The Living Church of God is an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God, which was founded by the late Herbert W. Armstrong.
Until a few years ago when it embraced mainstream Christianity, the Worldwide Church of God was a cult of Christianity (a theological designation indicating a movement that rejects or twists one or more essentials doctrines of the Christian faith).
After Armstrong's death
in 1986, the Worldwide Church of God underwent changes that, while subtle at first, set it on a path toward schism. By 1995, its leadership had repudiated much of Armstrong's "end-time" theology and even jettisoned hallmarks that helped define the church — worship on Saturday instead of Sunday, for example, and mandatory tithing. It also accepted the Christian doctrine of the Trinity
, which Armstrong had disavowed.
The turn toward mainstream Christianity prompted the formation of eight breakaway churches.
One of these churches was led by Roderick C. Meredith. After another split, Meredith founded the Living Church of God.
James Tabor, chairman of the religious studies department
at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said Sunday that the Living Church of God was created in a splintering of the Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong and based in California.
Armstrong held to some unconventional Christian beliefs, including that the Sabbath
should be celebrated on Saturday and that holy days on the calendar are those given in Leviticus
, which included holidays such as Passover. He also emphasized that the end of time
was coming soon.
After Armstrong's death in 1986, his church ruled that some of these beliefs were in error and moved toward the mainstream of the evangelical world, Tabor said. Meredith remained more faithful to the original Armstrong positions and broke away. In 2003, Meredith's church, now known as the Living Church of God, moved its headquarters from San Diego to Charlotte.
Tabor described the church as conservative and evangelical, but said, "The key thing would be apocalyptic
In its Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs
on its Web site
, the church says its mission includes: "To preach the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ to all nations as a witness" and "to preach the end-time prophecies and to warn the English-speaking nations and all the world of the coming Great Tribulation
The church holds generally that members should not take part in politics, juries or military service, and it continues to observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Tabor said that although the church puts "strong emphasis on the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith," including its Sabbath and holiday observances, it would not be correct to view it as connected to Judaism. The church believes strongly in the divine identity of Jesus.
"They would tend to really revere the Old Testament alongside the New Testament more than most Christian groups do," Tabor said.
Due to its rejection of some of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, the Living Church of God is considered to be - theologically - a cult of Christianity. [Click here for information about the difference between theological and sociological definitions of the term 'cult.]
The Living Church of God is currently in the news because of a shooting that took place at one of its services.
This entry will be updated and expanded at a later time.
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