The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God.

"Daughter Of Babylon,
The True History of
The Worldwide Church of God"
by Bruce Renehan

Chapter 14

Contending For The Faith Once Delivered

Originally, Gilbert Cranmer believed that he had a divine commission to publish the "Third Angel's Message." He did this in his magazine, the Hope of Israel (later called the Bible Advocate). And, as we have seen, it had been an apocalyptic message calling for Sunday-keeping Christians to observe the "whole law of Moses"--which meant the seventh-day Sabbath.

Of course, the whole law of Moses was perceived by others, such as G. G. Rupert, differently. To Rupert it included the Hebrew holydays, Levitical tithing, abstaining from unclean meats and so on. Rupert also fell easy prey to a teaching that had been popular in his youth--British-Israelism. Rupert taught this openly and was not censured. He produced his own publication called the Remnant of Israel. So it would not be correct to believe that Rupert's teachings had not been introduced in some form throughout the entire membership of the Church of God (Seventh Day). But officially, headquarters in Stanberry, Missouri chose not to accept them.

On October 5, 1884 the church had held its first annual meeting and, according to chairperson John Branch, "It was voted that we organize a General Conference." Among officers elected were A. C. Long, president and A. F. Dugger, Sr., vice-president.

The purpose of creating the General Conference was stated in the church constitution: "To unite the different state conferences; to take a general oversight of the wants of the cause, and supply the same; to secure unity of action and belief, so that we may be of one mind and one spirit."

A minister such as Rupert was reasonably free to preach and publish what he wanted. If the General Conference did not accept the teachings, then it would not become official church dogma. The form of church government was democratic. So it should not be perceived that Gilbert Cranmer, or anyone else, held a tight grip on the church or its teachings. The general consensus ruled. Cranmer died as a prominent church leader in Michigan on December 14, 1903.

By the fifth annual session in 1888, the General Conference first recorded its "Articles of Faith."

The following Articles of Faith, expressing our belief in general, were adopted in lieu of former declarations.

1. We believe that God, the Creator, and Jesus Christ, His Son, the Redeemer, are personal beings.

2. We believe that repentance, conversion, baptism by immersion, a godly life through faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, and His mediatorship for us, are the essential elements of salvation.

3. We believe that the law of God, contained in the ten commandments, forms the basis of a godly life, the standard by which to regulate it.

4. We believe that man is mortal and has no consciousness in death.

5. We believe that there will be a resurrection of the righteous to everlasting life, and the setting up of God's everlasting kingdom on the earth at the second coming of Christ.

6. We believe that there will be a resurrection of the wicked to a judgment of deeds done in this life, wherein life and probation for them forever ceases.

7. The prayer of faith, for the sick.

8. The ordination of ministers by the laying on of hands.

In 1892 this preamble was added:

We take the Bible and the Bible alone as our only rule of faith and practice. The following are some of the things it teaches and that we believe.

There would be no change to the above Articles for 29 years. For 29 years the church would stand fast by its creed of faith. And 29 years after 1892 was the year 1921, just six years before Herbert Armstrong would walk into his first Church of God Sabbath service. What Armstrong was walking into was a church that had been growing into disunity.

By 1927, the "loose association" of the State Conferences began to be perceived as a source of this disunity. The most influential figure in the Church of God at this time was Andrew N. Dugger (the son of the church's first vice president, A. F. Dugger).

In the 1927 Conference meeting at Rich Hill, Missouri, the membership dealt with the doctrinal disunity of the Church of God (Seventh Day). A by law was adopted which stated, "No member of the conference shall teach any doctrine in public which is not believed by the conference body, without clearly stating that such belief has not been endorsed by the Church of God, but that it is his own individual opinion. (The Story Of The Church Of God (Seventh Day), p. 43)

Realizing that Rupert had held a prominent position in the church and that he widely published his views, it is not difficult to recognize that some of the very doctrines causing such disunity would have been British-Israelism, Hebrew holyday observance, Levitical tithing, the mythical lineage of one true church, church "eras" and so forth. This must have been regarded by many old-time members, who were aware of the beliefs of their Millerite ancestors, as the "faith once delivered."

But to the General Conference, these were controversial and not provable beliefs. It was time to clear the air and use the Bible itself as a basis of beliefs, as the church had officially stated in the 1892 preamble.

One other factor that began to cause an influence upon the old guard, second generation Millerites, was the growing number of members who had been influenced by Protestantism. It is important to realize that the Adventists had deluded themselves into believing that since they were keeping the Mosaic ordinances (the Sabbath), they were not of the "Babylonian" system of influence, which some referred to as Romanism. This was an identifying sign that they were God's true people. This circular form of logic made them believe that they were God's true church.

Andrew Dugger had been a Church of God minister since 1906. By 1914 he had become both president of the General Conference and editor of the Bible Advocate. Dugger was of the old guard; he was now perceived by the ministers in the many State Conferences as arrogating too much power and authority to the General Conference and himself. This only created more division.

Dugger had some peculiar beliefs of his own which he wanted the church to adopt. It was Andrew Dugger who began to believe that he could raise up the continuation of "the primitive" New Testament church. In essence, he was perceiving that Rupert's "latter rain" was now evidently close. True to the nature of his Millerite ancestors, he was again going to ascribe prophetic importance to the date of 1933.

Here is how Dugger made his calculation. The ancient Hebrew calendar takes 19 years to complete its lunar cycle. The Hebrew calendar is based upon the cycles of the moon which coincidentally make it an aid to farming. (The ancient religion of the Israelites in Canaan is seldom seen for its close ties to agricultural harvests by Adventists.) To those who keep trying to predict the return of Christ, significance is often given to time cycles of the calendar and other numerological computations. Therefore, it did not go unnoticed by Andrew Dugger and his contemporaries that the year 1933 is exactly 100 19-year-time-cycles from the date that he felt the "primitive church" began in 33 A. D.

In 1931 Dugger had lost his position as president of the General Conference but he was still the editor of the Bible Advocate. The church had done much evangelizing in other countries during his tenure as president. But now he proposed something with apocalyptic implications: to raise up a Church of God in Jerusalem. Dugger had convinced himself and many others that this would signal the New Age.

On October 3, 1931 he delivered his farewell address in Stanberry and left for Jerusalem. Another prominent minister in the Church of God by the name of John Kiesz would fill in for Dugger as editor of the Advocate. Kiesz and C. O. Dodd were two of Dugger's strongest supporters at the time. Both Kiesz and Dodd were of the early Church of God members who practiced the observance of the Hebrew holydays during this period of time. Dugger, only later in his life, would consider the observance of holydays as part of the formula for resurrecting the "primitive church."

Dugger returned from Jerusalem one year later without successfully raising up the "primitive church". Again like William Miller, he would make no apologies but would only seek to recalculate his end-time speculation.

Dugger's theory was a rather crude one; it had been floating in the minds of church speculators since the days of the Adventists. But to prove his theory he had to produce a history of some sort. He had to bend reality to make it appear that the Sabbath observing Church of God was the only true Christian church on earth by lineage.

Much like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein monster was pieced together from corpses, Dugger felt that he could piece together a historical lineage from now-dead churches that would stretch back to 33 A. D.; then he would breathe the breath of life into them when he could establish world headquarters in Jerusalem. He did a considerable amount of research into church history and then with a definite bias he and fellow minister C. O. Dodd co-authored the 318 page book, A History of the True Religion, Through Each Hundred Years From 33 A. D. To Date.

Incidentally, this historical fable would only be altered slightly by Worldwide Church of God authors later, who used it to their great advantage by convincing thousands of people that they would not be able to find salvation outside their group.

It wasn't until January of 1992 that I had discovered enough data to disprove this mythical history and wrote a lengthy letter to Ronald Kelly at Worldwide Church of God headquarters. He did not return my correspondence but, beginning in mid-1994, the Worldwide Church of God backed away from Dugger's view of church history claiming that the Worldwide Church of God was the only true church.

Returning from Jerusalem in 1931 was somewhat embarrassing for Andrew Dugger. He found that the church was still suffering from many divisive factions. Dugger joined in on the battle which was focused on who could publish doctrinal essays in the Bible Advocate. There had been a growing element of ministers who had come into the church from Protestant backgrounds. These men wanted to submit articles to the Advocate but were being seen as a threatening "liberal" element by the old-timers.

According to Dugger, the liberal element was challenging seven doctrinal beliefs of the Church of God in the following ways: The date for observing the Lord's Supper needed to be changed; the Seven Last Plagues of Revelation 16 were neither literal nor for future fulfillment; the Third Angel's Message of Revelation 14:9 was not a message for the Church of God to proclaim; tithing was not necessary for the church; the use of tobacco should be permissible; eating unclean meats should be allowed; and certain "gifts of the Holy Spirit" should not be denied.

This divisiveness led Dugger to draft a circular letter to the membership of the church. It appeared to be an ultimatum appealing for Dugger's form of organization or else schism would result. The letter was signed by A. N. Dugger, C. O. Dodd, and W. W. McMicken and sent in October 1933. He proposed--in a thinly veiled agenda for his primitive church--that church headquarters must be located in Jerusalem and added that its governmental structure had to resemble that of the New Testament church (e.g., twelve apostles, seventy disciples to preach the gospel, and seven to oversee the business affairs as in Acts 6:1-6). This was his statement of purpose:

The end is very near at hand. Signs throughout the world show the Lord is soon coming. European diplomats are prophesying a world war involving all nations in 1934 which they say the League of Nations is powerless to avert. We know what this means. Conditions of the world, and also in the Holy Land, are set in order for Armageddon. Therefore the church must also be set in order, to meet the bridegroom. She must be a chaste virgin without spot or wrinkle. See II Corinthians 11:1,2. It is now time for his wife to make herself ready. Revelation 19:7,8. The New Testament organization must be arranged with no malice, hatred, or bitterness in any heart, free from debates, discord, and strife.

This statement was then followed by an appeal for fasting and prayer and a call for a revival of the church.

As the dissidents who were now united with Dugger had suspected, the General Conference in Stanberry did not yield to Dugger's appeal and so he and his colleagues established headquarters for a competing Church of God in Salem, West Virginia on November 4, 1933.

The early founders of the group in Salem wanted to recreate a "Bible form of government; this meant the choosing of 12 apostles and 70 elders who would be commissioned to go two by two and proselytize. The choosing was done by "casting lots" in a prayer filled meeting on November 4.

Among the 12 chosen was John Kiesz. Kiesz was not entirely convinced that his friends Dugger and Dodd were doing the right thing. For example, it bothered Kiesz that they were printing a counterfeit version of the Bible Advocate and even claimed the same volume number as the real Bible Advocate. Kiesz also appealed to Dodd that he felt it was dishonest of them to claim Jerusalem as their headquarters when no such office had ever been established. C. O. Dodd promised that he would do his best to make the organization respectable and so Kiesz accepted his office as apostle.

Among the other elders to make the split was an advertising man turned minister from Eugene, Oregon--Herbert W. Armstrong. He had been chosen to be one of the seventy. When Armstrong later wrote his two volume autobiography, he tried to shade the events surrounding his defection from the Stanberry conference by making a vague reference about his being "loosely associated" with the group. In actual fact, according to official documents, he was a paid minister who was showing neither faith in God to correct the problems in doctrinal disunity at Stanberry nor was he showing loyalty to church government by his defection.

The Salem Church still functions as an independent organization to this day claiming that it is God's one and only true church. I had interviewed Chris Royer, before his death in 1994. He was then the head of the church and acting editor of The Advocate of Truth magazine sent free of charge upon request.

The Salem Church teaches that it is directly descended from Stephen Mumford's seventeenth century "Church of God" in Newport, Rhode Island. As we have seen in chapter 9, this is a mythical belief. Mr. Royer was unable to give me any tangible proof for this claim except as that taught by Andrew Dugger in the 1930s. Royer was not eager to talk with me about his church's history, but I was able to confirm some information I had received concerning Armstrong, Dugger, and C. O. Dodd.

Royer admitted to me that both he and his father had met Armstrong in the early 50's but he would not divulge any details about their meetings. I pressed him further for answers. I asked if he had met Armstrong in Pasadena. His answer was little more than a quick "no!". I asked if they were in Salem and again he answered the same way. "What kind of meetings were they? What was discussed?" I asked. He quickly changed the subject without answering. I was not sure why he was so evasive. Later I learned that he had seen so much arguing among contentious ministers like Armstrong, in the early days of the Salem church, that he had chosen to answer my questions in the laconic manner that he did.

It was through Royer that I discovered who the Jehovah's Witness was that had influenced Herbert Armstrong's early beliefs. It was C. O. Dodd, the co-author of Andrew Dugger's book A True History of A True Religion. Dodd had studied Jehovah's Witness teachings and was convinced of the need to use "sacred names," such as "Jehovah" or "Yahweh," rather than "God." This eventually led to his being ousted from the Salem Church of God ministry who were not in agreement with his beliefs.

After being cast out of the church that he had helped to organize, he made public admissions that much of the book he co-authored with Andrew Dugger--claiming a lineage to the New Testament church--was deliberately falsified.

Dodd never did abandon his belief in sacred names and when he and Dugger had a parting of the ways over this issue later, Dodd went on to be a heavy influence on a form of Seventh Day Adventism combined with the Jehovah's Witness teachings.

Several "sacred names" Sabbatarian groups claimed to have received their teachings from C. O. Dodd, as early as 1940. The Faith Bible and Tract Society is a sacred names publishing house in Amherst, Ohio and is presently being overseen by Dodd's daughter Mary Dodd Ling.

Curiously, all of the sacred names groups that were founded by Dodd also teach the other Levitical ordinances such as Hebrew holy day observance and abstinence from unclean meats; this being a further indicator that Armstrong received these teachings from Dodd.

Some of my information for this and the following chapter was confirmed in an interview that I held with John Kiesz. He was then 89 years of age and residing in Colorado. Kiesz told me that he was one of the very few still alive who could give me an accurate story of those early days.

A gentle and devout man, he stressed his desire to be remembered as one who sought to think the best of all of those men who he reluctantly admitted were locked in a battle for domination of the Salem church.

I have also interviewed Mildred Kelvig of Kansas City, Missouri. Mildred was Andrew Dugger's personal secretary for many years and knew Dugger from the time she was a little girl. She told me that Armstrong was definitely influenced by C. O. Dodd and that it was Dodd who had convinced Armstrong and others that G. G. Rupert's belief in the observance of Hebrew holydays was mandatory.

In the final analysis, it appears that the defection of the Andrew Dugger dissidents from the Church of God, Seventh Day succeeded in purging the Stanberry Church of its more hostile Millerite faction. Although the organization still adheres to the observance of the seventh day Sabbath, they are no longer a contentious church. The many Church of God, Seventh Day members that I have met in preparation for this book have set some of the finest Christian examples I have ever seen. They have been unfairly slandered by old adversaries, such as Armstrong who referred to them as spiritually dead, in order to pull away a following and justify their own defections.

On the other hand, Dugger's group of defectors continued to have doctrinal disunity among themselves. Their conflict was rooted in a battle of headstrong personalities.

As noted above, C. O. Dodd was eventually cast out of the group because of his own pet doctrines.

Herbert Armstrong persisted in trying to force the Salem church to accept British-Israelism. Armstrong began to proselytize others in Oregon and preached his own pet doctrines in direct rebellion to the Salem organization. Once Armstrong was able to secure control of tithe money from members in the state of Oregon, he began to preach his version of Millerism. Armstrong finally succeeded in securing some radio time so he could begin to proclaim himself a radio prophet.

Meanwhile, in Salem, West Virginia, Andrew Dugger was trying to convince the 12 apostles that church headquarters had to be in Jerusalem to fulfill his true church theory. This finally led to his defection from that group and his eventual move to Tel Aviv, Israel.

It is unclear if Dugger ever personally accomplished his lifelong desire to set up a world headquarters for his one true church in Jerusalem but eventually his followers were able to establish an address there which became headquarters for the Church of God, Jerusalem (claiming 40,000 members worldwide). Dugger died and is buried in Tel Aviv. His son is said to have carried on in his father's footsteps as one of the leading ministers of the Jerusalem Church.

As the setting for World War II began to heat up, radio prophet Armstrong stepped into the limelight he had waited for all of his life. From an early age he had been inspired with ambition to be somebody important. His Millerite-based logic led him to calculate in this fashion: If we are in the end-time; if Romanism is the great evil; if I am in God's one true church; if these people look up to me as a powerful radio minister; if, if, if...then Mussolini must be the Beast of Revelation and therefore I am Elijah the prophet!

And so he began to prophesy, over the airwaves, in great detail that World War II was the great tribulation and that Mussolini and Hitler would literally fight against Christ at his soon return. He also broadcast upon the airwaves wild claims, such as his prediction that Franklin Roosevelt would soon declare himself dictator of the United States.

Armstrong's early ministry was exclusively apocalyptic and some who have written biographical essays about him have outlined as many as 100 unfulfilled prophecies--with dates--that he energetically proclaimed would find fulfillment. The fact that they never did come to pass neither deterred him nor disillusioned his anxiety-filled audience which was now destined to repeat the Great Disappointment of William Miller within three decades--in 1972.

As early as 1937, Armstrong had been repeatedly warned by his superiors in Salem, West Virginia that he was not preaching biblically based doctrines. He therefore had his ministerial license revoked. He had been fired and defrocked as a minister of the Church of God.

It was then that Armstrong reorganized a loyal contingency of the Oregon Church of God. This appears to be where he received a ministerial credential, photographed in his autobiography, claiming that he was an "apostle."

In reviewing Armstrong's ministry, we might conclude that he was a man driven by his desire to leave his mark on the world. He had plummeted from a pinnacle of rubbing shoulders with influential businessmen early in the Depression. After entering a mid-life crisis in 1927, he had become a man who had suffered incredible career setbacks, a man who tried his best to cover up feelings of inferiority with an inflated ego and had now been rejected twice as a minister among men he had considered unsophisticated yokels. He decided that he would answer to no one again.

Herbert Armstrong, now recognized as the voice of the Radio Church of God, took the subscribers list of the Plain Truth magazine, which had been financed by the Oregon Church of God, Seventh Day and moved on to Pasadena, California to start what some would later refer to as an empire.


Bruce Renehan's
"Daughter of Babylon"
Chapter 14
" Chapter 13 | Chapter 15 "

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