Shincheonji Church of Jesus – Cult of Christianity

Shincheonji, Shinjonchi, and its many front groups

Official name: Shincheonji, Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ). Commonly referred to as Shincheonji, but the name is sometimes spelled without the ‘e’ — Shinchonji.

There is no standard way of transcribing Korean words and terms into English. This accounts for the alternative spellings of the name.

In Korean, Shincheonji means “new heaven and earth”.

Other names related to this movement: Mannam Volunteer Association/Mannam International Youth Coalition (MIYC), International Peace Youth Group (IPYG)/Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), Parachristo, Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ), Zion International Bible Study, and possibly many more.

Shincheonji’s Deceptive Recruitment Practices

The established Christian churches in South Korea and around the world consider Shincheonji to be a heretical movement. In other words, the teachings and practices of Shincheonji contradict those of the Bible. Thus, the movement is clearly outside the boundaries of the Christian faith.

Members do their best to recruit followers among Christians. They infiltrate Christian churches and movements and pass themselves off as Christians.

It is no wonder, then, that churches around the world are warning against the deceptive recruitment practices of Shincheonji.

Hundreds of British churches, including some of the UK’s largest congregations, have been warned against possible infiltration by a group accused of being a “cult” promoting “control and deception”.

The Church of England has issued a formal alert to almost 500 parishes in London about the activities of the group known as Parachristo.

The organisation, a registered charity, runs Bible study courses at an anonymous industrial unit under a Botox clinic and a personal training company in London Docklands.

But it is understood to be linked to a controversial South Korean group known as Shinchonji (SCJ) — or the “New Heaven and New Earth” church (NHNE) — whose founder Man-Hee Lee is referred to as God’s “advocate”.

It is claimed that some of those who become involved gradually withdraw from friends and family and actively lie about their real lives […]

The Church of England has issued a formal alert to almost 500 parishes in London about the activities of the group known as Parachristo.

The organisation, a registered charity, runs Bible study courses at an anonymous industrial unit under a Botox clinic and a personal training company in London Docklands.

But it is understood to be linked to a controversial South Korean group known as Shinchonji (SCJ) — or the “New Heaven and New Earth” church (NHNE) — whose founder Man-Hee Lee is referred to as God’s “advocate”.

It is claimed that some of those who become involved gradually withdraw from friends and family and actively lie about their real lives […]

A companion article notes:

Organisers insist Parachristo exists solely to help “understand the Bible more deeply”. […]

Former attendees of Parachristo study groups have claimed that existing members effectively pose as new students.

Shinchonji teaching documents seen by The Telegraph instructs these “maintainers” to “arouse curiosity” of newcomers and “try to be close to each other until the student relies on you fully”.

They are told to “take notes of the conversation with the student” and report back to the group leader.

Lee Man-hee, self-appointed ‘Messiah’

The Shincheonji Church of Jesus is led by the founder, leader, and self-proclaimed “messiah” Lee Man-hee. His name is sometimes spelled as Man-Hee Lee, Lee Man-Hee, or Manhee Lee.

Lee’s grandfather says he saw a radiant light shining on Lee’s mother when her son was born. That’s why he named him Man Hee, which means “complete and perfect light” in Korean.

Man-hee later claimed that while he was praying, a huge star descended and a bright heavenly figure appeared. The figure introduced himself as Jesus and anointed him.

Lee Man-hee founded Shincheonji in 1984.

Followers call him “Chairman Lee” or “the Chairman.” In church literature, Man-hee is called “the promised pastor,” “the overcomer” (“one who overcomes”), or “the advocate.”

He is regarded as God’s “promised pastor” who holds the key to averting the impending judgement . Followers in fact believe that Lee Man-hee is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Reportedly, the Church teaches that Lee Man-hee is the angel referred to in Revelation 22:16:

“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.”

The church also believes that Revelation 7:2 refers to South Korea (East) and to Lee Man-Hee (angel):

Then I saw another angel, who had the seal of the living God rise up from the east. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were empowered[a] to harm the earth and the sea:

According to Shincheonji’s promotional literature, Lee Man-hee is the only person who can testify to the secrets of the Book of Revelation – which he claims has already been fulfilled. Man-hee is also said to teach that the world has already ended and that we are currently living in the afterlife.

Sincheonji, a cult of Christianity

Shincheonji Church of Jesus denies the biblical teaching that people are saved by faith in Jesus Christ — and not by works.

The church also denies the doctrine of the Trinity.

That means Shincheonji’s teachings contradict several of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Therefore, theologically Sincheonji is a cult of Christianity

Sociologically Shincheonji has many cult-like characteristics as well.

By the way, in his book The Creation of Heaven and Earth, Lee Man-hee declares, “anyone who opposes Shincheonji is evil.”

Note the difference between sociological and theological definitions of the term ‘cult.’

Read about it at our companion website, CultDefinition.com

Video: Inside the Controversial Shincheonji Church

Posted to YouTube by VICE, June 8, 2021: Experts estimate there are 2 million South Koreans who are followers of fringe churches, but the exact figures are unknown. Shincheonji has allegedly become one of the most dominant fringe christian groups in recent years. Currently, it is estimated that there are over 250,000 Shincheonji Church followers within South Korea and internationally. Former members of Shincheonji speak with VICE World News and tell us why it’s so difficult to leave the church.

World Peace… and Deception

Churches and Christians around the world have warned about the deceptive recruitment practices of Shincheonji members. Members often do not reveal that they are recruiting for Shincheonji. They offer Bible studies and services under different names.

Like similar cults, Shincheonji claims it promotes world peace — but its deceptive nature tends to backfire, like it did when the cult organized the World Alliance of Religions Peace Summit (WARP).

From 17-19 September 2014 Shincheonji organised their SCJ 6th National Olympiad. It is the major event for SCJ which they hold every four years, and it coincides with Lee’s birthday.[3] On this occasion, they also invited many international guests who all believed they were attending a secular “World Peace Summit”. As the two events took place simultaneously and in the same venue, it led to significant confusion and embarrassment for international guests who had been misled.
Source: Wikipedia (no date. This text at one time was published under the heading, ‘Controversial Issues,’ but that entire section has disappeared.)

Here is one blogger’s experience at a similar event: “We thought we were going to a world peace festival…turned out to be a religious cult sort of thing.”

Shincheonji: Who are they? What do they believe in? Why problematic?

Former Shincheonji member Stella Kang operates a website in which she explains how and why the church’s teachings contradict those of the Bible.

Shincheonji and the COVID-19 Coronavirus

In 2020 the Shincheonji church was in the news primarily as a super-spreader source of the coronavirus in South Korea.

About this article

This information about Shincheonji Church of Jesus was formerly posted at our companion website, Religion News Blog. It was published there on December 12, 2016.

We intend to add more resources shortly. Therefore the article is better suited to Apologetics Index.

Research Resources on Shincheonji

Note: for the time being, these resources are listed in no particular order

  • Shincheonji Aware Website by a former member.
    “They do not reveal themselves until much later, and we do not want you to blindly follow them until it is too late. We want to warn you so that you know what you are going after and judge for yourself more objectively about this group, not just listening to them only. We will share with you what happened to us, why we left this group, why this group can be problematic and dangerous, as well as how they approach you and how you will know your Bible Study is of this group.”
    Has a good section on how and why the teachings of Shincheonji clash with those of the Bible.
  • My experience with Shincheonji, by Breanna Jennings — an English teacher in South Korea. See also her video and the follow-up.
  • What is Shincheonji? Is it a cult? An entry on GotQuestions.org, where questions are answered from a mainstream Christian perspective.
  • Christian Analysis of Shincheonji’s Movement
    “This blog is for people who have doubts about a religious movement in South Korea called Shincheonji (SCJ), a church that conducts many Bible studies online. We are Christians who believe we must be careful about leaders who claim to be final prophets with secret knowledge of Jesus’ return to earth (Mt. 7:15, Mt. 24:4,5, I Jn. 4:1, I Tim. 4:1). Our purpose is not to unkindly attack SCJ (or sincere SCJ members), but help others carefully test their fruit.”
  • The Shincheoji Religious Movement – A Critical Evaluation, [PDF] a Thesis by Young San Kim.
  • CultNews101 has a collection of archived news articles on Shincheonji

Article details

Category: Shincheonji
Related topic(s):

First published (or major update) on Monday, August 31, 2020.
Last updated on May 02, 2022.

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