Previously we learned of our correspondent from New Jersey’s dramatic exit from the World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCOG). In this fourth part, of her five part series, we learn how this organization tried to make her sign some kind of non-disclosure agreement (NDA) when they believed she had been questioning them on the Internet.
During my research on the World Mission Society Church of God, I came across various internet blog entries written by people who had family members involved in the group. Soon an obvious pattern emerged. I read story after story about how the WMSCOG had either ruined their marriage or family. Since my husband had decided to remain a member of the WMSCOG, naturally I became very concerned. I discussed my concerns with my husband and he promised me that he would not let the church come between us. Little did I know, the WMSCOG was well on its way in doing just that.
My husband would soon explain that he needed to spend more time in the church because he needed to “learn and study more”. This of course made me furious because it appeared to be a blatant attempt to cannibalize all of my husband’s time in order to keep him away from me. If the WMSCOG didn’t allow me to sit next to the other “sisters” during the last service I attended in order to prevent me from “contaminating them with my doubts”, how much more would they attempt to keep my husband away from me for the same reason?
The arguments between us increased and the time we spent together decreased. One night my husband told me that I was going to hell because I was no longer keeping the Sabbath. I thought that God was the only one that could decide that? I was furious. It seemed that my husband was looking down upon me like I was a lesser being because I no longer wanted to attend the WMSCOG. Soon he began going to the church every day after work and coming home after midnight. We were newlyweds and we rarely saw each other or spent any time together. I became increasingly frustrated and angry as time went on. Six months after I left the WMSCOG my husband was convinced that I was being “used by Satan” in order to try and stop him from going to the church so he moved out one Friday while I was at work. When I got home from work all of his things were gone. I couldn’t believe he would do such a thing! I was completely devastated! It seemed like the WMSCOG was driving him crazy.
We sat down to talk during the evening on the day that he moved out. I explained to him that what he was doing was not Biblical. In the Bible, it states that marriage is a covenant, God hates divorce, and that a man should not leave his wife except for adultery. [Note to our readers, there is much controversy among Catholics and Protestants concerning the definition of the Greek word πορνείᾳ used in Matthew 19:9. Some view it as “adultery” while others view it as “illicit union”. That argument is beyond the scope of this site]. In the year that I was a member, the topic of marriage and its importance was never discussed in the WMSCOG. He went on to explain that he could no longer live with me because my “message would spread like cancer” (quoting 2 Timothy 2:17). This just didn’t make any sense. The verse that he quoted refers to Hymenaeous and Philetus preaching the message that the resurrection of Jesus never occurred (see 2 Timothy 2:18 & 1 Corinthians 15:12). He believed that because I had begun attending a Christian church on Sunday that this practice would somehow force him to do the same. How this would happen, I do not know. Members of the WMSCOG consider Sunday worship a pagan practice. I still don’t understand the connection between my attending church on Sunday, and those mentioned in the Bible that preached that Jesus had not resurrected. Just another verse that was taken out of context by him at the WMSCOG. Needless to say, the conversation was not productive because he left and refused to tell me where he would be going.
Two days later, my husband agreed to come over and talk to me again. I asked him to please come back home. He said that the only way he would move back in, would be if I agreed to attend one Sabbath service per week. Sound like coercion? I reluctantly agreed, and he moved back home. Even though I knew the teachings were wrong, and refused to take part in the prayers, I agreed to sit through the services in order to try and save my marriage. Things would be ok for a few days but it was the calm before the storm.
My husband insisted that I do all of the studies over again. I scheduled time to study with the deaconess that I had befriended during the first year of my membership. She never seemed to be available once I arrived at the church though. Unbeknownst to me, I would be studying with the pastor. My husband was present during the first study with the pastor but the study didn’t go well. It seemed that the pastor would become very frustrated when I asked questions. At the end of the study I asked the pastor to tell me what the Bible says about divorce. He wouldn’t answer. Instead he explained that he could not get involved in my relationship with my husband and that it was our “personal decision” if we wanted to stay together or not. Funny because I didn’t ask him for his opinion on the topic, I asked him to explain what the Bible tells us about divorce. I said that I needed to understand why my husband was under the impression that it was ok to leave me. He became very frustrated and said “what difference does it make if you’re both gonna die”. He alluded to the belief that my husband and I should be more concerned about our salvation (which by the way can only be obtained by keeping the Sabbath, Passover, tithing, and many other requirements according to the WMSCOG) than our marriage. After that statement, the study was over. I would only study once more about two weeks later, without my husband.
The first service I attended after being gone for 6 months was quite uncomfortable. I told my husband ahead of time that I wanted to sit with him during the service. After all, I had been made to sit next to him before so I didn’t think it would be a problem. I was wrong. When I got there, I told the “sister” in charge of the seating arrangement that I wished to sit with my husband. Suddenly no one knew where he was. I was suddenly allowed to sit with the “sisters” again, sandwiched in between a deaconess and a missionary. Maybe they would be the buffers between my doubts and the other “sisters”. After the service I confronted my husband about the seating arrangement. He explained that a deacon told him that it would be best if we didn’t sit together because he wouldn’t be able to focus on the message being given during the service. The deacon thought that my husband would be distracted by me. Why wasn’t this a concern of theirs before? This was just another inconsistency to add to the list.
About a month after I started attending the church again, my husband informs me that I am not allowed to return. He told me that the pastor “found out” that I had posted some negative information about the church online. He also mentioned a facebook page but did not offer anymore details. My husband assured me that they had shown him irrefutable evidence that I was the one that posted the negative information about the church online. I asked my husband to show me the facebook page on the computer but he said that he didn’t remember how to get to the page. About two days later I called the pastor and asked him what facebook page he was referring to? The pastor stated “you come here and I’ll show you”. I agreed to meet with him later that afternoon.
When I arrived at the church, I would soon be joined by my husband who had lied to me about where he was before the meeting. He had arranged to attend this meeting without my knowledge. I would sit down with the pastor, a deacon and my husband to discuss the matter at hand. To my surprise I was greeted with a two page non-disclosure agreement. The deacon explained “we prepared this to protect you and to protect us…mentioning that we won’t say anything about you in the same way that you won’t say anything bad about us”. I thought to myself, why do I need protection? I hadn’t done anything wrong.
He went on to explain that in the past people have visited their church and then “lied very bad” about them on the internet. I requested that they show me the “evidence” that my husband claimed they had. My request was denied. The deacon stated, “we don’t make anything on you having problems with Mark…is it ok if I read things in front of Mark?” I declined which of course made my husband upset, but he was advised by the pastor to leave the room. Here are the comments that the deacon read to me from some papers he had in front of him:
“My husband is so brainwashed by these people. It’s ridiculous. I am now having these arguments with him. All he ever answers to any of my points is if not this church then where? Basically because no other church celebrates the Sabbath on Saturday and Passover. He openly admits that he can not interpret anything in the Bible without the Church of God teachings. I can’t stand it. So when I read verses in the Bible that are clearly understood by anyone who reads them, he says you are applying your own mind”.
“As far as the calendar goes and how they calculate the dates of the feasts, as per one of the deacons after one of the services a few weeks ago, only the general pastor in Korea knows the formula. Apparently it is secret information that no one but the general pastor is allowed to know. If you ask, they will tell you that the Jews miscalculate all the dates citing the example of when they start to celebrate the Sabbath. The Jews, from what I understand, start the Sabbath on Friday evening. According to the Church of God this is wrong, therefore all of their dates are wrong. Go figure”.
I asked the deacon to explain what parts of the comments that he read in his opinion, were lies? He said “the part about him being brainwashed”. He explained that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but their opinion may be a lie. They refused to tell me what website these comments came from. The deacon would explain that these comments had been posted on “some forums” with my personal email address. Then he proceeded to accuse me of posting links to other websites about the church on RickRoss.com. Again I asked for the pastor and the deacon to please show me where they obtained the information. The deacon then asked, “Would you like to sign this before I show you?”. I declined to sign the non-disclosure agreement and again requested that I be shown proof of the accusations being made against me. The deacon then insisted that I read the agreement in front of me. The pastor explained “it’s nothing it’s like we protect each other”. I still didn’t understand why I needed protection. Why would I need protection from the World Mission Society Church of God? I read the agreement and it basically said that I could not discuss anything that I read, studied, or heard in the church with anyone except my husband. I do not recall the agreement containing any statements to guarantee that the church would not “say anything bad” about me as stated earlier by the deacon. The pastor said, “What if someone bad mouth your personal life do you like it?” Was this a threat to defame me?
The pastor explained that if I leave the church, I do not need to take any intellectual property with me. Interestingly, the WMSCOG has most of the “studies” on their official website. I have also seen their members copy and paste them into responses on various blogs. What the WMSCOG teaches isn’t exactly secret is it? The pastor then said that if I left the church and “bad mouth” the church then he would “have to do something…hire a lawyer”. He then mentioned how other people have accused them of “sue everybody”. He also admitted to suing “several people” for “exposing everything” about the church and went on to say that if I am “not one of them then I just want to protect you but if you are one of them then you got a trouble”. The pastor then stated “through this message clearly it should be you”. At this point it was obvious that the pastor was threatening to sue me. The pastor and the deacon would not allow me to take a copy of the agreement that they requested I sign so that I could have it reviewed by an attorney. The deacon then said that he would send a “more revised version” to my attorney if I had my attorney contact them directly. Again the pastor issued what I considered to be another threat when he said, “if it’s not about you it’s ok but if it is you it’s a problem”. They again refused to show me any evidence of their accusations. They also claimed that they requested my IP address and email address from the forums and that the forums sent them all of the information that they requested. Again I was assured that after I signed the agreement they would be able to show me “all of the evidence no problem”. Most forums, including facebook, do not just give out their contributors’ email addresses and IP addresses because of a mere request. Disclosure of this type of personal information is only given out if the requestor provides a subpeona issued by a court. If the WMSCOG did in fact have my email address and IP address attached to any comments that they alleged I posted, I would have to question how they obtained this information. I have seen comments on forums and even videos on YouTube that accuse people in the WMSCOG of hacking websites. I started to wonder, was this one of those cases?
I wondered if the WMSCOG did this often. Do they monitor the information about them on the internet? If so, why? I remember the pastor saying, “we found out something that is not good for us that’s why we called you and told you to come and check it out…we tried to find out who is a believer”. Is monitoring internet activity how the WMSCOG tests the faith of their members? Are other churches concerned with what is written about them online? Do other churches ask their members to sign non-disclosure agreements before they get kicked out? This type of behavior sounds more like a business than a church.
During this meeting, the pastor and deacon mentioned more than once that they were not trying to cause problems between my husband and I. If that was true, why would they confront my husband with this so called “evidence” days prior to having my husband notify me? But later the pastor said that in this situation if my husband read these comments and found out that I was the one that posted these comments “how can you be together like that?” It seemed pretty obvious to me that their intention was to cause division between my husband and I. My husband had already made up his mind when they confronted him days before this meeting. He viewed my refusal to sign the non-disclosure agreement as an admission of guilt. But I explained to my husband that I was under no circumstances going to sign away my right to free speech. Why would a church want to silence one of their former members?
It would not be long before my husband would be turned completely against me…
Well, we can say that when the WMSCOG reads this article, they’ll know for sure that you were the one that wrote it. It’s funny, anyone can see those comments they read to you weren’t lies, but opinion. Good thing you didn’t sign that NDA, otherwise, you wouldn’t have been able to speak out and tell the community about your experience. This story makes us sad because this type of behavior does not represent Christ, and it certainly doesn’t represent any type of healthy “church” either. We totally agree with your question of “Do other churches ask their members to sign non-disclosure agreements before they get kicked out?” In our opinion, that is a red flag dear reader, that you should re-consider your involvement in the WMSCOG.