James A. Beverley is professor of Christian
thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in
Toronto. He has been studying new religions since
1976. Find more of these columns at
My son Derek asked me recently if I would find out about the World Mission Society Church
of God. A friend of his was alarmed
about the group, and Derek wanted
to know if there’s cause for concern.
My investigations will also interest
Religion Watch readers.
Let’s start with some basic facts.
The World Mission Society Church
of God is a controversial, growing
religious movement from South
Korea. It operates in more than 170
countries including Canada and
has almost 3 million members.
WMSCOG followers trace their
roots to a man named Ahnsahnghong, born in 1918, raised a Buddhist, but converted to Christian
faith in 1947–1948. In 1958 he
married Hwang Wonsun (d. 2008)
and the couple had three children.
He was a part of Seventh-Day
Adventism (a movement founded
in the 19th century), but was excommunicated in 1962. He started
his own Witnesses of Jesus Church
of God in 1964.
Pastor Ahnsahnghong died suddenly in February 1985. A month
later his movement split in two, the
largest group becoming known first
as the Witnesses of Ahnsahnghong
Church of God, and now as the
WMSCOG. ( The smaller group, the
New Covenant Passover Church of
God, includes Pastor Ahnsahnghong’s son Ahn Kwang-Sup, who
claims the WMSCOG departs from
many of his father’s teachings.)
The WMSCOG is now led by
General Pastor Kim Joo Cheol and
a woman named Zhang Gil-Jah
Although these basic facts are
helpful, they don’t explain why
many Christian churches and
scholars are concerned about the
WMSCOG. After all, members are
generally loving and sincere, and
the church engages in extensive
social action, as noted for example
by the United Nations, Queen
Elizabeth and Barak Obama when
he was U.S. president.
Notwithstanding all the good
points, the WMSCOG fails in three
First, WMSCOG leaders argue
Pastor Ahnsahnghong is divine (he
is also the return of Jesus) and that
Zhang Gil-Jah is God as well.
So, contrary to the Bible’s repeat-
ed teaching of one God (Isaiah
43: 10, John 17: 3, 1 Timothy 1: 7), the
WMSCOG has a Father God and a
Mother God, similar to what Mor-
mons believe. (Most followers do
not seem to know their Mother
God was previously married and
divorced. Her ex-husband’s testi-
mony makes sad reading.)
Second, the group does not hold
to accepted teaching that salvation
comes through Jesus alone (Acts
4: 12), by grace alone and not by
human works (Ephesians 2: 8–9).
Instead WMSCOG leaders teach
their church is the only true church
and that you must follow
Ahnsahnghong and the Mother
God to be saved.
As well, everyone must practise
certain Old Testament rituals (such
as the Passover feast) and go to
church on Saturday to go to heaven.
Third, the group misuses the
Bible. They are right in wanting to
follow it alone as their authority,
but sadly that turns out to mean the
Bible as understood by Mother God
and what they believe Pastor
The group’s unique teachings
usually have flawed and weak bib-
lical support (especially on the
claim that Zhang Gil-Jah is the new
Jerusalem of Revelation 21), care-
less reasoning and faulty historical
research, especially on Roman
In the past members have twist-
ed Bible verses to argue the end was
coming in 2012, and Pastor
Ahnsahnghong himself predicted
1988 as the end.
Such teachings remind me of the
shoddy research you see in the Jeho-
vah’s Witnesses or the Unification
Church, another Korean group.
With these three failures, it’s no
wonder the National Council of
Churches in South Korea called the
WMSCOG heretical and that the
group often gets called cultic by
both Christian and secular writers.
Sadly there are no quick fixes to
help loved ones get out of such
high-intensity religious groups. It
can help to be informed (good web-
sites include www.ExaminingThe
WMSCOG.com and www.Encoun-
But it is more crucial to be loving
and patient, and respect the rights
of others to their beliefs.
It’s also helpful to understand
how various groups, religious and
otherwise, engage in tactics that
amount to mind control. Check out
Finally, it’s also helpful to re-
member God can use any one of us
in reaching others. /FT
JAMES A. BEVERLEY
Is this Korean church a cult?
Investigating the World Mission Society Church of God
COUN TRIES WHERE