Biblical Answers to the World Mission Society Church of God

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.--1 John 4:1

Are you or a loved one struggling with this group? Do you need Biblical answers about the World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCoG or CoGWMS), their founder Ahnsahnghong (Ahn Sahng/Sang-Hong) or their current leader "Mother Jerusalem" (a.k.a. "Heavenly Mother God," Zang/Zahng Gil-Jah, or Chung Gil Cha)? Thank you for coming here. I hope my blog helps you. Questions and comments are always welcome.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Which church should I go to?"

"Which church is the True Church?"
"Where do I go for salvation?"
"I know I should leave, but if the WMSCOG is not true, then no church can be true. What will I do?"
"Meeting WMSCOG members made me want to go back to church, but how do I find one?"

I hear questions like these regularly.
Sometimes it's from a World Mission Society Church of God member trying to make their point.
Sometimes it's from a member who realizes something is wrong, but they are afraid to leave.
Sometimes it's from a person whose encounter with the WMSCOG makes them want to get closer to the true God.

No matter the reason or what form the question takes, it's a good question, and one that deserves attention.

First, let's define "church." For our purpose here, there are three basic definitions:
1. The worldwide group of people who truly believe in Jesus (God), not confined to a building or location
2. A denomination of Christianity, example: the Baptist church
3. A local congregation, example: First Baptist Church on Main Street

Which church is the True Church?

That is definition #1, the body of true believers worldwide. (John 10:27)
Here is a good article about it.

Where do I go for salvation?

It is not a church of any kind that can give you salvation, it is Jesus Himself. Go to Jesus for salvation. (John 14:6; Acts 16:31)

Then what about denominations and local congregations?

Local congregations (most of which are part of a larger denomination) can help you with your walk of faith. They can help you get to know Jesus better and have a closer relationship with God. But your salvation is about your relationship with God, not your relationship with a particular church (definition #2 or 3).

I know I should leave, but if the WMSCOG is not true, then no church can be true. What will I do?

Here's a question for you to think about--If your particular church is teaching you to worship a false god, should you stay there? Of course not! There are good churches that teach truth out there, but you won't find one until you leave and search for one, even if leaving is emotionally difficult.

I've heard from members who know that Ahnsahnghong and Zahng Gil-jah are false gods, but are hesitant to leave the WMSCOG because they agree with other teachings like Sabbath and the Feasts. Which do you think is more important? Who you worship or how you worship? Isn't it better to leave the church that worships false gods? Then you will see more clearly to find a better place to worship the true God.

I want to go back to church (or I'm leaving the WMSCOG), but how to I find a good church?

You can start by asking friends or relatives for suggestions, looking for local churches on the internet, or noticing what churches are in your town. But once you find some, how do you know if they are good ones?

The next step is to look at their statement of beliefs. You can usually find this on their website or in a pamphlet at the church. If they don't have one, that's a red flag--try a different church.

While denominations have some differences, all Christian churches that preach the truth about the Bible will share these same fundamental beliefs:
  • The Bible is the inspired word of God.
  • There is one true God, creator of heaven and earth, who has been revealed as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus is God. He lived a sinless life, was crucified for our sins, and was bodily resurrected.
  • All humans have sinned and can only be saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
  • Salvation is received by God's grace, through faith in Jesus, not by any works of our own.
If you see anything in the statement of beliefs that contradicts these things, such as that Jesus was not God or that people must perform certain tasks for their salvation, that's a red flag--try a different church.

If their beliefs look good, try visiting the church several times. Observe how the people interact with each other and with guests. See if they have programs and classes to help you study your Bible, grow in your faith, and connect with others. If it doesn't feel like the right fit, don't lose hope, just try a different church. You can also go back in a few months and see if you feel differently about it.

Don't be afraid to ask the leadership of the church if you have questions about what they do and what they believe and why. Remember that the WMSCOG is wrong about many of of their teachings. Don't dismiss a new church simply because they do and believe things the WMSCOG taught you were wrong.

Beware of local churches or denominations that might sound good at first, but actually teach falsehood (like the WMSCOG). Here is a list of points that will help you check if the church falls into this category. Sometimes you won't realize these teachings until you've been attending for a while. If that happens, just realize it's time to try a different church.

Here are two excellent articles with more advice about finding a good church:
"Looking for the 'Right' Church?"
"Choosing a Church After a Painful Experience"

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Queen's Award and the WMSCOG -- Fact and Fiction

Foreword...
The World Mission Society Church of God has been pursuing a reputation for volunteer activity and community service in the locations of its various branches. Members participate in events such as blood drives, community clean up, family events, and the like. (See examples here.)

Community service itself is wonderful. It is admirable for people to invest their time and effort to improve the world around us and to help people in need. My family and I have done it. Most people who do this are sincere and loving about it, and I believe that most members of the WMSCOG who participate in these activities do so genuinely.

Because volunteer community services are so commendable, it's a very unpleasant and sensitive thing to have to criticize any part of it, and I do so reluctantly. My message here is in no way intended to denigrate the volunteers or detract from the valuable work they have done in their communities. Please know that the following criticisms are not directed at the members who do the volunteer work, but at the leaders who use the results of this work to make misrepresentations about the WMSCOG.
______________________________

Last summer the WMSCOG was awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Services. The WMSCOG and its members have been very excited and have published articles, videos, and comments about it around the web. If you have had anything to do with the WMSCOG, surely you have already heard about it. After all, it is prominently displayed on their main website's front page. Here's a screen shot...

I greatly admire Queen Elizabeth II, and so this interested me a lot. Over the last months I've been researching and watching -- What is this award? How is it earned? Is it everything the WMSCOG says? Are they representing it correctly to their members and the public?
Here is what I discovered...

The United Kingdom's government sites will tell you all about this award and how groups are nominated and selected and also a list of recipients. There is contact information available as well, for those of us who want more information about the award.

This is a legitimate and prestigious award. It is well-earned and an honor for those groups who receive it. However, there are numerous problems with the way the WMSCOG has represented this award.

Did the WMSCOG earn this award?
The award was earned by the "UK Zion," which is the specific local branch of the WMSCOG in Manchester, UK. This award was NOT given to the larger, corporate WMSCOG or any of their other local branches. For that to be stated or implied is inappropriate and against the nature of the award.

Think of Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year for his songwriting. It would be improper for his record label to claim that they won the prize, or for other artists sharing that record label or singing with Bob Dylan to claim that they also won the prize.

This was clarified for me by a representative of the Queen's Award who told me, "It is possible for a group affiliated to a wider group to be given the award, however, it only applies to the local group." She went on to say that it "does not apply to the wider organisation and any mention of the Award on websites or marketing information should reflect this."

Do their websites reflect this? Well, read for yourself...
This article at award.watv.org,
This article at english.watv.org,
An article about their celebration event in Korea,
This video from the WMSCOG,
Another video from the WMSCOG.

How about these news articles that show local branches in the USA appropriating this award for themselves (see screen shot)? All of these articles (like this one) state "News provided by World Mission Society Church of God."

Even if they have not directly applied the award to "the wider organisation," they have implied it to enough of an extent that the casual reader would easily think that the entire worldwide church earned the award. Even their own members can easily misunderstand this if the WMSCOG does not specifically clarify it.

Are WMSCOG members now MBEs?
No. I wondered this because of the WMSCOG's statement:
"The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service recipients are made the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire [MBE]. Just like individuals, groups that were recognized with an MBE can use this British honor with their names. They are also entitled to use the Queen's Award emblem on their website, stationery, and other printed material."
I was confused because I couldn't quite tell if the WMSCOG was saying that individual members could now use MBE with their names. Also, the UK's official information online did not explain for me if that was how this honor worked, so I asked the Queen's Award for more information.

The representative answered that although the award is equivalent in status for a group as an MBE is for an individual, "The Award is given to the overall group and it does not apply to individuals and therefore, it is not possible for individuals to use the title behind their name."

She also clarified for me the meaning of "MBE." She said, "The MBE title you have used 'Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire' is not recognised by us and the correct title is 'Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).'" There is more information about the honors system online.

I can see how the WMSCOG might be confused about the title since I have seen it used with "the Most Excellent" phrase elsewhere online. Perhaps it is an outdated phrase, but in any case it is not used on the official government websites.

What about the wording on the certificate?
The certificate, signed by the Queen, says,
Elizabeth the Second,
By the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
and of Our other Realms and Territories, Queen, Defender of the Faith, to
UK ZION,
a group of volunteers from the World Mission Society Church of God,
share Mother's love through a range of initiatives.
Greeting!
We being cognisant of the said group's voluntary work in the community,
and being desirous of showing Our Royal Favour do hereby confer upon it:
The Queen's Golden Jubilee Award...
When the WMSCOG states, "The Queen praises the Church of God for performing the role of salt and light" (in this article), and "The award certificate signed by Queen Elizabeth II herself states its purpose and meaning clearly" (in this article, and similarly in this video), it gave me the impression that the Queen knows and approves of the message of "Mother God."

However, the phrase "UK ZION, a group of volunteers from the World Mission Society Church of God, share Mother's love through a range of initiatives" did not come from the Queen or the award committee. That "citation" part of the certificate is provided by either the organisation itself or the person nominating it. We can tell this because of the guidance notes for the award.

How long did it take for the UK Zion to be approved for this award?
According to a WMSCOG article and two videos (this one and this one, see screen shot), the local branch "has carried out volunteer services constantly for four years" and has been through a "rigorous assessment procedure for three years."

I understand those statements to mean that the Manchester branch did such a wonderful job of community work the first year that they were then nominated for the award and spent the next three years continuing their work while the "rigorous assessment procedure" was taking place. (If that's not what was meant, they might want to reword it.)

Well, the assessment is "thorough and rigorous" as described on the Queen's Award website, but it seems the WMSCOG's timeline is a bit off.

A group must have been doing their volunteer work for at least three years in order to be nominated, and it can be approved for the award in as quickly as one year (or less--nominations close in September for awards given the following June, see here for more information), or it may take as long as three years for a group to be approved for the award (info here).

The dates were also off on the Manchester branch's annual report submitted to the Charity Commission of the UK. The report was to cover the time period from August 2014 to August 2015, yet in Section D when it asks for a "summary of the main achievements of the charity during the year," they wrote "Queen's Award for Voluntary Service," even though they did not get the award until June 2016.

Was Kim Joo-cheol invited to Buckingham Palace by the Queen?
There is a picture of Kim Joo-cheol receiving the award, and the WMSCOG article says, "Before the award ceremony was held, General Pastor Kim Joo-cheol was invited by the [sic] Queen Elizabeth II as the representative of the Church of God to Buckingham Palace." I wondered if the General Pastor from Korea was actually personally invited by the Queen. That would be a prestigious invitation indeed.

The answer is no. The award notes tell us that each successful group is "allocated 2 places at the annual royal garden party at Buckingham Palace in London or the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh." It was the WMSCOG who chose to send Kim Joo-cheol, not the Queen.

Was the WMSCOG the only religious organization to receive the award this year?
In this article and this video (see screen shot), the WMSCOG states, "among a total of 193 invited charities, social enterprises, and voluntary groups, the only religious organization is the World Mission Society Church of God."

That is false. The UK has published a list of award recipients for 2016. I did not look up all 193 of them, but here are some of the ones that are definitely religion-based:
Open Hands Trust, Christian
Federation of Jewish Services, Jewish
Urban Outreach, Christian
Inter Madrassah Organisation, Muslim
The Boy's Brigade, Christian
Mary's Meals, Catholic
Paisley Wynd Centre, Christian
Southend-on-Sea Street Pastors, Christian
Masjid-E-Zeenat-Ul-Islam, Muslim
Salisbury Cathedral Volunteers, Christian
Manna House, Christian
Carriers of Hope, Christian
Good Shepherd Ministry, Catholic
Radio Plus, Christian
Sikh Union Coventry, Sikh

The value of fact-checking
How many times after a presidential speech or debate between candidates have you seen the media fact-checking? It's an important part of keeping our leaders accountable to speak the truth and avoid misrepresentations.

Fact-checking the WMSCOG's publicity of the Queen's Award has revealed several areas where they have made mistakes.

This is an esteemed award, and those who do the work to earn it deserve the honor of being recognized by the Queen. When it is misrepresented, as the WMSCOG leadership has done, it detracts from the honor.

For a previous post about WMSCOG awards, click here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Rebecca's full interview with Today, Part 2

I'm still grateful to the Today Show for bringing exposure to the World Mission Society Church of God with the segment they broadcast about it earlier this year. And I'm thankful they posted their full interview with Rebecca, the member who was featured in the segment.

Again, for your convenience, you can view the full interview by clicking here.

I've watched the interview several times and found it thought provoking. Last time I wrote about thoughts it brought up regarding mainstream Christianity. Now I'll focus on comments specific to the WMSCOG.

The End of the World?

There has been controversy about if and when the WMSCOG had made predictions about the end of the world. Rebecca was asked about this and responded that she had not been taught a specific date. She said that in fact it would be wrong for the church to teach a specific date because the Bible says no one knows the day. That part is true (see Matthew 24:36), though other ex-members and family of members report that they were indeed taught at least an end year.

Beyond that, I was struck by something she said at about 14:36,
"It could happen whenever. For, individually it could happen tomorrow. We don’t know… I could get in a car accident when I leave this place. No one knows that, that time frame when this is going to happen."
She was talking about how any of us should be ready at any time because we don't know when our time will be up here on this earth. The part that confused me was her implication that she could die in a car accident that day.

The reason this confused me is that the WMSCOG teaches that those members who take the Passover are protected from disasters. They even have a video about it, which shows people claiming they were protected from fire, earthquake, accident, and more, all because they had taken the Passover. Accordingly, I would expect no fear or even thought in a member's mind about dying in a car accident.

Preaching to Your Family

Several times Rebecca made comments like this, at 20:50,
"I never told my family to change their beliefs. I never asked them to believe what I believe."
Perhaps she never phrased it in just that way, but I have a hard time believing that she never preached to her family hoping for them to join the WMSCOG with her. This does not ring true for me for two reasons.

First, if her new faith truly was her "absolute happiness," if she had found her "true purpose" and "all the answers," and if she loved her family, why would she not share with them about it and want them to find all that too? It is only natural to want your family to join you in this new faith.

Second, the WMSCOG teaches that salvation is based on obedience, and obedience includes preaching. If she did not at least try to preach to her family, then she would not be obeying the requirement to preach. I wonder if Rebecca would like to go back and rephrase that.

The Intervention

Apparently Rebecca's family tried an intervention that did not go well, and it seems the effect was more traumatic than helpful.

At about 19:50, she was asked why her family would say that after joining the WMSCOG, she began "slipping away," was "sleep deprived," seemed not herself, and "talked to them less." Rebecca paused for a long time, and then rather than answering the question directly, began to describe what they did to her,
"I want you to imagine being locked in a hotel room against your own free will, and your entire family is there and tells you you cannot leave the hotel room until you see a cult counselor."
She came back to this incident several times during the interview, frequently using the phrase "locked in a hotel room."

I have been in numerous hotel rooms around the world and have never seen one where a person can get locked in. Locked out, yes, but never locked in. The door will always open from the inside. It's a safety measure. I wonder if this is another occasion where Rebecca would like to rephrase herself.

After describing this failed intervention, Rebecca then gave the reason for her pulling away from her family. She said,
"Tell me that it's easy to trust your family after they do that to you.... They have discriminated against me from the beginning.... Every word that comes out of my mouth they consider it a lie.... How can you have a relationship with someone who thinks your brainwashed?... Their intolerance for what I want to believe is what has caused me to step away."
This can be a vicious cycle. Family is concerned by changes in their loved one after they become involved with the WMSCOG. Member perceives this concern as an offense and responds with anger, withdrawal, etc. Family becomes even more concerned....

Later at 25:05, she said about her family, "They don't see how their own actions are affecting me."

It is true that our actions affect others' responses. I remember in the first year of my sister's involvement with the WMSCOG, I was completely unprepared with how to handle the situation. I'm certain I said and did things that were counter-productive because I didn't know the extent of what I was dealing with. But I was motivated out of love for my sister. Perhaps it was that way with Rebecca's family.

But it's important for Rebecca (and other members) to realize the same thing is true for them. Their actions affect their family's responses too.

Missing the Wedding

At about 30:00, Rebecca was asked about missing her brother's wedding. Arrangements were made, and she was expected to be there, and then she left a message that she would not be attending. The family was under the impression that it was because of the WMSCOG. Rebecca responded,
"“I chose not to go to the wedding based on personal circumstances at that time, having nothing to do with the church."
I know other members have also missed significant family events such as weddings and funerals. These events are extremely important markers in a family's history and identity. They are experiences that connect the family together.

Unless you have a compelling and unavoidable reason, you can't miss these events without causing hurt feelings. And it's not like your nephew's birthday party that happens every year. Weddings, funerals, and that type of event happen just once. Miss it, and you don't get a do-over. Just read the advice columns. Letters about this kind of thing come up regularly.

That one sentence was all the explanation she gave. If it really had nothing to do with the church, she should have just explained the personal circumstances. She says she did visit her brother and his new wife later to offer congratulations, and it was after that that the intervention attempt happened.

Thinking back to how our actions affect others.... Rebecca would be fooling herself if she thought missing her brother's wedding would not cause a rift in the family relationship.

The "Arranged" Marriage

Rebecca's family believed she was part of an arranged marriage. I've heard other families worry about this for their loved one too, so I was very interested to listen to Rebecca's comment about it. It's at about 25:35 when she answered,
"It’s absolutely wrong. I fell in love with James, and people fall out of love. So, it was not a forced marriage by any means at all. We fell in love with each other; we met, and decided not to continue the, our relationship."
That was... confusing. Does that mean they were married and then divorced, or decided to call it off before getting married? If it's not "forced," does that mean it was arranged but she was happy to do it? Her comment leaves me with more questions than answers. I wish she could have another chance to answer that and clarify herself.

Listening to Strangers

At about 23:06, when Rebecca was asked why she thought her family was attacking her faith, she said,
"I think it’s because they’ve talked to outside sources who have a negative view of the church. And they’ve chosen to believe those sources rather than their own daughter, their own flesh and blood."
And later at 29:50, her message to her brother included this,
"I wish that you would believe me and trust me and not listen to complete strangers rather than your own sister."
I've heard this type of comment before from other WMSCOG sources. The idea is that the family should believe their loved one's report and opinion about the WMSCOG, instead of believing information from "strangers"--other sources, such as the website you are currently reading. (However, I'm sure they wouldn't mind if the family listened to "strangers" who supported the WMSCOG, right?)

This works both ways. I hear from many families who are upset that their loved one is refusing to listen to "their own flesh and blood" and instead listening to "strangers"--the WMSCOG evangelists they just recently met. Rebecca's family would probably echo the sentiment back to her.

Conclusion

Once more, I say thank you to Today for bringing attention to this group, and thank you to both Rebecca and her parents for sharing their story. I pray for them and other families in the same struggle that they would find peace and restoration.