Meredith, and he has never attempted to answer me from the Scriptures. If you read my writings, there is a much better chance that we could help each other. Either you would be able to show me where I am wrong from the Bible, or you would agree that the Bible teaching on governance is different than you once thought.
I realize that the LCG and many of the other CoG groups teach their members not to read outside literature. But again I ask, who will be best able to keep following God in His Kingdom? Someone who has only read and heard the truth? Or someone who has read a variety of things, some true, some false, and who has been able to discern the truth from the error?
Galatians 6:1 states: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” God wants mature believers to help others. If you would like to read my writings and find error in my ways, I would be glad to be helped out of it.
— Norman Edwards
Diane Rhodes, wife of UCG-IA Minister
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