The founder of this movement is Herbert W. Armstrong
, a former sales and advertising executive, who says that just as Jesus
chose the highly-educated Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles, so God has chosen him to spread the gospel in the last days.
Herbert W. Armstrong
When he was a teenager, Herbert W. Armsrong said he wanted to be rich, famous and learned. By the time he was 40, he had failed with three business ventures.
Armstrong, born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1892, was not much more successful with religion after his 'conversion' in 1927 through his wife.
After some earlier links with the Quakers and Methodism he became an ordained minister in the Church of God (Seventh Day). However, he was asked to leave because of his sensational writings on prophecy and his criticism of other ministers.
When he reached 41, he started his own denomination. He started giving lectures on the biblical formula for success and prosperity, which he himself was beginning to enjoy.
He started broadcasting from a local radio station and printing a paper to give to interested listeners. His movement expanded rapidly and in 1968 the Radio Church of God became the Worldwide Church of God. At his peak in 1973, 3.2 million copies of The Plain Truth were distribuited, and The World Tomorrow was broadcast on more than 400 radio and TV stations. Later, Quest magazine was distributed in America and Great Britain. With glossy production and its aim of 'the pursuit of excellence' it has reached many readers.
So what happened?
Since that peak, controversies have hit the Worldwide Church of God. In 1972, the founder's son and heir Garner Ted Armstrong, was relieved of his dutires with the radio and as vice-president of the organization and vice-chancellor of the three-college campus. He was sent on indefinate leave of absence 'for purely personal reasons'. He came back four months later but only to his radio work. There began to be rumours of sexual misdemeanours.
In February 1974 six ministers left the church over Garner Armstrong's alleged sexual misconduct. In total, 29 ministers and 2,000 members joined a rival church, The Associated Church of God. Garner has now left the church. There have since been further splits.
In 1977, a 92-page expose, which had taken two years to prepare, was published by six ex-students of the Ambassador College. The compaints against against the Worldwide Church of God included financial irregularities, exploitation of members, opulence and falce prophecies. (Armstrong prophesied three dates for the return of Christ to earth, all of which have passed). This sent the movement underground, and very little has been heard of them since the early-80s.