Critics often tarnish the Armstrong movement into one sweeping broad brush, one idealistic set of doctrines, but that is far from reality, usually, this is to reinforce stereotypical beliefs of tithing and church government.
If I understand Robert correctly, he's saying critics (that'd obviously include a lot of people who visit and comment on AW) have a kind of myopia: we can't get past the bugbears of tithing and church government in order to fairly assess the other positive aspects of our former heritage.
Robert goes on: There are churches within the Armstrongite movement that do not teach tithing to its members. The Church of God in Williamstown and Bible Research are examples.
Putting aside the fallacy of "church government" for the moment, I think its fair to say that tithing is still one of the hot keys for many of us: a much-loathed expression of manipulation and abuse. We saw hard earned dollars extorted with grand claims and outright lies, and what did it bring forth? An auditorium, inflated paychecks for church leaders, a college that was sold off, and third-tithe funded ministerial home improvements. The Work collapsed; the magazine, radio and TV outreach disappeared, and membership was decimated. The lasting fruit of all that giving and sacrifice?
The cost - not just in money (30% of gross income in some years) - but in missed opportunities, health, stress, and retirement prospects, was often horrendous.
Robert cites two micro-sects that no longer teach tithing. The Williamstown church, apparently just one small congregation in the Australian state of Victoria, and Bible Research - which is so obscure most of us hadn't heard of it before. These two tiny groups (if Bible Research is a group and not just one guy with a Word Processor) are very much the exception. On the tithing side of the divide are all the major splinters (UCG, LCG, PCG, COG-AIC), and Holy Mother Church presided over by Flip-flop Joe. ("You don't need to tithe. Hey, where's the money gone? You need to tithe!")
Tithing is in the DNA of the COGs. David Pack yells from the pulpit: "If people don't tithe, they're gone!" Of course, plenty of other churches encourage a version of the practice (almost all more benign than Herbert Armstrong's interpretation.) The real problems are inflexibility, inflated claims, irresponsible proof texting, and negligent stewardship by those holding the purse strings. Being generous with a percentage of your income is in itself no bad thing, but:
- There is no mandate for tithing - as described in the Bible - today. Ernest Martin's popular booklet made this crystal clear. Neither Christians nor Jews can tithe in the biblical sense in the absence of a priesthood or temple. Earlier examples of tithing (e.g. Abraham to Melchizedek) were clearly intended as "one-off" arrangements. Biblical tithing was based on agricultural produce (food!), not salaries (which, like the Bank of America, didn't exist in agrarian cultures.) The Catholic roots of church tithing only go back as far as Charlemagne (777 CE.) What we call tithing today in the Church of God, Adventist, Mormon, Baptist, and various non-conformist Protestant bodies, is something else - a modern tradition largely unheard of before the 1870s.
- The management of any program of giving remains with the giver. To hand over large, regular sums to any church or charity without demanding accountability is good for neither donor nor recipient. For the donor it's a cop-out, for the recipient it's a license to do whatever they want.
- If a family or individual decides to set aside a certain portion of their income for good causes, there's nothing in the Bible to say it all has to go to one organization. The initiative - and the responsibility - is in your hands. This is the whole point of the "priesthood of all believers" (which WCG now refers to as the "ministry" of all believers - which is to entirely miss the point.)
Note: Ernie Martin's tithing booklet is available online. Also available is a long (2 hour!) presentation by Russell Earl Kelly on Google video. If you have the interest (and the patience) he makes a very solid case against tithing from a conservative Evangelical perspective.