World Mission Society Church of God

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World Mission Society Church of God
AbbreviationWMSCOG
EstablishedApril 28, 1964; 55 years ago (1964-04-28)
FounderAhn Sahng-hong
TypeReligion
HeadquartersBundang, South Korea
Location
  • International
General Pastor
Joo-Cheol Kim
"God the Mother"
Jang Gil-ja
WebsiteWATV

World Mission Society Church of God, is a new religious movement that began in South Korea in 1964.[1][2] 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, Seongnam City, Gyeonggi Province.[1]

The church believes in Christ Ahn Sahng-hong and God the Mother, and that it is restoring the truth of the early church.[3]

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.

History[edit]

History Outline
Year # of Churches
1964 1
1970 4
1980 13
1990 30
2000 300
2013 2,500
At present it records to have over 7,000 churches

The church was founded in South Korea on April 28, 1964 by Ahn Sahng-hong. Ahn Sahng-hong died in February 1985, and afterward the church, later renamed Church of God World Mission Society, was administered by Kim Joo-cheol and Jang Gil-ja.

South Korea[edit]

In 1970 the church grew to four churches, in 1980 – 13 churches and by 1990 – 30 churches. There was sharp increase in the growth of the church in 2000 where it recorded 300 established churches and 400,000 registered members in South Korea. By 2013 its recorded to have 2,500 churches in South Korea.[4]

Abroad[edit]

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[5] By 2013 its recorded to have expanded in "about 175 countries" [4]

Current status[edit]

A media outlet owned by the Church of God reports to have more than 7,000 churches in 175 countries.[6]

Critics[edit]

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.[7]

Beliefs and practices[edit]

The church believes in God the Father and God the Mother,[8] claiming to be restoring the truth and practices of the early Church.[3] The church also believes that co-founder Jang Gil-ja is God the Mother, as taught by the founder Ahn Sahng-hong.[9]

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; Revelation 2:17), and it states that he fulfilled biblical prophecies that only Jesus could have fulfilled.[10]

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.[11] 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 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.[12]

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.[13][14]

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.[15]

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.[12]

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.[16][17][18]

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" doctrine. Some of these recruiters have been banned from some college campuses in the U.S. for "trespassing" or proselytizing without permission.[19][20][21][22]

Comparisons 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. [23]

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."[16]

A Korean Christian umbrella organization, the Christian Council of Korea, which represents Protestant churches in South Korea, has denounced the WMSCOG as "heretical."[1][20]

Awards[edit]

UK ZION, a World Mission Society Church of God chapter, was awarded The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2016.[24][25][26][27]

Criticism and controversy[edit]

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.[16][17][18][28]

People magazine inquiry[edit]

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.[16][17]

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, Ahnsahnghong.[16][17]

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.[16][17]

Lawsuits[edit]

Court document on a lawsuit filled by a former member

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."[16][29]

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:[30]

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.

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[18][28] -- 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).[18]

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.[18]

Vietnam[edit]

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. 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.[31]

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[32]
  • Messiah Orchestra
  • Saet-byul Kindergarten
  • ASEZ, the World Mission Society Church of God University Student Volunteer Group[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 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
  2. ^ James, Jonathan D. "The Southern Factor: Prospects and Challenges" – via www.academia.edu.
  3. ^ a b "WATV". WATV. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  4. ^ a b "WATV – Worldwide Status". english.watv.org. Over 2,500 local Churches have been established in about 175 countries
  5. ^ "WATV – History". WATV.org. Archived from the original on 15 August 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  6. ^ "WATV Welcome – Worldwide Status". WATVWelcome.org. More than 7,000 churches in 175 countries deliver Mother’s heartwarming love to seven billion people.
  7. ^ Amennews (5 June 2013). "Archived copy" ‘하나님의교회’(세계복음선교협회)의 주요교리와 그 비판 [Criticism of the Major Doctrines of World Mission Society Church of God] (in Korean). Archived from the original on 2013-10-02. Retrieved 2013-08-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Joongang Monthly Magazine". Joongang Il Bo. Retrieved 4 April 2013.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "World Mission Society Church of God". english.watv.org.
  10. ^ "WATV – Second Coming Christ". WATV. World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  11. ^ "WATV – Feasts of God". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  12. ^ a b "WATV – Fundamentals". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  13. ^ "WMSCOG Bible Q&A". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  14. ^ Lydia DePillis (2012-05-23). "Broken Windows Theory". Washington City Newspaper. Retrieved 2018-04-23.
  15. ^ "WATV – About Soul". World Mission Society Church of God. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g 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
  17. ^ a b c d e 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
  18. ^ a b c d e "Cult expert: Pocono Dome church has cult markers". Pocono Record. March 29, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  19. ^ "Church members barred from U of M campus for ‘aggressively’ discussing religion," January 31, 2018, WREG-TV, Memphis, Tennessee, retrieved May 22, 2018
  20. ^ a b "God the Mother” Followers Aim to Proselytize Students," February 23, 2018, Oberlin Review, Oberlin College, retrieved May 22, 2018
  21. ^ "Wichita police: No abductions linked to missionaries in silver van," September 14, 2015, The Wichita Eagle,
  22. ^ "Religious recruiters spark concern,", February 20, 2014, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, retrieved May 23, 2018
  23. ^ "World Mission Society Church of God". english.watv.org.
  24. ^ Cunningham, Cara,"Old Trafford's World Mission Society Church of God bestowed with prestigious Queen's voluntary award". Messenger Newspapers. July 8, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  25. ^ Skinner, Nigel (July 14, 2016). "Queen's award for church group". Glossop Chronicle. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  26. ^ "No. 61599". The London Gazette (Supplement). June 1, 2016. p. J4.
  27. ^ "Queen's Award for Voluntary Service recipients 2016"". GOV.UK. 2 June 2016. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ "New Jersey Criminal Case Against World Mission Society Church of God - Non Disclosure Agreement - Piercing The Corporate Veil". Scribd.
  30. ^ "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
  31. ^ "Government urges caution against controversial 'World Mission Society Church of God',", April 26, 2018, Vietnam News, retrieved May 22, 2018
  32. ^ "The Intl. WeLoveU Foundation". The Intl. WeLoveU Foundation.
  33. ^ "ASEZ". ASEZ. Retrieved 14 February 2019.

External links[edit]