Did Jesus Christ, as head of the Church, choose Mr. Joseph Tkach to succeed Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong as Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God, or was naming Mr. Tkach to succeed him Mr. Armstrong's mistake?
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
"For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23).
"And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23).
"But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased" (1 Corinthians 12:18).
I believe Christ, as head of the Church, did name Mr. Tkach and led Mr. Armstrong to announce His choice. I believe God led circumstances to cause Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach. I also think Christ allowed Mr. Armstrong to be blinded to Mr. Tkach's true character or level of understanding (or lack of understanding) of the Bible, else Mr. Armstrong would not have named him.
Mr. Armstrong was right in his understanding that Mr. Tkach was Christ's choice - he was only wrong in the reason why Christ chose him. Mr. Armstrong thought Christ was choosing him because Mr. Tkach would be faithful to the doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught. Christ allowed Mr. Armstrong to think that, but Christ chose Mr. Tkach for the opposite reason, because Christ knew Mr. Tkach would change doctrine.
Why would Christ do this?
The Worldwide Church of God had become predominantly Laodicean by the time of Mr. Armstrong's death. By that I do not mean that Mr. Armstrong was Laodicean, but that 51% or more of the converted members and ministers in Worldwide had become Laodicean, and the words Christ spoke to Laodicea in Revelation took effect: "I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:16).
The time had come for Christ to rebuke and test the Church of God for its lukewarmness and spiritual blindness and complacency. So Christ gave us the leader we deserved and needed, to put us through a trial. Christ did this, not to harm us, but because He loves us and knew we needed a trial to test us, to teach us, and to wake us up and lead us to repentance. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Revelation 3:19).
Mr. Tkach changed doctrines, and faithful ministers and members had to leave the organization that Worldwide had become. The doctrinal changes began gradually but continued at an increasingly rapid pace over about ten years after Mr. Armstrong's death in 1986. Ministers and members left at different times, some early in this process, such as around 1990, some late, around 1995, and at various times in-between. Some ministers quit and some were fired.
The evidence and proof that we had become Laodicean is the way we left Worldwide.
Did the true Church of God, which came out of Worldwide in those years, stay united? No, we did not. We scattered, and we remain scattered today into competing Churches of God. If we were mostly Philadelphian, I think we would have remained united even as we came out of Worldwide.
Christ saw we were Laodicean. So He gave us a test to show us what He could already see. He gave us a pastor general who followed the traditions of mainstream Christianity rather than the doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught from the Bible, forcing the true Church of God to leave the organization. The test was, how would we leave. Would we be united or would we scatter?
We failed the test, as Christ knew Laodicea would. We scattered. Thus, Christ shows us what He knew would happen, giving evidence to anyone with spiritual discernment that the majority of us were not Philadelphian any longer. For if we were all in the Philadelphian condition, we would have stayed together as we left.
In addition to showing us our true spiritual state, the events that occurred allowed Christ to test each of us individually in a way that did not occur while Mr. Armstrong was alive, and that individual testing is still going on.
Some might say, Christ would never name someone as leader of the Church of God whom God knew would be unfaithful, or God would have removed him as soon as he became unfaithful.
But Christ named Judas and used him for three and a half years even though Judas was an enemy (John 6:70-71). Christ allowed King Saul of Israel to remain on the throne for years after God rejected him, using Saul during that time to test and train David's character. And even now, God allows Satan to remain on the throne of the earth because it accomplishes God's purposes to test and train us and to teach the world that Satan's way does not work.
So yes, Christ can appoint a man who does not understand the Bible and will not remain faithful to the true doctrines of the Bible if it suits His purpose to test us and put us through trials to teach us lessons and develop our faith, or even to rebuke us and show us our sins.
Mr. Armstrong did make one mistake with Mr. Tkach, not in naming him to replace himself as pastor general after Mr. Armstrong's death, but in teaching us to follow the next pastor general if we want to make it into the kingdom of God. He should have placed a condition on that statement. He should have said we should follow the new pastor general as he follows Christ and the Bible.
Perhaps Christ allowed Mr. Armstrong to make that mistake to prove to all who are willing to see that Mr. Armstrong's teachings were not infallible, even to the end of his life.
I think Worldwide Church of God while Mr. Armstrong was alive was truly led by God. I think Jesus Christ led Mr. Armstrong personally, and I think Mr. Armstrong was overall faithful in following where Christ led, though he was not perfect in following Christ. But I think Christ did lead Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach as pastor general, but not for the reasons Mr. Armstrong thought. Mr. Armstrong thought Mr. Tkach would be faithful to the Bible and to the doctrines Mr. Armstrong got from the Bible, and that is why he named him his successor. In a letter to the brethren, Mr. Armstrong said that Christ led him to name Mr. Tkach, and I think that is correct. Mr. Tkach was Christ's choice, but for a different reason.
The Church of God had become mostly Laodicean by the time of Mr. Armstrong's death. In the early years, from about 1934 thru the 1950s and maybe the 1960s, the majority of Worldwide converted members were probably Philadelphia in character and spiritual condition, and that is why Christ gave an open door to Mr. Armstrong for rapid growth. That was the Philadelphia era. But there was a drifting into lukewarmness and the Laodicean condition, and by the time of Mr. Armstrong's death in 1986, more than half of the converted members I think were lukewarm and Laodicean. The Laodicean era had begun, and Christ had determined to put the Church through a trial to shake us up, to rebuke us, to let us be scattered, as He says in Revelation, "I will vomit you out of my mouth". So Christ chose a man whom He knew would change doctrine, and He arranged circumstances to lead Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach as successor. In other words, Christ used Mr. Armstrong to announce Christ's choice for the new pastor general, Joseph Tkach, but for reasons exactly opposite of what Mr. Armstrong expected.
And though the scattering has been hard (and ugly), a trial from God, even a punishment in a sense, in the long run it will be good for us. For example, I know one young man who grew up in the Church who said the doctrinal changes forced him to study the Bible more seriously and to really prove what he believed.
God let the Church of God be scattered for our own good, to wake us up, to help us see our spiritual condition as God sees it, to test us and to lead us to repentance. Let's make sure we repent and pass the test in the time remaining that God gives us.
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5
The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5
We Need to Repent, Chapter 9
Laodicea and Philadelphia, Chapter 9
We Need to Be More Zealous for the Things of God, Chapter 9