The Oberlin Review

“God the Mother” Followers Aim to Proselytize Students

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In recent weeks, dozens of Oberlin students have been stopped on campus by religious proselytizers claiming to be theology students in order to engage them in conversation about “God the Mother.” These missionaries are affiliated with a group called the World Mission Society Church of God, a fringe sect of Christianity that has been falsely rumored to have ties with human trafficking — often referred to as a cult by former members.

Safety and Security is aware of the visitors and has encouraged all students to notify officers if they encounter the missionaries, as they are unauthorized to be on campus.

“Anybody who wants to talk to students needs to be sponsored,” Campus Security Officer Tyrone Wicks said. “If they’re not sponsored by a student organization or a college-authorized organization, then they’re asked to leave campus.”

Wicks added that due to the repeated nature of the unauthorized visits, the visitors are considered trespassers.

“The first time, you can say, well that’s an accident, even though we know that’s probably not true, as a matter of policy as far as courts are concerned,” he said. “The first time you can tell them, OK — don’t come back here. And then the second time we can take stronger measures to make sure they don’t come back here. That might involve getting assistance from law enforcement, for example.”

WMS missionaries approached College junior Joanna Quinn on the second floor of Mudd library, introducing themselves as theology students doing a school project. They asked for a couple minutes of her time and led her through a picture book of illustrations of biblical scenes.

“At first I was kind of intrigued, because they were picking out parts of the Bible that made God sound very pluralistic, that God could be a he, or also a she,” Quinn said. “They asked, ‘Have you ever heard of God the Mother?’”

From there, the tone of the conversation escalated quickly.

“She turned the page and asked, ‘When our souls come to be judged, do you want to be saved forever, or go to hell eternally?’” Quinn said, adding that she then became more suspicious about their motives. “It seemed like the story didn’t match up. They later told me they were part of a youth group.”

The missionaries, two college-age women, said the group met “near Cleveland” but did not specify where and did not provide any informational materials, according to students they interacted with. No information could be found online about the group to verify the women’s story. The women requested Quinn’s phone number and encouraged her to attend a meeting. When she offered her email instead, the women insisted on a number.

In most incidents, according to students approached by the missionaries, one or two individuals first introduced themselves as students doing a project. Students reported that they were asked to read from scripture and if they knew about God the Mother.

Wicks said students often forget safety concerns given the intimacy of the College campus.

“I think the most important thing that we tell students every day is that the residence halls are your private space,” Wicks said. “But frequently we’ll find the doors propped open, or students will hold the door open for someone that walks up behind them, and that person may or may not be a student. If it’s important enough for you to be concerned about, it’s important enough for you to call us. You’re not wasting our time by asking us to investigate things that seem strange.”

Reports indicate that the group is becoming increasingly active on college campuses across the country, strongly trying to recruit students. Former members have described the group as a “doomsday cult” which uses “psychological control tactics” on its members, according to a report from People Magazine.

In the last two weeks, individuals have been approached by WMS members all over Oberlin’s campus, in places like Wilder Bowl, outside of dorms, by off-campus housing, and even at a Robertson Hall practice room.

College first-year Ella Mosher was approached by a WMS member around noon last week in a hallway in the Science Center. Mosher described the member as a 30-year-old who introduced herself as a theology student.

“She pulled out her Bible and had me read a verse about the Holy Mother and how it related to God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost,” Mosher said. “When I said I had to go, she asked for one more minute, and kept on trying to flip to new pages and have me read new verses. Later I found out a similar thing happened to my roommate.”

Mosher’s roommate had been using a practice room in Robertson around 11:45 a.m. when an older man and a woman knocked on the door and asked if they could ask her a few questions.

The WMS Church of God was founded in 1964 by Ahn Sahng-Hong. Ahn, now deceased, was believed to be the Second Coming of Christ by followers. WMSCOG followers believe in a Mother God in addition to the traditional Holy Trinity of Christian doctrine, and they claim that God the Mother and God the Father have a spousal relationship. The church is currently led by Zahng Gil-jah, a woman in her 70s deified by her followers as “God the Mother” or “Heavenly Mother.” WMS has approximately 2.7 million members in 150 countries worldwide and has received multiple accolades for its community service initiatives. WMS has obtained a religious tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service through supposedly fraudulent means and subsists through donations from its members.

Numerous posts warning college students to be wary of the group have been widely circulated on social media. Many people claim the group is associated with a human trafficking scheme, likely because of their aggressive recruiting practices on university campuses around the U.S. and tendency to target women. In January 2018 alone, Boston College, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Mississippi all reported WMS presence on campus. Over 70 percent of the group’s followers are women.

According to WKYT-TV of Lexington, KY, the rumors that the group is linked to human trafficking activity are unsubstantiated. Officer Jervis Middleton from the Lexington Police Department said that they, “have investigated the rumors and have found nothing to substantiate their potential involvement in any criminal activity.” The police departments of Kent, Ohio, and of Oxford, MS, released similar statements.

Although the human trafficking allegations may be baseless, many former members of the WMS have attested to their cult-like practices. In March 2014, former WMS member Michele Ramirez filed a lawsuit against the Church, citing emotional distress and financial ruin caused by the church’s deceptive practices.

Ramirez explained that members were expected to recruit new members, or “bear fruit” — an experience she found “humiliating and degrading.” She described a vicious cycle in which the more degraded she felt, the more she required support from the church. Ramirez also claimed the group misrepresented its teachings from the outset, coerced her to donate large sums of money, and used guilt and manipulation tactics to isolate her from friends and family members. Ramirez’s account has been corroborated by many former WMS members.

The group has been denounced by the Christian Council of Korea, a representative organization of Korean Christianity, as “heretical,” and the U.S. Cult Education Institute, based in New Jersey, actively tracks the group.

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15 Comments

15 Responses to ““God the Mother” Followers Aim to Proselytize Students”

  1. Jane Coryell on February 24th, 2018 1:57 PM

    This kind of “missionary” is like a bunch of mosquitoes that buzzes around your face and won’t leave. I feel very sorry for their targets; you just can’t slap them and make them go away.

  2. Max Ripps on February 25th, 2018 12:22 PM

    Great investigative work!

  3. Reuben Gifford on February 26th, 2018 10:13 AM

    I agree ! – Reuben

  4. Lane on March 19th, 2018 8:35 PM

    This happened to me as well at SMU in Dallas. He claimed to be a theology student and takes about God the Mother. After our conversation he keeps popping up all over campus and I see him all the time. What should I do?

  5. Andrea on March 28th, 2018 7:41 PM

    Hi, Lane,
    It seems to be happening at colleges all over the U.S. I would continue to be cautious and do your research. If the individual is not a student, I would be wary of accompanying them anywhere off campus.

  6. Mitchell on March 26th, 2018 5:41 AM

    I’m from South Africa and have came across “students” (all ladies) at varsity representing this “church” last year 2017, it happened twice with two different representatives and were each in groups of 2 or 3 if I remember correctly. They approached me whilst on a break on campus and basically asked the same questions regarding “God the mother”, showed me some scriptures from the bible to substantiate their sayings of which I felt were being misinterpreted and therefore raised a few objections. However they were very uncomfortably insisting and rejected my individual understanding on the word of God , I then said had a class to attend and they immediately asked for my number for a future “meeting” … I feel they target students who’d be alone on campus as to have more mental influence over them. I advice students to avoid these people and report to the relevant management division in the University.

  7. Andrea on April 1st, 2018 5:07 PM

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Mitchell. It’s interesting that these incidents are happening at universities all over the world. I think the group has a significant international presence.

  8. Kathy li on April 22nd, 2018 10:10 AM

    I am a former member of this cult. It is totally brain wash and mind control. God the mother they believe even let kids pay tithe. This cult ruin familys and let you give up all your physical hope

  9. Kathy li on April 22nd, 2018 10:15 AM

    I am a former member and are experiencing a very difficult marriage because my husband is totally brain washed by them. He insists to pay tithe even we could not pay bill. He give up all his physical hope and only want to have eternal life after the last day which this church believes will be today or tomorrow.

  10. Kathy li on April 22nd, 2018 10:22 AM

    We should try to do a tv interview or bring to more people’s concern. They are preaching to everbody in the world and it spreads crazy.
    The key they grab people’s heart is bible. After you believe their teaching, they will brain wash you to believe the second coming jesus who started this church in south korea and god the mother who is in charge after the second coming jesus they believe died in 1985.

  11. tricia on July 4th, 2018 2:09 AM

    student from kean university in union, nj here to say that this happened to me too and to myformer roommate. when the woman “recruiting” me approached me and my other roommate at night on the main campus walkway, she claimed to be part of a bible study group on campus and invited us to a meeting. lucky for her, i WORKED with the division of the school in charge of student groups and i knew damn well that we didn’t have a bible study group. just christian orgs. tl;dr, be wary of who you talk to. if they dish out wrong info about the college, be skeptical.

  12. KAREN CHAPMAN on September 14th, 2018 2:20 PM

    This happened in Marlborough & Northborough MA last night.. They approached two of my customers that were shopping in my store.. The young girls that were approached were very shaken up by what they were saying. The police were called and we have them on our security cameras.

  13. Huh on September 30th, 2018 12:55 AM

    Lol… You people are jesting right. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE HOLY BIBLE SAYS “PREACH TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH”. Do you know what happens next? Then the “END will come”. The bible clearly ends with a man and a woman offering the free gift of the water of life. Why are you mad they preach these words? It’s not any of our words to argue with anyone over. You know those words belong to the creator. Right. No man or woman can judge these people for what they believe. If they target the broken and down why do you care? Their not your concern your not trying to make them part of anything whether good or bad you have no real care for them. But to try and stop GOD’s plan, no way. who can stand againt GOD? If their plan is not of GOD we know it will fail but if it is of GOD who wants to be the man or woman destined to that fate for standing in the way of the victory. Lol I love this they are preaching to the entire WORLD. WOW it’s awesome. Love this.

  14. Steve Bublitz on October 19th, 2018 11:09 PM

    Even Satan used scripture when speaking with Jesus in the wilderness. Sad, but scripture was twisted, just as this group is doing with even the New International Version Bible. A lot of proof texting and eisegesis to prove their doctrine, rather than exegesis.

  15. Melissa Harris (EIC 2017/18) on October 28th, 2018 5:29 PM

    I find it WILD that this is still y’alls top story lol. That is all ❤

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