World Mission Society Church of God
|Established||June 2, 1985|
|Headquarters||Bundang, South Korea|
God the Mother
God the Father
The World Mission Society Church of God is a new religious movement that originated in South Korea in 1964. After Ahn Sahng-hong died in 1985, Kim Joo-cheol and Zahng Gil-jah established Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God on 2 June 1985. Henceforth, the Church expanded its activities to other parts of the world and began to use the name World Mission Society Church of God. Its headquarters are located in Bundang, Seongnam City, Gyeonggi Province.
World Mission Society Church of God, or the Church of God, is the name used identically in affiliated churches distributed in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, North America and South America.
Ahn Sahng-hong founded Church of God Jesus Witnesses in South Korea on 28 April 1964. After Ahn Sahng-hong died in February 1985, a group of people in Church of God Jesus Witnesses including the man Kim Joo-cheol and the woman Zahng Gil-jah wanted to re-introduce the concept of a "spiritual mother", and on 22 March 1985 moved from Busan to Seoul. On a meeting in Seoul on 2 June 1985, they discussed how to call Zahng Gil-jah, and established a church called Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God which is led by Kim Joo-cheol and Zahng Gil-jah. Two major new doctrines were codified
- Ahn Sahng-hong should be regarded as Jesus Christ who had already come, should be titled Christ Ahn Sahng-hong, and pursuant to a traditional trinitarian view of Christian hypostasis Ahn was consequently also The Holy Spirit, God the Father, and thus God.
- Zahng Gil-jah should be regarded as God the Mother, a female image of God, be titled Heavenly Mother, or simply Mother, and together with Ahn Sahng-hong be regarded as God.
A change in religious practice, as reflected in the change of name from "Jesus Witnesses" to "Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong", was, that prayers were no longer conducted in the name of Jesus Christ but in the name of Christ Ahn Sahng-hong.
Around 1997, Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God had established a non-profit organization titled the World Mission Society Church of God for the purpose of registering and managing the organization's assets.
|Year||# of Churches|
|At present it records to have over 7,000 churches|
In 1970, the church grew to four churches. In 1980, the church grew to 13 locations and increased to 30 in 1990. There was sharp increase of the growth in 2000 where it recorded 300 established churches and 400,000 registered members in South Korea. The church currently claims "more than 400 branches were established in Korea alone, within a half century after its establishment."
The Church of God started to spread abroad in 1997 starting in Los Angeles, Lahore, and Essen. In 2007 it recorded over 100 churches abroad and in 2008 it recorded over one million registered members By 2013 the church claims to have expanded to 2,500 churches in "about 175 countries." 
A media outlet owned by the Church of God reports to have more than 7,000 churches in 175 countries.
An external account mentions that the number of church members is estimated to have only been around 100,000 in 2013, contrary to Kim Joo-cheol's claims.
Beliefs and practices
The church believes in God the Father and God the Mother, claiming to be restoring the truth and practices of the early Church. The church also believes that co-founder Zahng Gil-jah is God the Mother, as taught by the founder Ahn Sahng-hong.
The World Mission Society Church of God believes that all of its teachings are based on the Bible, as explained in the numerous books written by Ahn Sahng-hong.
Second coming of Christ
The Church believes that Ahn Sahng-hong is the Second Coming of Jesus, who came with a new name, the name of the Holy Spirit and it states that he fulfilled biblical prophecies that only Jesus could have fulfilled.
Matthew 24:32-34：「From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.」[a]
In addition, the church believed that Elohim Gods created all things in heaven and earth, created men and women in accordance with Gods' image, proving the existence of God in male images and God in female images, and claimed that the bride and Jerusalem represented Mother God Zahng Gil-jah.
The church celebrates the seven feasts described in Leviticus 23: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles. The church believes that they observe these feasts according to the New Covenant established by Jesus, by distinguishing from the feasts kept in the Old Testament.
It believes in the Saturday Sabbath according to Genesis 2:1-3 but celebrates it not from sunset to sunset but from sunrise to sunset. It considers the Sabbath to be a sign between God and God's people according to Ezekiel 20:12 and Exodus 31:13, and it must be kept as a service according to Luke 4:16.
Members are encouraged to keep the three services on the Sabbath day. Between services, members participate in various church-related activities such as Bible studies, watching church produced videos, or preaching in the local community.
According to the church's interpretation of Exodus 20:4, items such as crosses and statues are considered a form of idolatry and are not erected on or in their churches. The Church has likewise removed stained glass windows from existing churches, as images made of light are seen as being connected to sun worship.
Human origin and redemption
The Church believes that all human beings were originally created as angels in Heaven. They sinned against God and were sent to the earth as a second chance to return to God. The only way for humans to return to heaven is by keeping the Passover with bread and wine (Jesus' flesh and blood) and following the teachings of the Bible, as taught by Ahn Sahng-hong. They include believing in God the Mother, who is the Bride to give them life in the last days.
The World Mission Society Church of God holds that baptism is the first step towards salvation and must be done in the name of the Father (Jehovah), of the Son (Jesus), and the name of the Holy Spirit, Ahn Sahng-hong.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." – Matthew 28:18–20
Members travel from house to house and in shopping malls, hospitals and college campuses to share their beliefs in the bible.
Critics note that the group's recruiting efforts can be very aggressive, and target vulnerable people, especially those going through a major life transition or with a void in their lives. Some have alleged that the group targets those with greater access to money. College students and returning veterans have been particularly targeted.
Some aggressive WMSCOG recruiters have created concern on college campuses, where young women seem to be their primary target, proselytized emphatically with the church's "Mother God" doctrine. Some of these recruiters have been banned from some college campuses in the U.S. for "trespassing" or proselytizing without permission.
Comparisons to traditional Christianity
The World Mission Society Church of God holds many views differing from mainstream Christianity. The church says it observes holy days according to the dates of the sacred calendar in the Old Testament as the early church did in the time of Jesus. They also believe that God the Father and God the Mother have come in the flesh in South Korea, according to Bible prophesies. These beliefs have attracted some criticism of the church. The church teaches that this is the same persecution that the early Christians received for believing in Jesus in the flesh at his first coming.
Responding to an inquiry, the WMSCOG issued a statement that "the biggest difference between our Church and other churches" is that "we believe in God the Mother as well as God the Father. (…) According to the prophecies of the Bible, God the Mother is to appear in the last age of redemption."
The deification of Ahn Sahng-hong and Zahng Gil-jah has been "harshly criticized," and has led to the church being officially condemned by The National Council of Churches in Korea as an interdenominationally combatted, blasphemous, heretical cult. The Christian Council of Korea, which represents Protestant churches in South Korea, has denounced the WMSCOG as "heretical."
Criticism and controversy
The World Mission Society Church of God is one of many controversial grassroots religious movements that have rapidly emerged in South Korea the latter half of the 20th century. Other groups include Good News Mission (also known as Guwonpa) and Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony. These groups have been criticized for their recruitment strategies where women, university students, and ethnic minorities are targeted.
The group has been publicly criticized, by some former members and cult researchers, as acting like a cult, exercising unusual control over its members, separating them from family and friends, and exploiting them excessively, while violating laws and avoiding transparency and accountability.
1988 failed doomsday prophecy
Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God announced that "1988 is the end of the world" citing Matthew 24:32-34，as Ahn had done in his 1980 book The Mystery of God and the Spring of the Water of Life. A few thousand members of Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God gathered on a mountain in Sojeong-myeon, Yeongi County, South Chungcheong Province awaiting the coming of Christ Ahn Sahng-hong, preparing for the rapture and the salvation of 144,000 souls. When Ahn failed to appear and nothing happened the church updated their apocalyptic forecast and scheduled it to the opening of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul later that year where the members gathered and preached the end of the world would come by the end of 1988 and that Ahn Sahng Hong would come again. WMSCOG later claimed it was a fulfillment of the preaching of Jonah.:77:342:494
At least two former members in South Korea accused Zahng Gil-jah and Kim Joo-cheol who declared 1988, 1999 and 2012 as the end of the world in order to defraud members for more wealth.
Change Ahn Sahng-hong's book
The Mystery of God and the Spring of the Water of Life (1980) is 38 chapters in total. The WMSCOG removed three chapters from "The Mystery of God and the Spring of the Water of Life", namely Chapter 1: Restoration of Jerusalem and the Prophecy of 40 Years, Chapter 11: Let Us Reveal the Truth from the History Books About the Church, and Chapter 36: Elijah Will Be Sent
The NCPCOG and the COGJW claimed that the WMSCOG had changed the first edition dates of "The Mystery of God and the Spring of the Water of Life", "The Last Plague and the Mark of God" and "Guests who came from the Angels of World" to 1967 once upon a time. The NCPCOG also refuted the claim by the WMSCOG that Ahn Sahng-hong had the book "The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ", and said that Ahn Sahng-hong has never published this book, but it seems to have been compiled with reference to Ahn Sahng-hong's book "The New Testament and the Old Testament".
People magazine inquiry
In December 2015, People magazine published an interview with former member Michele Colon, who had attended the WMSCOG church in Ridgewood, New Jersey for two years, and later sued the organization. Colon, who was generally contradicted by the church but generally corroborated in interviews with six other former WMSCOG members, described the WMSCOG as a "doomsday cult" that is "opportunistic." She said they try to recruit people who are going through a life transition period, or have a void in their lives "and they will fill it." She said WMSCOG manipulated members with "fear and guilt," and constant repetitions. She reported that the church "micromanaged" her life, and expected that all her time be spent there, controlling her music-listening and forbidding her from using the internet.
Colon said church leaders do not tell members, until they seem fully committed, that their "God the Mother" is actually a living South Korean woman in her 70s, known by multiple names and various spiritual titles, who is apparently the widow of the deceased founder, Ahn Sahng-hong.
Michele Colon, a nurse from New Jersey, claimed, in a civil suit filed against WMSCOG in New Jersey, in 2013, that the group is a “profit-making” cult, and claimed it "uses a number of psychological control tactics … to prevent its members from exposing its criminal and tortious behavior."
However, Colon's lawsuit was almost entirely rejected by the district and appellate state courts. Colon's claims, the court ruled, depended upon her claim that the WMSCOG is a "cult", not a "church" — a determination that the courts ruled they were not allowed to make, by law. The courts, largely citing the "religious freedom" element of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, particularly the judicial church autonomy doctrine (forbidding courts to inquire into "the facts and circumstances which intrude into church doctrine, affairs, and management"), the appellate court ruled that:
Each claim springs from Colón's contention that WMSCOG is a cult, not a church, and that she was essentially defrauded by this cult. The conflict arises from her disagreement about the manner in which the church implemented its doctrinal beliefs, managed its clergy and parishioners, and invested donations. Therefore Colón's complaint necessarily required the court to examine the interior workings and structure of the church, a constitutionally unacceptable process.
Paralyzing the telephone of Wonju municipal government
The WMSCOG originally planned to purchase a LH office building in the city of Wonju in Gangwon Province, and planned to make it a religious place. After the local residents learned about it, they set up the "Church of God residents emergency response committee" to oppose the action of The WMSCOG. After that, the Wonju municipal government refused to apply for the use of religious facilities. From May 30 to June 1, 2016, Wonju municipal government received more than 30,000 calls from members of the WMSCOG, which led to interference in the work of the municipal government. Wonju municipal government issued a press release on June 2 stating: "This will be a phone paralysis operation of a religious organization." Finally, two administrative proceedings were initiated by the WMSCOG, but all the appeals were rejected. "The reason why the administrative court refused the WMSCOG's request is because of traffic congestion and residents' complaints," said Wonju municipal government official. Church of God residents emergency response committee said: "It is normal for the plaintiff to be rejected. We will never stop unless the true face of the WMSCOG is revealed."
Rick Ross critique
Rick Alan Ross, cult researcher and deprogrammer describes the WMSCOG as "a very intense group... similar to the Unification Church [of] Sun Myung Moon — the "Moonies", comparing WMSCOG indoctrination methods to those of the Unification Church.
Ross claims that the WMSCOG has driven members into "bankruptcies because of excessive donations", and claims that some have lost their jobs to "excessive demands" of the group and associated "sleep deprivation”. He says that members often are sent to group housing and shared apartments, becoming isolated and alienated from family and friends, even spouses and adult children. Ross notes the group, which recruits members on university campuses, at malls and other shopping sites, has no meaningful accountability for leadership — a "dictatorship in Korea" — nor for the millions in revenue it receives.
In Vietnam, the Committee for Religious Affairs urged alertness about the group and cautioned that it should not be equated with other Protestant groups using similar names. Claiming the organization as cult-like, the government gratuitously cited the group as engaging in deceptive recruitment, with questionable and manipulative indoctrination, doomsday predictions, and urging the donation of cash and members' abandonment of their own families.
In May 2018, Vietnamese authorities seized the Church's assets in Hà Nội, Sàigòn and in other provinces, and interrogated hundreds of its members. The Church leaders were accused of brainwashing its members and micromanaging their lives by urging students to abandon their studies and their workers to abandon their jobs in order to recruit more followers.
Recruitment and human trafficking rumors
WMSCOG has been investigated for — and subsequently cleared of — human trafficking on multiple American university campuses. Police investigations into possible human sex trafficking connections ensued in January 2018 at the University of Mississippi, in September 2019 at the University of South Carolina, and in March 2020 at the University of Utah. Similar reports also occurred at the University of Louisville, Vanderbilt University, the University of Georgia, Oberlin College, Texas State University, and Arizona State University, among others. All investigations were closed after failing to find a link between the church and illicit activity.
Many students, across multiple campuses, reported unknown persons asking if they knew about "God the Mother." Recruiters have been known to approach female students and ask if they believe in a female god, which often will lead to invitations to study groups. Recruiters will also approach students and ask if they would like to join a Bible study group.
This style of recruitment has come under fire from former church members, who have said that the church tends to target those who appear "psychologically vulnerable" and specifically young white people who appear wealthy.
In August 2017, the Otago University Students' Association in Dunedin disaffiliated the Elohim World Academy following complaints from students about deceptive and coercive recruitment methods. The University of Otago's Proctor Dave Scott had considered trespassing members of the group but ruled it out since that would have violated the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990's provisions on religious freedom and freedom of expression. In 2020, the University of Auckland student magazine Craccum reported that members of the Elohim Academy had targeted students at the University of Auckland and the University of Waikato in Hamilton.
- Okcheon Go&Come Training Institute
- Jounyisan Training Institute
- Elohim Training Institute
- The Church of God Theological Institute
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- The International WeLoveU Foundation
- Messiah Orchestra
- Saet-byul Kindergarten
- ASEZ, the World Mission Society Church of God University Student Volunteer Group
- ASEZ WAO, the World Mission Society Church of God Young Adult Worker Volunteer Group
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to World Mission Society Church of God.|
- World Mission Society Church of God Official website (Korean)
- World Mission Society Church of God Official website (English)
- World Mission Society Church of God in the U.S. USA based website (English)
- World Mission Society Church of God in Singapore Singapore based website (English)
- World Mission Society Church of God in Philippines Philippines based website (English)
- "NBC Investigates - World Mission Church of God...," December 4, 2016, The Today Show, host Ronan Farrow - NBC News on YouTube