The World Mission Society Church of God, founded by Ahn Sang-hong (also spelled as Ahnsahnghong) in Korea, believes it is “the only true church which God has established on this earth” [Rev. Joo Cheol Kim, official website].
Sociologically the movement has cult-like elements as well.
The World Mission Society Church of God […] was founded by [Ahn Sang-hong] in 1964, when he left the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The church believes that he (referred to by his followers as Christ Ahnsahnghong) is the second coming of Jesus.
Ahnsahnghong died in 1985, three years before his prediction of the second coming of Christ. Today the leader of the church is Zahng Gil Jah, known to followers as the Heavenly Mother, and the General Pastor is Kim Joo-cheol. Zahng Gil Jah usually appears in public wearing a traditional Korean hanbok. Over 70 percent of followers are women and Korean Americans are increasingly found among the new adherents. Its headquarters are located in Bundang, Sungnam City, Kyunggi Province, roughly an hour away from Seoul.
Within South Korea, and elsewhere proselytizers introduce themselves (to foreigners) by asking whether the individual has heard of the Mother’s love, or of the Heavenly Mother. The church believes that Korean resident Gil-Jah Zahng is “God the Mother” (who they believe is referred to in the Bible as the New Jerusalem Mother) as well as that Ahnsahnghong is God the Father.
The church regards that the earthly family system is a copy and shadow of the heavenly family system, consisting of a Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and the spiritual brothers and sisters (humans). These unorthodox beliefs have led some to consider the church a cult.
– Source: Wikipedia entry, accessed Feb. 6, 2008, 1:20 pm CET. Links by Apologetics Index.
Ahn Sang-Hong predicted the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in both 1967 and 1988.
Sociologically this movement has cultic elements as well. (See: theological vs. sociological definitions of the term ‘cult.’)
Historically, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church — a controversial religious movement that claims to be Christian in nature, but which promotes many doctrines that are contrary to the gospel and unorthodox in nature — has been a breeding ground of many other cults of Christianity.
The following information was researched by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada:
In 1 December 2004 correspondence to the Research Directorate, a visiting assistant professor of Korean Christianity at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) provided the following information:
“The Church of God” was founded by Ahn Sang-Hong in Seoul in 1964. He joined the Holiness Church in 1947 and believed [in] the imminent Second Coming of Christ. He left the church and made his own church, known as “Ahn Sang-Hong Witness Society.” He insisted that he was the incarnated Holy Spirit who was preparing [for] the Coming of Christ [for] the last time … After his death [in 1985], his spiritual wife and followers reorganized the Society into “The Church of God, World Mission Society.” Its main office is located in Bundang, Sungnam City, Kyunggi Province, about an hour away from Seoul.
According to the English-language version of the Church of God Website in Korea, followers believe “only the Bible as God’s word”; the teachings of Ahn Sang-Hong are believed to be “those of the last Christ” and they instruct followers to lead a “sacrificial life with true faith according to the Bible” (n.d.). The visiting assistant professor remarked that Church of God followers interpret the Bible literally, deify the founder, and consider images of the crucifixion and the Virgin Mary to be objects of idolatry (1 Dec. 2004). The assistant professor also noted that women are expected to wear a veil during service and that strict observance of the Saturday Sabbath and the rites of the Old Testament, such as Passover, is considered necessary to achieve redemption and salvation (1 Dec. 2004).
The Christian Council of Korea, which represents Protestant churches in the country, has, according to the visiting assistant professor, declared the Church of God “here[tical]” (1 Dec. 2004). On its Website, the Church of God argues that this allegation is “groundless” and denies claims allegedly made by other Christian denominations in Korea that the Church “worships a man,” mistreats minors and destroys families (n.d.). The visiting professor indicated that the Church has been accused of breaking up families when women followers have left home and settled in Church of God buildings to wait for the “coming of Christ,” which, Ahn Sang-Hong predicted, was to happen in 1988 (1 Dec. 2004). The Church has engaged in community service to improve its image (visiting assistant professor 1 Dec. 2004), and this service has earned the Church the commendation of the government of Korea (Church of God n.d.; visiting assistant professor 1 Dec. 2004).
The Church of God claims to have grown rapidly since the late 1980s and to have 300 branches in Korea and abroad (Church of God n.d.). The visiting assistant professor of Korean Christianity, however, noted that information provided by the Church of God concerning the number of followers and congregations is “unreliable” (1 Dec. 2004).
– Source: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, cited at UNHCR Refworld
• Theological Seminary of the Church of God
• Elohim Training Institute
• Okcheon Go&Come Training Institute
• Zang Gil-Jah (aka “the Heavenly Mother,” “Mother Jerusalem”)
• Kim Joo-cheol (Joo Cheol Kim), Chief Pastor