Worldwide Church of God seeks a new start in the face of fresh opposition.
Christianity Today, June 17, 2003
Marshall Allen in Pasadena
Ten years ago, leaders in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) began denouncing the fringe beliefs of their founder and transforming their church into an evangelical denomination. This revolutionary theological shift caused congregations and families to splinter. It also sparked a financial Armageddon in the highly visible movement of 150,000 people.
Now church leaders propose a physical shift that they say will determine the church’s future. They want to turn their valuable 55-acre Ambassador College campus in upscale Pasadena into about 1,500 residential units. Church officials say selling the headquarters will secure the church’s financial foundation, provide pensions for its pastors, and create much-needed housing for city residents.
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“As we go to sell it, we are concerned about the next 50 years,” said Bernard Schnippert, the church’s director of finance and development. “When we leave Pasadena, we want to be proud of our legacy.”
But local residents are not ready to let the group leave on those terms.
Schnippert said he expects the city to approve the plan, but the West Pasadena Neighborhood Association, which represents more than 400 wealthy neighbors, hopes it won’t. The neighbors say 1,500 units would be too dense, would create too much traffic, and would ruin the character of the neighborhood. The group has retained lawyers and demands more traffic studies and further density reduction.
Many former church members also oppose the development. They say Tkach and company now stand to profit from the tithes of Armstrong’s followers.
Some of Armstrong’s followers believe God will restore the campus to those who have held fast to the leader’s teachings. Kathleen Fratto, a member of the spin-off Living Church of God, said God is hindering the development. “It’s going to be a big albatross around their necks,” Fratto said. “That’s what happens when you take on a power that’s larger than yourself.”