Note: Not all churches using the name 'Church of the First Born' or 'General Assembly' are affiliated with this group.
Quick Facts on the General Assembly and Church of the First Born
- What: The General Assemblies and Church of the First Born is a small Pentecostal 'denomination' of sorts. It is a network of more than 100 churches in 20 US states.
- Names: Overall this group of churches is referred to as General Assemblies and Church of the First Born. Local congregations usually are called The General Assembly and Church of the First Born, but sometimes General Assembly Church of the First Born is used instead. A few of the churches are simply called, Church of the First Born.
A number of churches not affiliated with this denomination use similar names. Sometimes the church is referred to merely as COFB.
The full name is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, in the Bible:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of [a]angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn
who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
- Hebrews 12:22-24, NASB. Emphasis added.
- Do not confuse with: Church of the Firstborn and the General Assembly of Heaven, a cult of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
- Organization: There are no headquarters and there is no paid clergy. Elders oversee the local congregations.
- Membership: Altogether the denomination is believed to be 6,000 members, but that figure was last suggested in 1976. The church does not keep membership records.
- Doctrine: Members reportedly can be saved by obedience to Biblical laws, and to four 'ordinances of the gospel':
- Faith in Jesus Christ
- Repentance from sin
- Baptism by immersion in water
- Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit
Theologically the movement is considered to be a cult of Christianity.
- Controversy: The faith healing teachings and practices of this denomination are extreme and unbiblical -- to the point where affiliated churches can be considered spiritually abusive, and where behavior of members is contrary to Christian orthopraxis.
These doctrines and practices have resulted in unnecessary deaths, followed by prosecutions of those involved.
In statements to the press church officials generally says that members can seek medical aid, but former members say that those who do so are considered 'weak in faith' (or even to have sinned against God by demonstrating a lack of faith), and tend to be shunned.
Critics familiar with the church have said that some members have been known to call a vet for a sick animal, while shunning proper medical care for sick family members.
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This post was last updated: May. 29, 2014