On Sept. 10, at least two Wellesley students were approached in Founder’s Lot by members of the World Mission Society Church of God, also known as “God the Mother.” The Christian sect preaches that there is a “Heavenly Mother” as well as a Heavenly Father. It originated in South Korea in 1964 and has since spread to 175 countries and acquired nearly three million followers. The church has made headlines in the past year for its members approaching students on various college campuses, including Oberlin College, Vanderbilt University and Boston University. It was also falsely rumored to be involved with human trafficking.
The human trafficking rumors could stem from the controversy surrounding the World Mission Society Church of God in Ridgewood, NJ. Several former members of the branch have come forward in recent years and accused the church of being a cult. Ex-member Michelle Ramirez, who is currently involved in a pending federal lawsuit against the World Mission Society of God in Ridgewood, alleges that the church coerced her into having an abortion in 2010. Church officials and current members adamantly deny these claims.
Dominiki Kurz ’20 had never heard of the World Mission Society Church of God until she was stopped by two of its female members after her lab. She originally thought the women were looking for the Wellesley Admissions Office until they started speaking with her about their religion. “I thought it was someone looking for admissions, but they just wanted to talk to me. They introduced me to this religious group that looked to the Book of Genesis for their ideas about God and offered a more female-centric version,” she stated.
The other student who was approached in Founder’s Lot, a first-year Davis Scholar who wishes to remain anonymous, had read various articles on the group prior to her encounter with the two women. “I felt like I was stuck in my tracks because once she said ‘God the Mother,’ I knew what it was. I’ve read articles about it, so I was just kind of frozen,” she said.
The Davis Scholar also indicated that her experience with the members was similar to those of other women she has read about: “Almost every woman who is approached by them says the exact same thing. They’re known for talking to people near parking lots, at malls or colleges. They ask if you believe in God, ask you to join a bible study, ask for your contact information and usually, it’s when you’re alone.”
The David Scholar immediately reported the incident to Campus Police. Additionally, both students spoke with Tiffany Steinwert, the dean of the office of religious and spiritual life at Wellesley College, about their encounters with the women.
Ultimately, it is not yet known whether the World Mission Society Church of God is guilty of all the things it has been accused of in recent years or whether it has been unfairly represented by numerous media outlets. Regardless, the “Code for Religious Organizations on the Wellesley College Campus,” which can be found on the Office of Religion and Spiritual life’s website, states that all religious groups on campus must be student run as well as registered or sponsored with the office.
Dean Steinwert confirmed that the group is neither affiliated nor registered with Wellesley College and thereby should not be speaking with students on campus. “They [the World Mission Society Church of God] are not affiliated with Wellesley College. They are neither a registered nor sponsored group.”
Lisa Barbin, the Chief of Police at Wellesley College, is also aware that members of the World Mission Society Church of God were on campus on Sept. 10. She indicated that Campus Police investigates whenever there are reports of religious solicitation on campus. “If solicitation is reported, we investigate the situation and make the person(s) aware of our policy. We are constantly patrolling campus for anything suspicious,” she stated.
Barbin encourages students to do the following if they encounter religious solicitors or any suspicious person on campus. “Do not let unknown person into your residence hall, try to get a good description of the person, what they are wearing, and where they were last seen, and as soon as it is safe to do so, notify the campus police so we can look into it.”
Steinwert stressed the importance of students knowing they are never obligated to speak with guests on Wellesley’s campus. “Students should always feel free to not engage with any guest on campus. Students should feel empowered to tell any solicitor that they do not wish to engage in conversation.”