Mission of Full Gospel – Christian Open Door
|Mission of Full Gospel – Christian Open Door|
|Senior pastor(s)||Pastor Jean Peterschmitt|
The Mission of Full Gospel – Christian Open Door [COD] (Mission du Plein Évangile - Porte Ouverte Chrétienne [POC]) is a French Evangelical church whose main place of worship is located in Mulhouse. It is the second largest Protestant church in France, with over 2,200 members, and is frequently considered a megachurch as 1,500 members regularly attend the church. Every Sunday, the broadcast of the worship is seen by about 4,000 people on the church's official site. The church in Mulhouse is part of the Federation of Full Gospel Churches in France, created in 1992, which includes Pentecostal churches wishing to join the Protestant Federation of France (Fédération protestante de France [FPF]). In the 1990s, the church was criticized by former members, their families and anti-cult associations.
The church was founded by Jean Peterschmitt (1927), a son of a Mennonite. In 1963, he joined the Pentecostal community affiliated with the French Assemblies of God led by Pastor Gilbert Ringenbach, after the miraculous healing of his wife by the pastor. He became a translator within the community. In 1965, despite the pastor's opposition, he decided, with the help of his cousin, Jean Widemer, a pastor in Valentigney, to open a small meeting room in Thann, then in Mulhouse in 1966. This assembly was registered under its current name as cultural charitable organization. He joined pastor Albert Burkhart who consecrated him as pastor in 1970.
The movement held a place of worship in Pfastatt, then developed in Alsace and Germany, with three annexes. However, after an organizational disagreement, Peterschmitt broke his ties with the annexes, and the place of worship in Pfastatt was cancelled. Thereafter, the group grew up again and the worship association "Mission of Full Gospel. The Christian Open Door" was created in 1987. The association established its new premises in a former supermarket and had over 600 regular churchgoers in 1989. The number of believers grew quickly and a church was opened in Cayenne.
Organization and beliefs
This church focuses on personal faith and claimed many miraculous healings. The faithful are mostly former Catholics or were already evangelical. The group created a cultural association named Philadelphia Cultural Association (Association Culturelle Philadelphia) which sells many books, DVD and CD. It also organizes humanitarian aid in Bulgaria, Romania, Israel, Serbia, India and Senegal. The association also has a football team, the Sports Association of the Christian Open Door (Association sportive de la Porte Ouverte Chrétienne). It also founded a group composed of former drug addicts.
The church was first criticized in the early 1990s by the Catholic Church. In 1993, the group "Religious Evolution and New Spiritualities" ("Évolution Religieuses et Nouvelles Spiritualités"), led by the Catholic Church, added to the criticisms. Then, in 1996, the anti-cult association, CCMM, received the first complaints from former members. In 1999, Claude Omnibus, the husband of a deceased follower, accused the movement of having killed his wife after her refusal of an organ transplant, and created an association of victims named Association of Victims of the Christian Open Door (Association des Victimes de la Porte Ouverte Chrétienne, AVIPOC). He participated in many television programs to warn against the COD, and was supported by the ADFI and CCMM, two anti-cult associations (the CCMM asked the MILS to add the COD in the 1995 list of cults). The COD was considered "a dangerous cult" in a book by two journalists and in many press articles. Activities of the group that are criticized include anti-social speech, family breakdowns, false promises of healing which led to abandonment of medical treatments, theological deviances and financial disclosures. Meanwhile, the COD sought support from French Evangelical Association (Association Évangélique Française [AEF]) and unsuccessfully tried to integrate the Protestant Federation of France.
Pastor Peterschmitt and members denied these accusations when they were interviewed in the media. The pastor thought his church was a victim of religious discriminations. In their conclusions, two sociologists who studied this church in 2002 rejected these criticisms and said that possible deviances can occur in any group.
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- Willaime, Amiotte-Suchet, 2004, pp. 128-63.
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- Willaime, Amiotte-Suchet, 2004, pp. 163-76.