Is The WMSCOG A Cult?
The World Mission Society Church of God has been accused of being a cult online since as far back as 2005. The WMSCOG’s religious beliefs, practices and treatment of members has been extensively criticized on this site as well as on others here in the US and in South Korea.
Is the World Mission Society Church of God a Cult from a Christian Perspective?
From a Christian perspective, cults are groups that claim to be Christian but deviate from fundamental Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith alone. The WMSCOG completely distorts the Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) by adding a new character, “god the mother” a.k.a. Zhang Gil Jah. The WMSCOG deviates from the deity of Christ by worshiping Ahn Sahng Hong, who members believe was the Second Advent of Jesus. The WMSCOG teaches a salvation by works doctrine. Members are taught that in order to receive salvation they are required to tithe, observe the Sabbath on Saturday, observe Old Testament feasts and recruit new members, among other requirements. Christian cults also commonly teach that there is something that Jesus left unfinished that their respective religious leaders are tasked with completing. In the case of the WMSCOG, they teach that Ahn Sahng Hong had to restore the Passover and fulfill the prophecy of King David, which they allege Jesus only partially fulfilled. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, the World Mission Society Church of God is a cult.
Is the World Mission Society Church of God a Cult from a Psychological Perspective?
The American Psychological Association, defines a cult as,
“a religious or quasi-religious group characterized by unusual or atypical beliefs, seclusion from the outside world, and an authoritarian structure. Cults tend to be highly cohesive, well organized, secretive, and hostile to nonmembers.”
The beliefs that people may consider most unusual are the WMSCOG’s beliefs that Ahn Sahng Hong was the Second Coming of Jesus and that Zhang Gil Jah is “god the mother”. The WMSCOG secludes its members from the outside world by teaching that those outside of the church are controlled by the devil. In the WMSCOG, the authority in all things is Zhang Gil Jah. Some marriages within the group are said to have been arranged by “mother”. A phrase frequently used within the group is “mother said” (insert whatever the WMSCOG wants the member to do here). The WMSCOG is a very well organized system that represents the shape of a pyramid. Zhang Gil Jah and General Pastor Joo Cheol Kim are at the top, then the pastors, missionaries, deacons, team leaders and regular members. Those at the top of the pyramid know all of the group’s history, then information is trickled downward if and when they see fit. Members are instructed to report any grievances they may have with the group directly to the leadership
“If you have problems concerning your faith, please consult with the pastor immediately. If you tell your brothers of weak faith, what will he learn from you? You may feel better, but when the brother hears you talking about your troubles, he may be hurt. The door of the counselor is always opened. Whenever you need, you can call or visit your pastor to solve your problems.”My Sheep Listen to My Voice by Joo Cheol Kim p. 61
The World Mission Society Church of God is especially hostile to former members of the group, as explained by a former leader here.
What Do the Experts Say About the World Mission Society Church of God?
Cult experts have developed different models of criteria for identifying cults. See the articles below for more information.
How Does the World Mission Society Church of God Respond to Being Called a Cult?
One characteristic of a cult is that they do not tolerate any negative criticism. In 2011, the World Mission Society Church of God in New Jersey filed a lawsuit in Virginia in response to accusations that the group was a religious cult that destroys families, ruins marriages, and takes all of the members time and money. The WMSCOG in NJ ultimately dropped the lawsuit and refiled the complaint in a New Jersey Court in 2012. In February of 2015, the Court dismissed the WMSCOG’s complaint and opined:
The speaker was an ex-member of the Church who believed she was discouraging cult-like behavior for the benefit of the public. Church governance, and whether a specific religious organization is akin to a cult, is a matter of public concern…The fact that she believes Plaintiff and WMS COG act like a cult and that their practices are destructive to families is opinion based on her own experience.p. 10 & 11 of the Court’s Opinion