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 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 as the Radio Church of God by Herbert W. Armstrong. Armstrong, an Oregon advertising man, preached that Anglo-Americans were Jews, descendants of the lost “ten tribes of Israel.”
The Worldwide Church of God changed its doctrine after Armstrong’s death in 1986, but more than half the membership withdrew and formed splinter groups.
Meredith and Raymond McNair led one of the numerous groups that broke away, forming what was then called the “Global Church of God” in 1992 to perpetuate Armstrong’s original teachings.
Armstrong’s followers worshipped Saturday mornings, as Ratzmann did, and often rented facilities rather than erecting its own buildings. Adherents believe in faith healing and strict opposition to divorce, among other things. Members are told to shun worldly involvements, including politics, military service or participation in juries.
Sources: Encyclopedia of American Religions, 7th edition.