The Decline and Fall of the Worldwide Church of God — 1.


“Well, Greetings friends around the world. This is Herbert W. Armstrong bringing you the plain truth about todays’ world news and the prophecies of the World Tomorrow.”

That radio broadcast opening was and is familiar to millions of people around the world. Many millions of people sat glued to their radios waiting for those words to be spoken, signaling another World Tomorrow program had begun. Were you, like me, one of those people?

Today, those words cannot be heard DAILY on over 600 radio stations worldwide. There was at the time no other program like it. And, it created shock waves in the world of Christianity. Shock waves that were to create the total downfall of the organization behind the World Tomorrow. Some even claim today that nothing like it had ever happened to a “Christian” organization in history. The collapse sent new shock waves through the world of Christian denominations of all stripes.

The end result of this collapse is:

  1. No World Tomorrow Program.
  2. No Plain Truth Magazine.
  3. No GoodNews Magazine.
  4. Three colleges gone. The Ambassador Colleges became the Ambassador University shortly before the collapse.
  5. No more local churches around the world.
  6. No more international offices.
  7. No more Worldwide Church of God.

What happened? How could such a thing occur, seemingly overnight? Where did the ministers go? Where did the members go? What happened to the campus in Pasadena, in Bricketwood, in Big Sandy?

How could a church of thousands, and worth multiple millions, including millionaire mansions and college buildings, go under in such a surprising way? I’ve seen no satisfying explanations to what happened. Have you?

Well, that is the reason for the writing of this book. To explain what occurred from an “insider’s” experience who was there when it all began. And, by one who knew almost all the major players on a personal basis.

In this book you will discover the REAL reason for this major collapse of a worldwide Christian organization. And, you will learn for the first time of many, at present around 50, steps that brought down this giant organization.

I’m sure many interested individuals will be surprised at what really happened. Each of these steps will be explained mostly from an eye witness perspective.

I first heard of the Worldwide Church of God through the World Tomorrow radio program. At the time, 1956, the Worldwide was actually called the Radio Church of God.

At the time, the World Tomorrow program was “presented” on the air by Ambassador College, not the Radio Church of God. That first broadcast I heard was from Radio Luxembourg which could be heard in England where I was living at the time.

After graduating from high school in 1959, I was accepted as a student at Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. In late July of that year I flew to Los Angeles, where the college sent a driver to pick me up, along with Betty Oden, and a couple other new students I don’t remember at the moment.

After graduating in 1963, I married Arlene Bunnell in 1964. During that time I worked full time for the college, and Arlene worked full time for Imperial Schools. In late 1966 or early 1967 we left the college and moved to New Jersey. There we attended the local church in Philadelphia. Later we ended up in Maryland, and attended the Baltimore congregation.

It was while in Baltimore that things began to really fall apart in Pasadena, and the local Baltimore congregation ended up in a great deal of turmoil.

Soon after that began, my family moved to Tucson, Arizona. Interestingly Herbert W. Armstrong also moved to Tucson during that time. Mel O. his driver, met me at the Park Mall where Mr. Armstrong would take walks during the hot days of summer. Having known Mel at college, he invited me to Mr. Armstrong’s home where he also stayed.

Sad to say, in 1978, Arlene and I left the Worldwide as members. We did not leave in anger, as so many did. We just simply walked out of one Sabbath service, and never went back. A year later we got a call from a local news reporter from the main newspaper, wanting to interview us. I couldn’t figure out why she would want to interview me. She explained that she was in services that Sabbath, and heard Larry Neff “disfellowship” Arlene and me. A year after we left, mind you. We gave her the interview which covered a full page and a fourth, as I recall. Wow, now that’s coverage. I agreed, on condition she promise me to write the story exactly as I explained it. She promised and she did. Three interviews were in that article. They were interviews of Garner Ted Armstrong, Stanley Rader, and me.

Oh, a few days after the interview I called Larry and asked why he had “marked” us. I said, “We left quietly, did not tell other people, and caused no trouble. So, why did you do that?” His response? “Well, you could have.” Now that’s a real reason, right?

About a year before leaving Ambassador College I had a discussion with Dr. Hoeh in his office. During the conversation he blurted out to me something that has always been an enigma. He said, “Bob, you won’t stay at Ambassador. You have something much more important to do.”

That statement still “haunts” me to this day. What did he mean?

I owe thanks to a lot of people from Ambassador and the Worldwide, including all of those who will be mentioned by name in the pages of this work.

Arlene deserves special acclaim and cheers for having put up with me all these years. FIFTY next month! See what I mean?

Now, let’s get on with it…


Author: Bob Petry

Student of the Bible since 1953. And am still learning.

Leave a Reply