World Mission Society Church of God

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World Mission Society Church of God
Founder Ahn Sahng-hong
Type Religious
Headquarters Bundang, South Korea
General Pastor
Joo-Cheol Kim

World Mission Society Church of God, is a Christian new religious movement that began in South Korea in 1964.[1] After founder Ahn Sahng-hong died in 1985, 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, Sungnam City, Kyunggi Province.[1]

The church believes in "Christ Ahn Sahng-hong" and God the Mother, Jang Gil-ja,[2] (a living South Korean woman[3][4]) and that it is restoring the truth of the early church.[5] The Christian Council of Korea, representing South Korean Protestant churches, has denounced the WMSCOG as "heretical."[1][6]

The sect claims to have 1.7 million members, and to have “established 2,200 local churches in 150 countries in just half a century”[1]

Critics, including some former members, have described the society as a "doomsday cult" that recruits, manipulates, controls and exploits vulnerable people.[3][4][7][8], and some colleges have banned its recruiters.[9][6]

Name[edit]

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. The church's name "Church of God" is a verbatim designation of 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 1–2.

History[edit]

The church was established by Ahn Sahng-hong and was further administered by Kim Joo-cheol and Jang Gil-ja after Ahn Sahng-hong's death in 1985. Its headquarters are located in Bundang, Sungnam City, Kyunggi Province. Currently there are 450 churches in South Korea, and 6,000 churches abroad. It is still expanding.[10]

Timeline[edit]

  • April 28, 1964 – Ahn Sahng-hong establishes the Witnesses of Jesus Church of God in South Korea;[11][12]
  • 1970 – Establishes 4 churches in South Korea;[11]
  • 1980 – Total of 13 churches established in South Korea;[11]
  • 1985 – Ahn Sahng-hong dies in February. After his death, the Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God was created, later to be called Church of God World Mission Society for the purpose of registering and managing the organization's assets.
  • 1988 – 10,000 registered members;[11]
  • 1990 – Total of 30 churches established in South Korea;[11]
  • 1996 – Total of 107 churches established; 100,000 registered members;[11]
  • 1997 – Establishes 3 churches abroad (LA, U.S., Lahore, Pakistan and Essen, Germany);[11]
  • 1998 – Total of 210 churches;[11]
  • 1999 – 200,000 registered members;[11]
  • 2000 – Total 300 churches in South Korea; 400,000 registered members;[11]
  • 2001 – The first visiting group from abroad (U.S.);[11]
  • 2002 – Carries out missionary work in 70 countries;[11]
  • 2003 – Volunteer work for the Daegu subway tragedy (free meals for 55 days) and receives presidential citation; approximately 500,000 registered members; supports 176 countries at the Daegu Universiade (with over 90,000 mandays);[11]
  • 2004 – Receives a Medal of Honor; 1st launching ceremony for self-supporting missions abroad teams; 600,000 registered members;[11]
  • 2005 – Opening ceremony of Okcheon Go&Come training institute;[11]
  • 2006 – Opening of the Church of God's History Museum;[11]
  • 2007 – Over 100 churches have been established abroad; 800,000 registered members;[11]
  • 2008 – One million registered members;[11]
  • 2009 – Appears in March of Monthly Chosun;[13] 32 short-term mission teams sent abroad;[11]
  • 2010 – Appears in October of Joongang monthly;[14] 427 short-term mission teams sent abroad; delivers donations for Earthquake Victims in Haiti and Chile to UN (fund raised from charity concerts);[11]
  • 2011 – Receives US President's Volunteer Service Award from Barack Obama; sharing love with neighbors in and abroad for commemorating the 94th birthday of Ahnsahnghong; appears in April Monthly Chosun;[11]
  • 2012 – Worldwide environmental cleanup campaigns for the Passover; blood drives to give live through Passover; 2,200 churches in 150 countries have been established; over 1.75 million members registered;[11]
  • 2013 – 2013 Winter Student Camp, Street Cleanup Campaign (Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Chungju and Yeosu of Korea and Lima of Peru), Worldwide Volunteer Service for the Passover, Orchestra Concert for the Church of God Students;[11]
  • 2015 - Receives Korean Presidential Citation Group Award[15]
  • 2016 - Receives Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in UK[16][17]
  • 2017 - Total of 7007 churches;
  • 2018 - Over 8,000 churches;

Beliefs and practices[edit]

The church believes in God the Father and God the Mother,[2] claiming to be restoring the truth and practices of the early Church.[5] The church also believes that co-founder Zang Gil-ja is herself, God the Mother.

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[edit]

The Church believes that Jesus was to come a second time in the flesh. They believe that Ahn Sahng-hong is the Second Coming Jesus, who came with a new name, the name of the Holy Spirit.(Revelation 3:11–12 and Revelation 2:17), and it states that he fulfilled biblical prophecies that only Jesus could have fulfilled.[18]

Feast days[edit]

The church celebrates the seven feasts laid in Leviticus 23: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles.[19] The church observes the feasts according to the New Covenant established by Jesus by distinguishing from the feasts kept in the Old Testament.

Sabbath[edit]

It believes in the Saturday Sabbath according to Genesis 2:1 but celebrates it not from sunset to sunset but from sunrise to sunset.[citation needed] It considers the Sabbath to be a sign between God and God's people according to (Ezekiel 20:12, 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.[20]

Idolatry[edit]

According to the church's interpretation of Exodus 20:4, items such as crosses, statues and stained glass are considered a form of idolatry and are not erected on or in their churches.[21][22]

Human origin and redemption[edit]

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.[23]

Baptism[edit]

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

Prayer[edit]

The Church believes that prayer must be done in the name of the Holy Spirit Ahn Sahng-hong in the last days and that women must wear veils, according to 1 Corinthians 11:1–16 while they pray.[20]

Evangelism[edit]

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.[3][4][7]

Some aggressive WMSCOG recruiters have created concern on college campuses, where young women seem to be their primary target, proseletyzed emphatically with the church's "Mother God" idea; some "aggressive" WMSCOG recruiters have been banned from some college campuses in the U.S. for "trespassing" or proselytizing without permission.[9][6][24][25]

Compared to traditional Christianity[edit]

The World Mission Society Church of God holds many views differing from mainstream Christianity. The church says it follows the teachings and feasts of the old covenant of the Bible as did some of the early church 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. [26]

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."[3]

A Korean Christian umbrella organization, the Christian Council of Korea, which represents Protestant churches in South Korea, has denounced the WMSCOG as "heretical."[1][6]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

The group has been pubilcly 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.[3][4][7][27]

People Magazine inquiry[edit]

In December 2015, People Magazine published a detailed 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 -- 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.[3][4]

Colon said church leaders don't 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, Ahnsahnghong.[3][4]

At least one former member has sued them for urging her to have an abortion, and others have accused the church of discouraging pregnancy in anticipation that the world would end in 2012.[3][4]

Lawsuits[edit]

Court document on a lawsuit filled by a former member

Michele Colon (perhaps the same as "Michelle Rodriguez" or "Michele Ramirez"), 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."[3][28]

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:[29]

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.

Michelle Rodriguez, a former member of the WMSCOG in New Jersey, stated in a federal lawsuit that she was coerced by the church to abort her pregnancy in 2010.[4]

Rick Ross critique[edit]

Rick Alan Ross, prominent and controversial cult researcher, "deprogrammer," and federal government consultant on authoritarian groups, and director of the Cult Education Institute[7][27] -- 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 (which, like WMSCOG, originated in Korea).[7]

Ross says that the WMSCOG has driven members into "bankruptcies because of excessive donations," and says some have lost their jobs to "excessive demands" of the group and associated "sleep deprivation.”[7]

Ross 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 . "It’s ended marriages," he notes.[7]

Ross claims that, shortly after the group entered the U.S. it established a hub in Ridgewood N.J., and quickly spread organizations throughout the northeast, into New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, drawing thousands to a conference in the mid-2010s. [7]

Ross notes the group recruits members on university campuses, and at malls and other shopping sites. Ross indicates group has no meaningful accountability for leadership -- a "dictatorship in Korea" -- nor for the millions in revenue it receives. [7]

Vietnam[edit]

In Communist-ruled Vietnam, the authoritarian government's Committee for Religious Affairs urged alertness about the group, and cautioned that it should not be equated with other Protestant groups, using similar names, in Vietnam. Describing the organization as cult-like, the government 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.[8]

Public service[edit]

The organization's branches are often noted in public websites for initiating or supporting high-profile "community clean-up" activities.[30][31][32][33] The church also highlights its role in disaster response, though it is not clear what impact it has had. Following Hurricane Sandy, which struck the New Jersey coast in 2012, a WMSCOG spokesman claimed 660 members of the Ridgefield, New Jersey congregation had gone door-to-door in the affected area to address the residents' "spiritual needs."[34]

Affiliated institutions[edit]

  • Okcheon Go&Come Training Institute
  • Jounyisan Training Institute
  • Elohim Training Institute
  • The Church of God Theological Institute
  • The Church of God History Museum
  • The International We Love U Foundation[35]
  • Messiah Orchestra
  • Saet-byul Kindergarten

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e James, Jonathan D., Edith Cowan University, editor, "The Southern Factor: Prospects and Challenges," from book A Moving Faith: Mega Churches go South, 2015, Sage Publications, Los Angeles and New Delhi, retrieved May 23, 2018; also at [1]
  2. ^ a b "Joongang Monthly Magazine". Joongang Il Bo. Retrieved 4 April 2013. [permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harris, Chris, "Former Members Allege New Jersey Church, South Korea-Based World Mission Society Church of God, is Actually a 'Cult'," December 10, 2015, People Magazine, retrieved May 22, 2018
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Ma, Myles, NJ Advance Media, "Ex-members accuse Ridgewood church of being cult, reports say," January 17, 2016, Bergen County Record / NJ.com, retrieved May 22, 2018
  5. ^ a b "WATV". WATV. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d "God the Mother” Followers Aim to Proselytize Students," February 23, 2018, Oberlin Review, Oberlin College, retrieved May 22, 2018
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Cult expert: Pocono Dome church has cult markers," March 29, 2017, Pocono Record, Pocono, New Jersey, retrieved May 22, 2018
  8. ^ a b "Government urges caution against controversial 'World Mission Society Church of God',", April 26, 2018, Vietnam News, retrieved May 22, 2018
  9. ^ a b "Church members barred from U of M campus for ‘aggressively’ discussing religion," January 31, 2018, WREG-TV, Memphis, Tennessee, retrieved May 22, 2018
  10. ^ "WATV – Worldwide". Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "WATV – History". WATV.org. Archived from the original on 15 August 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "[異色 종교단체 탐구] 하나님의교회 세계복음선교협회 월간조선 – 영향력 있는 사람들에게 영향력 있는 잡지". Monthly.chosun.com. 2009-02-21. Archived from the original on 2013-04-19. Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  13. ^ "Monthly Chosun". Monthly Chosun. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  14. ^ "Joongang monthly". Joongang monthly. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "하나님의교회, 바다의 날 '대통령단체표창' 수상". joongboo daily news. 9 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "Old-Trafford's World Mission Society Church of God bestowed with prestigious Queen's voluntary award". Messenger Newspapers. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  17. ^ Kim, Jin Oh (11 July 2016). "영국 여왕, 하나님의 교회에 국가 최고 자원봉사상 수여". ajunews. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  18. ^ "WATV – Second Coming Christ". WATV. World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  19. ^ "WATV – Feasts of God". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  20. ^ a b "WATV – Fundamentals". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  21. ^ "WMSCOG Bible Q&A". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  22. ^ Lydia DePillis (2012-05-23). "Broken Windows Theory". Washington City Newspaper. Retrieved 2018-04-23. 
  23. ^ "WATV – About Soul". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  24. ^ "Wichita police: No abductions linked to missionaries in silver van," September 14, 2015, The Wichita Eagle,
  25. ^ "Religious recruiters spark concern,", February 20, 2014, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, retrieved May 23, 2018
  26. ^ "World Mission Society Church of God". english.watv.org. 
  27. ^ a b "NBC Investigates - World Mission Church of God member John Power," Dec 4, 2016, The Today Show, host Ronan Farrow, NBC News on YouTube.
  28. ^ New Jersey Resident vs World Mission Society Church of God https://www.scribd.com/doc/140510919/New-Jersey-Criminal-Case-Against-World-Mission-Society-Church-of-God
  29. ^ "COLÓN v. WORLD MISSION SOCIETY CHURCH OF GOD: Docket No. A-5008-14T4.", Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Argued September 28, 2016, Decided November 29, 2016, as transcribed and posted by Leagle.com, retrieved May 26, 2018
  30. ^ "Volunteer Group Helps Survivor with Clean Up," (Moore, Oklahoma, following tornado disaster), Official website of the Department of Homeland Security, retrieved May 22, 2018
  31. ^ "Church members clean up Kansas City’s Swope Park,", March 26, 2017, Kansas City Star, retrieved May 22, 2018
  32. ^ "World Mission Society Church of God volunteers assist Township Seniors after March 2017 snowstorm," March, 2017, official website of Township Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services, of North Brunswick, New Jersey, retrieved May 22, 2018
  33. ^ Perry, Clayton, (District 10 City Councilman), "Community Spotlight" February 21, 2018, District 10 Newsflash, City of San Antonio, Texas, retrieved May 22, 2018
  34. ^ Hennessy-Fiske, Molly, "Hoboken blinking to life after Sandy, but road back is long," November 04, 2012, Los Angeles Times, retrieved May 23, 2018
  35. ^ "The Intl. WeLoveU Foundation". The Intl. WeLoveU Foundation. 

External links[edit]