Church of God International & Garner Ted Armstrong

Take Separate Paths

Another major step has been taken in the sad story that began to "go public" in the latter months of 1995 when a Tyler, Texas masseuse captured over 40 sexual improprieties of Garner Ted Armstrong against herself on video tape. The masseuse, Suerae Robertson, sued Armstrong and the Church of God, International (CGI) for unspecified damages (see 1996 Servantsí News issues Jan p. 5, Feb p.2, & Mar/Apr p. 23 for details). The case is scheduled to go to trial in March 1998.

During the last months of 1997, the CGI Ministerial Council admitted to learning of additional past sexual improprieties on the part of Armstrong. It is the function of the CGI Ministerial Council to grant and revoke ministerial credentials for that organization.The Ministerial Council received information from a lawyer indicating that there is a possibility that they could be held liable if they took no action against Armstrong—especially since Armstrong represented himself as a minister of that organization and promised Robertson Godís forgiveness if she gave sexual favors to someone "doing such an important work of God." The CGI Ministerial Council unanimously approved a statement censuring Armstrong and asking the CGI Board of Directors to retire him, or they would remove his ministerial credentials.

The board required a two thirds majority to make such a decision, and was one vote short of doing so. Some of Armstrongís followers brought serious accusations against CGI officials—claiming they regularly used church offices and other facilities to run their own businesses. After several days of maneuvering, Armstrong decided to start over, forming a new Evangelistic Association. Its primary purpose will be to produce Garner Ted Armstrongís TV program—local congregations will be encouraged to operate on a completely local basis. The CGI plans to continue operations and has already begun a new television program without Armstrong. We have included portions of documents produced by each organization, below, so that you may read their own view of their future.

Editorís Commentary

For years, the CGI provided a place to fellowship for Sabbatarians who were thrust out of the Worldwide Church of God and knew of no place else to go. Today, Sabbath-keeping brethren have numerous places available for fellowship. Brethren remain within groups only if those groups are effectively preaching the gospel and/or serving the brethren. Historically, the CGI has been a mixture of people—some were largely interested in church congregations and administration, others were primarily enamored with the preaching of Garner Ted Armstrong.

There is no doubt that Armstrong is an incredibly gifted speaker. But the work of the Eternal is not only about gifts, it is about living His way. Repentance is not the issue—the Eternal can forgive any sin. But, He rarely removes the consequences of sin. For example, illegitimate children do not disappear when their parents are forgiven for committing adultery; Robinsonís suit against Armstrong did not disappear even though the Eternal may have forgiven Armstrong. The entire purpose for the qualifications for elders given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are about the reputation these men will have among others—repentance and forgiveness are not mentioned at all in these chapters. How many people have heard the message of the Bible preached, then given up on it when they found out that their preacher did not live by it?

We hope that Armstrong as well as the leaders of the CGI will repent of their past sins and publicly acknowledge those sins affecting the brethren whom they serve. We hope they will look at their own lives in the light of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and decide for themselves if they are qualified to continue serving as church leaders. "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged: (1Cor 11:31). Some of the writing below shows more enthusiasm than sober "coming to grips" with the problems. Our advice to others in how to deal with these organizations: Befriend the brethren in them—they did not cause leaders to sin. Take some time to weigh the fruits of the organizations and ask the Eternal to show you how you should participate.

—Norman S. Edwards

Return to the December Index