Terry Ratzmann, the man who police say killed seven people and then himself during a church service, was a member of the Living Church of God, a born-again denomination that focuses on “end-time” prophecies.
The church’s estimated 6,300 members in 40 countries place a strong emphasis on using world news to “prove” that these are end times, to be followed by Christ’s second coming.
This year, the group’s leader, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, wrote that events prophesied in the Bible are “beginning to occur with increasing frequency.”
“We are not talking about decades in the future. We are talking about Bible prophesies that will intensify within the next five to 15 years of your life,” he wrote in the church’s magazine, Tomorrow’s World.
He advised members to gather emergency food supplies and follow government instructions on how to prepare for an emergency. He also warned about a coming “financial emergency” and cited an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about the financial fallout as baby boomers retire.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based Living Church of God grew out of a schism in the Worldwide Church of God, formed in 1933 by radio minister Herbert W. Armstrong, who preached the British Israel hypothesis – that Anglo-Saxons are descendants of the 10 lost tribes of Israel.
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The Worldwide Church of God changed their doctrine after Armstrong’s death, but more than half the membership withdrew and formed splinter groups. Living Church of God members view themselves as the spiritual heirs of the original Jerusalem Church of New Testament time, according to the group’s Web site.