A brother sent this to me recently and I felt it was worth thinking about:
Recently, a lot of current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses have increased their calls for reform in the governing body of it’s Watchtower and Tract corporations. Many are unsure where these efforts may be headed. Yet there are intriguing parallels to another incorporated religious body; that to outsiders looks like a sister faith to WT’s beliefs. It’s The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert Armstrong!
What that religious group experienced could possibly be a foretelling of some events to soon overtake the Jehovah’s Witness community. As you read through, note how much this sounds like the WT’s history: Armstrong had been successful in the advertising business and stated: “It was a training such as one could never receive in any university or theological seminary.” His long solitary studies in the scriptures (not the Bible Student’s book) gave him the idea that “legalism” was it’s interpretation. Herbert also read Seventh Day Adventist literature, circulated “The Plain Truth” magazine, ran “The World Tomorrow” TV program, and founded “The Ambassador College.” Years later; Armstrong’s son Garner Ted Armstrong, took over the Church. Where-as his father spoke with the authority of “Elijah”, Garner became known for several accounts of sexual misconduct. The Worldwide Church of God disfellowshipped him, and reformed some of it’s cult like beliefs. Today; religious factions based on his teachings, amount to 90% out of a hundred that were formed. Those dedicated to it’s founder, Herbert W. Armstrong formed about fifty splinter groups at that time. Soon there after; Armstrong’s son organized and lead many of these dedicated groups, now know as the International Church of God. This cultic community was setting on top of the world before the reform; after it, their only at half the congregates. As for those dedicated to the Armstrong’s; the son had to step down twice, and are reduced to cable programs in North America. If you noticed many similarities to the splinter groups of Russell and Rutherford’s day, then no doubt the WT&BTS is in fear of the same! Splits are bad for all parties; but for victims of cultic abuse, it’s a major advent for change. It will create a better church, many of them and allot of confusion for the faithful. They will have more options and be freer. Yet these babbling groups will still be parts of false religion, all be it even more confused then ever!” -AwareBeing
These excellent and insightful thoughts  got me to thinking and doing research into Herbert Armstrong [2a] and this topic in general. The more I looked into it, the more parallels I found with our plight and with the Watchtower Organization. I recall seeing a Plain Truth magazine [2b] left in a laundromat one day when doing early morning witnessing years ago- it looked extremely similar to the WT and Awakes I was replacing it with. There was not a doubt in my mind that they “borrowed” liberally from the official journals of the Society. And why not? They are very well done and professionally presented. The graphic design and photography is top notch.
But the point of all this is that The Worldwide Church of God emulated a successful religious publishing corporation, and for a time had some limited success. The story of course today is quite different. That organization is a shadow of it’s past membership and is fragmented and has morphed into something very similar to most other Protestant movements, and is now called Grace Communion International. I found this information written by Randy Watters on his excellent freeminds.org website about this movement :
Herbert W. Armstrong shared many similar doctrines with Jehovah’s Witnesses when he began his ministry in the 40s. No hell, Jesus is not God, the message of the gospel is not about Jesus or about “grace” but about obedience to God’s laws, and that his job was to spread the “gospel” to the world. He even taught that Christ would return in 1975! And no, he was never a Jehovah’s Witness nor did he study with them.
In 1947 he founded “Ambassador College” in Pasadena, Calif. with four members. By 1955 he began his work of spreading his “gospel” via radio with a program called “The World Tomorrow,” and had followers in 60 countries. His “Plain Truth” magazine had a huge circulation of 8 million copies per issue. “When this message has gone around the world, THEN the end will come,” say Armstrong. His church grew to 150,000 followers at its peak. Before he died in 1986, he appointed Joseph W. Tkach as his successor. In 1995 Tkach Sr. died and was succeeded by his son Joseph Tkach Jr.
But in a scenario similar to Raymond Franz and a small group of writers at the Watchtower headquarters in 1979, Joseph’s son, Joseph Tkach Jr., along with a few other staff members, began to understand the true message of the New Testament; the true New Testament gospel – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the subsequent reign of grace that replaced the Old Testament Law. That meant no more sabbath observance, no more tithing, and no more festivals. In other words, they were no longer to be controlled by the sticklers of salvation by following laws.
WHAT IF Joseph Jr. had not convinced his father of what errors they must abandon – the false prophecies and teachings of their original leader, Herbert W. Armstrong? Most likely it would have turned out like it did at the Watchtower headquarters in 1979-1980 with the expulsion of all who disagree with Armstrong’s teachings.
But amazingly, much of the core leadership embraced a more orthodox understanding of the Bible. This COULD have happened at Brooklyn Bethel, but it did not. The old men in control were too powerful and railroaded out anyone who questioned the teachings of the Watchtower organization out with their ten “loyalty” questions.
Nevertheless, the WCG splintered, as many chose to remain followers of Armstrong. And much like the Bible Students that followed Charles Taze Russell splintered into many sub-sects, the same happened with over half of the WCG members. They had to quit the radio, The Plain Truth magazine, and sell Ambassador College because funding dropped off severely.
So we see their problem and what happens when you “put your trust in nobles” as Psalms 146:3, 4 says. What about the folks that followed Armstrong? How did they fair? What did they learn?  We may never know, but our Heavenly Father does care for them and he and his Son love these sheep that have done been skinned and tossed about. What have some NOT learned from this cautionary tale? Apparently some still doggedly press on, revering H.W. Armstrong and sticking to his teachings as best they can.  This is their conscience and their choice of course. All we can do is take this story in and use it for our own edification. If we cannot learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.
The successor to Armstrong, Joseph Tkach, Jr., made sweeping changes, perhaps more so than any other leader of a large-scale church movement in history. In part he said :
Our flawed doctrinal understanding clouded the plain gospel of Jesus Christ and led to a variety of wrong conclusions and unscriptural practices. We have much to repent of and apologize for. We were judgmental and self-righteous—condemning other Christians, calling them “so-called Christians” and labeling them “deceived” and “instruments of Satan.”
We imposed on our members a works-oriented approach to Christian living. We required adherence to burdensome regulations of the Old Testament code. We exercised a strongly legalistic approach to church government. Our former old covenant approach fostered attitudes of exclusivism and superiority rather than the new covenant teaching of brotherhood and unity. We overemphasized predictive prophecy and prophetic speculation, minimizing the true gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. We’ve been wrong.
No matter what we may personally think about their beliefs and their movement, this Christian man  appears to have shown great bravery in saying these words. Will the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses ever show such courage and humility? Could they ever dare speak such words? Many of us would answer this question instinctively and quickly, in the negative. But stranger things have happened in this world- and stranger things could still happen…
SOURCES AND REFERENCES:
…Just before Mr. Herbert Armstrong died, he chose Joseph Tkach, Sr. to succeed him as Pastor General of God’s Church. Since, as Mr. Herbert Armstrong stated in his last book, Mystery of the Ages, he had completed his commission of taking the true gospel of Christ’s coming kingdom to the nations, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong instructed Mr. Joseph Tkach to prepare the Church for Christ’s imminent return. Mr. Tkach started out on the right track by reminding God’s people that “we are family.” Later, with the introduction of the Trinity doctrine, he was to deny that indeed God (Elohim) is a family. Changes to Mr. Herbert Armstrong’s healing booklet and the introduction of false doctrine in the form of the nature of God, being born again at baptism, and the Trinity, soon had God’s people heading back into the world, instead of coming out of it as commanded (II Cor. 6:16-18). The door was closing on the Philadelphia era and the transition into the final Laodicean era had begun.
From 1989 to 1995, various ministers broke away from the Worldwide Church of God, to establish their own organizations, with the intent supposedly of holding fast to the doctrines Mr. Herbert Armstrong had established in the Church for over fifty years. As time passed, in fact, these groups have succeeded in distancing themselves from many of his teachings. They refuse to accept his word that the taking of the gospel to the world as a witness and warning is complete. Today their concept of taking the gospel to the world more closely resembles the Protestant view of saving humanity. Many have repudiated government from the top down in the Church, to some form of democracy, or no government administered by ministers. Most show little or no respect for Mr. Herbert Armstrong personally and are not prepared to admit that he was the Elijah sent before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, who would restore all things.
Few people today realize that we are now in the final era, the lukewarm Laodicean era of the true Church. An era of people so vile in Christ’s view, that He states in Revelation 3, He is about to vomit them out of His mouth into the terrible tribulation. The majority are mistaken in viewing the era we now live in as the Philadelphia era, with an open door to take the gospel to the world. This is most dangerous, because it puts those who believe this in a time warp unprepared and without any sense of urgency. The reality is that time is short and instead of examining themselves for any vestiges of Laodiceanism, they complacently think that the Worldwide Church of God is now the Laodicean Church. The Worldwide Church of God is wrongly named today, for it is nothing more than a tiny Protestant denomination. God is not in it and Christ is not head of it! However, Laodiceanism is alive and well among those who think they stand because they believe they are still “doing the work.” As a result of this delusion, most are not examining themselves with the intent of routing out Laodiceanism which Christ hates. Soon their leaders will have to bear much of the responsibility for this. They have forgotten, or perhaps never took seriously Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s warning that there was too much Protestantism in the Church.
Danger of Hierarchical Structure. A first lesson to be learned from the experience of the WCG is that there is great danger in a hierarchical form of church government in which the decision-making process rests in the hands of a few administrators. Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach exercised almost pontifical authority in the WCG. A small administrative cabinet advised him, but ultimately he dictated what ministers ought to preach and what members ought to practice. Such an autocratic form of church government does not allow for any meaningful participation by the laity and clergy in the government of the church, and it rejects any type of dissent.
Several former ministers of the WCG informed me that they repeatedly requested Mr. Tkach to convene a ministerial council to discuss the doctrinal changes, but their request was rejected. Such autocratic policy can only alienate members and undermine the leadership’s credibility. The strength of a church organization is measured by the degree of consensus and conviction among its members. These cannot be dictated from the top down; they must grow from the bottom up through involvement in the decision-making process.
…The Worldwide Church of God [now named Grace Communion International]…has changed its position on numerous long-held beliefs and practices during the past few years. At the heart of those changes has been an acceptance that salvation is by grace through faith…For decades we regarded scrupulous adherence to the law as the basis of our righteousness. We attempted to relate to God through old covenant rules and regulations in our fervent desire to please him.
At the same time, we are acutely aware of the heavy legacy of our past…It is my painful responsibility to acknowledge that the Worldwide Church of God has been among the offenders…Our flawed doctrinal understanding clouded the plain gospel of Jesus Christ and led to a variety of wrong conclusions and unscriptural practices. We have much to repent of and apologize for. We were judgmental and self-righteous—condemning other Christians, calling them “so-called Christians” and labeling them “deceived” and “instruments of Satan.”
We imposed on our members a works-oriented approach to Christian living. We required adherence to burdensome regulations of the Old Testament code. We exercised a strongly legalistic approach to church government. Our former old covenant approach fostered attitudes of exclusivism and superiority rather than the new covenant teaching of brotherhood and unity. We overemphasized predictive prophecy and prophetic speculation, minimizing the true gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ.
We’ve been wrong. There was never an intent to mislead anyone. We were so focused on what we believed we were doing for God that we didn’t recognize the spiritual path we were on. Intended or not, that path was not the biblical one. As we look back, we ask ourselves how we could have been so wrong. Our hearts go out to all whom our teachings have misled in the Scriptures. We don’t minimize your spiritual disorientation and confusion. We earnestly desire your understanding and forgiveness. We recognize that the depth of alienation can make reconciliation difficult….We make no attempt to cover up the doctrinal and scriptural errors of our past. It is not our intention to merely paper over the cracks. We are looking our history squarely in the face and confronting the faults and sins we find. They will always remain a part of our history, serving as a perpetual reminder of the dangers of legalism…