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.

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.


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.

Rebecca's full interview with Today, Part 1

Even though Rebecca's own response videos have been removed, the Today Show still has available her full interview, from which they used clips to make the segment that was broadcast. (I don't know how long they keep old videos available online, but I'm sure it's not forever. So if you haven't seen it yet, you should check it out soon.)

Here's the link for Rebecca's full interview. As I watched, it brought many thoughts to my mind.

First, I was very thankful that Rebecca took the time to do the interview and that she was willing to share some of her personal life on national television. It would not be easy to be so exposed, especially knowing that it would likely invite criticism and judgment. Not everyone would be brave enough to do that. Also, I see enough clues in the interview to tell me that Rebecca is hurt by the broken relationship with her family, just as they are. I pray that their relationship can be healed and restored.

Now on to the interview, beginning with thoughts that specifically deal with mainstream Christianity.

Experiences in the Christian Faith

At about 2:17, Rebecca is talking about her experience with mainstream Christianity. She says,
"I had left church because I felt like no church could provide me with answers to questions I had about the Bible. No church was able to provide a community even though my whole life I grew up under my parents’ nurturing and care and love, and they promoted Christianity, but I never felt satisfied in any of the other churches that I attended."
And then a bit later at 3:00, she says,
"The Church of God is what became my home of faith where all the answers to my questions to the Bible were given, and I was able to realize truly my purpose. It was my absolute happiness."
I have heard feelings like this from others who have left the Christian church, and not just World Mission Society Church of God members. Sometimes they find answers in another religion, or sometimes they leave religion entirely.

I did not grow up in a church environment, but I have visited a great many churches as an adult Christian. Denominations and particular congregations have personalities, like people do. Some focus on heavily on Bible study and application, others not so much. Some are good at fostering community and connections, others not so much. Some have approachable leadership, others not so much. There are fantastic Christian churches out there who will answer your questions and provide a community. You only have to find them.

It's also up to the individual to do their part. I love the church I'm at now where there are available in-depth Bible studies and activities that help us feel connected to each other and the larger community. However, if a person did not make the effort to get involved, but just showed up to service once a week, they might not feel spiritually satisfied. They should step up and take responsibility for their walk of faith.

Comments like Rebecca's should also make us Christians examine our own church congregations. Is your church a "not so much" church? If so, help fix it. Is there someone at your church who seems to need a deeper connection to God and the church community? Encourage them and show them how they can get involved. Don't wait for them to find community and "answers" (false ones) at a place like the WMSCOG.

Raising Children in the Christian Faith

Related to experiences in the Christian faith, I was interested in Rebecca's response to the question about if she had "a religious childhood" at about 15:58,
"They took us to church. They, my parents they took me and my brothers to church. I know for my mom, she grew up Catholic but decided not to follow that as she became an adult even though her parents continued in Catholicism. And I’m not sure my dad’s upbringing, but they decided to bring us up together just going to the community church. I don’t, I don’t think it really had a denomination. It was just a Christian church that worshiped on Sunday."
I don't know Rebecca's family personally, so I am not placing any judgment or blame on them with the following comments. I only know that these few words sparked thoughts in me about my own family. I took this as a warning to myself as a Christian parent. I want to raise my children to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God. To do that takes purposeful communication and action.

If my children grow up and don't know the denomination of the church they have been attending all their young lives (even if it is "non-denominational"), something is wrong. Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us to teach our children and make our faith an everyday part of our conversations. If we consider our faith important, we should be teaching it to our children. Granted the teachings of Christianity are more important than the specific denomination name, but they should still know it.

If they grow up not knowing the faith history of their own mom and dad, whom they have lived with all their young lives, something is wrong. Good communication in our family includes sharing our family history because that is important to our identity. I know about my parents' faith histories because it is part of my own faith history. My children are learning the faith histories of their parents and their grandparents. If they grow up and aren't sure about it or can't remember, I hope they ask.

If they grow up only being "taken" to church on Sundays (or even less, on occasional Sundays like for Easter and Christmas), something is wrong. How will they feel connected to God and to the family of Christian believers unless they get involved enough to feel comfortable and familiar there? I want church to be an integral part of my children's lives, not just a place they are "taken" sometimes. Even better is for them to understand that the church is who we are, not just a place we go.

Parent Reaction to a Child's Change of Faith

When asked what her parents' reaction was to Rebecca joining the WMSCOG, she described it like this, at about 19:00,
"They were not supportive of my own choice of faith. They were actually upset and seemed angry because I wasn’t going along with what they had raised me to believe. So I can assure you that that was not easy, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one in this world that has a difference of belief as she gets older and decides for herself as an adult to believe something different. I’m sure there’s many similar situations and maybe someone watching now that also has a disagreement with their parents based on their choice of faith."
I realize that as a parent, I can only do so much to raise my children to have that deep and meaningful relationship with God. Eventually they must choose to continue that walk of faith on their own or not. I've known wonderful Christian parents whose children grew up and still decided not to follow. It is their own freedom and responsibility to choose their faith.

My experience with the WMSCOG has shown me the anguish that a parent (or family or loved one) can go through when that choice is made. And Rebecca is true that it happens to many people. Sometimes the parent's anguish comes when the child choose (mainstream) Christianity rather than the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc., faith that they grew up with.

One thing I've learned is to have compassion, especially on the parent, in that situation, whichever the direction of change. It's understandable for the parent to be upset. If a parent is very connected to their faith, if it is an integral part of them (like my Christianity is with me), then having a child reject that can be heartbreaking.

And if you are part of that equation (as either the parent or the child), it's important to be compassionate and patient, and to ask for and offer forgiveness for the inevitable emotional outbursts. Even though it can be extremely hard to do!

(It might even be the parent who makes the choice to change after raising their child in their original faith! Then the roles are reversed.)

I didn't expect to write so much, but there's been a lot on my mind. Next time I'll focus on WMSCOG specific thoughts from the interview.

Click here to go on to Part 2.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rebecca's Response to the WMSCOG Today Show Segment

Earlier this year, the Today Show aired a segment highlighting the World Mission Society Church of God (you can watch it here).

If you are familiar with the WMSCOG, you will not be surprised to hear that they came out with their own videos in response, showing Rebecca Gardner's side of the story in three parts. You may have seen them yourself. I have seen them too and believe they deserve comment here.

I spent some time over the summer reviewing Rebecca's videos and the full videos of her interview and John Power's interview which the Today Show made available.

Well, you know how life goes... some seasons are busier than others. Now that I'm sitting down to write a response, guess what... Rebecca's videos have disappeared!

They are no longer available on youtube or on vimeo due to "privacy settings." Numerous pro-WMSCOG blogs and websites had posted about these videos, but now many of those posts are hard to find, with "page not found" errors. There is one still available at truthofgodthemother, but look quick in case it disappears too.

WHY did Rebecca's videos disappear?

Was she or the WMSCOG afraid of being scrutinized for their videos, perhaps in the same way they were scrutinizing the Today Show's video? Did they have legal issues with the videos? It is mysterious, and the speculations abound in my head.

Honestly, I thought it was good that Rebecca was able to tell her side of things. Her videos showed that both the member and their family struggle. The Today Show segment seemed to highlight the family's hurt and sadness with the situation, but with Rebecca's videos I saw that she was also hurt by the broken relationship.

Also, on the plus side for Rebecca, she was able to explain how part of the Today Show video was not quite as it appeared. I'm sure we all realize that the media can edit and skew their reporting, taking things out of context, to support the perspective they wish to portray. Rebecca was able to explain places where this had happened. (Of course, the WMSCOG does this type of thing too when it benefits themselves.)

It is honorable that the Today Show made available their full interviews with Rebecca Gardner and John Power. I believe the interview portions were not taken out of context, though you can check that out for yourself.

I hope that Rebecca and the WMSCOG will repost (or even remake) the videos for the simple reason that they promote dialogue, and I would like to open a dialogue here about them. There is a lot to say.