Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

OneWingedBird

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I'd have to confess to never having heard of these guys before, then earlier today a young lass came round pushing newspapers through letterboxes, at first i thought it was one of the local flavours of free paper that the council or police put out, then i twigged that it looked a bit odd.

It's quite a clever publication that puts obvious evangelism on the back burner in favour of offering debt resolution services, blood pressure tests and advice on a number of areas, and their 'prayer chain', whatever one of those is.

This is what the wiki page on them has to say as of, um, right now:

History
[edit] From the UCKG website

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God was formed in 1977, in Brazil. It owes its origins to an evangelistic programme conducted by Bishop Robert McAlister, a Canadian missionary in the Pentecostal tradition. Edir Macedo, who went on to found UCKG, was one of the programme's early converts; he started to hold services under a small park shelter in Rio de Janeiro, then used cinemas and local halls to drawn in congregation. Shortly afterwards the UCKG officially opened its first church, inside a funeral parlour.

Further church openings followed and the movement expanded nationally across Brazil. As of 2010[update] there are about 5,000 UCKG Churches in Brazil. The headquarters in Rio de Janeiro has capacity for 12,000 people.

Following an exploratory visit to the US, the UCKG was established in New York in 1986, expanding later to many US cities. UCKG then developed its presence in America in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, and Ecuador, Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana; in Europe in England, Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland, Poland and Latvia; in Africa in Angola (1992), South Africa, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Kenya, Lesotho, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Uganda and other countries; in Asia, in India, China, the Philippines and Japan (where the first 24-hour Church is based).
[edit] Other history

The UCKG bought UK Liberty Radio in 2000[1], but were not allowed to change the broadcasting format to religious programming. Due to UK rules preventing stations owned by religious organisations from owning digital radio licences in the UK, UCKG's broadcasting licence was not renewed, and the station became Club Asia (and later Buzz Radio) on 3 July 2003[2].

In 2010 the Church announced plans to build the Templo Salomao, a 10,000-seat church designed as a Replica of the Temple of Solomon.[3]
[edit] Doctrines

Most UCKG doctrines are the same as most conservative Pentecostal doctrines. Specific doctrines include belief:[4]

* That the baptism of the Holy Spirit empowers believers for service and endows them with supernatural gifts.
* That ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher are divinely ordained.
* That Jesus Christ appointed two ordinances to be observed as acts of obedience:
o immersion of the believer in water (baptism)
o the Lord's Supper, symbolic of consuming the body and blood of Jesus, in remembrance of his sacrifice and in the expectation that he will return.
* In divine healing as described in the Christian Bible
* In people being sanctified (becoming holy) during their lifetime.

[edit] Controversies
[edit] Charges of fraud

Throughout its history the church has been charged with immoral and illegal deeds, including money laundering, charlatanism[5][6], extracting money from supporters, often poor, which enriches UCKG leaders and is not distributed to the needy[6][7], "witch-doctory" (curandeirismo)[5], and religious intolerance towards other religions such as Judaism, Catholicism, other Protestant groups, and especially Afro-American Umbanda and Candomblé, and their members[8]. Accusations of charlatanism are the most frequent. As a consequence of such charges the church has been under investigation in Belgium.[9][10] There have been detailed reports in the US,[11] UK,[12] Brazil,[13] and Zambia.[14]

According to the Brazilian press a judge has accepted prosecutors' claims that the founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and nine other leaders took advantage of their position to commit fraud against the church and its followers. Prosecutors accuse the leader of the church, Bishop Edir Macedo, and 9 other church leaders of laundering more than US$2 billion in donations from 2001 to 2009.[15]
[edit] Tax evasion

Bishop Macedo, the founder and leader of the Church, was prosecuted for tax evasion in the state of São Paulo and imprisoned for 11 days in 1992.[5]
[edit] Victoria Climbié's death (UK)
Main article: Murder of Victoria Climbié

Victoria Climbié was an eight-year-old child whose cruel death led to major changes in child protection policies in the UK. She died from abuse and neglect while living with her aunt Marie-Therese Kouao and the aunt's boyfriend. Victoria was seen by dozens of social workers, nurses, doctors and police officers before she died, and by the UCKG, but all failed to spot and stop the abuse as she was slowly tortured to death. Kouao and her boyfriend were charged with child cruelty and murder. During police interviews, both claimed that Victoria was possessed by evil spirits. They were both sentenced to life imprisonment.

Victoria's murder led to a public inquiry which investigated the role of social services, the National Health Service, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and the police in her death.

On 19 February 2000 Victoria was taken by Kouao to the UCKG on Seven Sisters Road. The pastor, Alvaro Lima, told the inquiry that he suspected she was being abused. He said that Victoria told him that Satan had told her to burn herself. According to the inquiry report "Pastor Lima expressed the view that Victoria was possessed by an evil spirit and advised Kouao to bring Victoria back to the church a week later".[16] Lima decided to pray and fast with an assistant; he did not call the police, hospital or social services, and took no further action.[17]

On 24 February 2000 Kouao took Victoria back to the UCKG, where Pastor Lima advised them to go to hospital and called a taxi;[16] when she arrived at the hospital her temperature was 27 °C (normal temperature is about 36 °C). She died the following day—the same day the UCKG was planning to hold a service of deliverance for her to cast out the devil.[18] A post-mortem examination found 128 injuries on all parts of her body; the pathologist reported that it was the worst case of deliberate harm to a child he had ever seen[16].
[edit] Belgian parliamentary inquiry

In 1997 the Belgian Parliament Inquiry Committee on Cults[19] labeled the UCKG as a dangerous cult. The report further alleged that "[The Church] claims that the Kingdom of God is down here and that it can offer a solution to every possible problem, depression, unemployment, family and financial problems. In fact, [the UCKG] is apparently a truly criminal association, whose only purpose is enrichment."[20] The Belgian report itself generated controversy for varied reasons and the Parliament ultimately rejected most of it.[21] Subsequently the UCKG won a legal case against the State of Belgium in respect of allegations which were made in a 1997 parliamentary investigation.[22]
[edit] The "Kicking of the Saint"
Main article: Kicking of the saint

An incident involving the UCKG in Brazil is known as the "Kicking of the Saint."[23] In the early hours of October 12, 1995—a holiday in honor of national Catholic patron saint Our Lady of Aparecida—UCKG's bishop Sergio von Helde kicked, slapped, and insulted a statue of the saint on UCKG-owned Rede Record (Record TV), leading to violent protests and bomb threats against UCKG temples; Von Helde was charged with violating a law that forbids "public discrimination and contempt against another religion", and was criticised by the President. He fled the country, and was later found guilty of religious discrimination and desecration of a national sacred treasure and sentenced to two years in prison.[24] Edir Macedo apologized for von Helde's actions, but blamed Rede Globo—the nation's largest television network—for "manipulating public sentiment" by repeatedly showing a video of the pastor kicking the saint.[25]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_ ... dom_of_God
 

OneWingedBird

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Interesting 'review' of their Finsbury Park church from Ship Of Fools, it appears their debt resolution method involves 'faith tithing' i.e. giving the church 10% of the salary you want for a while even though you can't afford it and are getting further into debt :roll:

1064: Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Finsbury Park, London

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Finsbury Park, London

Mystery Worshipper: Schadenfreude.
The church: Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, The Rainbow Theatre, Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, London.
Denomination: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG). The Finsbury Park UCKG houses their UK headquarters, and they have strong links with sister churches in Portugal and South America, as was borne out by the two main speakers, who both had Spanish / Portuguese / South American accents.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
The building: The church is a converted cinema. You can't miss it from the outside, as it's big, on a busy main road opposite the tube, and not backward in coming forward, with big banners advertising its presence. That's nothing compared to inside. You can tell it used to be a cinema, and they've done a great job of converting it. You walk into a huge foyer, which has a fountain, reception area, café, balcony, bookshop and lots of doors leading off in all sorts of directions. From there, you go through any one of several big double doors and into the main auditorium. It's enormous! The rows of seats are still the original cinema seats – velvet covered armchairs in rows with fold down seats. There is a huge stage set which looks like something from the Arabian Nights, complete with palm trees. The whole effect is tremendously impressive.
The church community: There was a fairly wide spread of ages, from a few teenagers up to pensioners. The congregation was predominantly black, and there were more women than men. As you might guess from the name, the church is also heavily involved in social activities from computer training and English classes to counselling.
The neighbourhood: The church is right by Finsbury Park tube, a major transport interchange, and a kind of "in between" place: between upmarket Highbury and Crouch End on the one hand, and slightly less "des res" Holloway and Manor House on the other. It's a very ethnically diverse area, with north Africans a significant community, and home to Finsbury Park Mosque (just around the corner and opening again soon in a new, more respectable format).
The cast: As seems to be common in all too many churches, those leading the service did not introduce themselves. The service started when three suited men walked onto the stage at the front of the auditorium, and everyone stood. The main speaker, a clean cut man in his forties, was wearing a Church of England type maroon shirt with a dog collar and referred to himself once or twice in the third person as "Bishop".

What was the name of the service?
Sunday 10am service. The church runs services more or less round the clock 7 days a week. Sunday is referred to as "the strongest day".

How full was the building?
In such a big space, it's difficult to be to sure. There were probably around 200-300 people at the start, and 500-600 later. I would guess the auditorium probably seats around 1,000, though, and there was plenty of space.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A man sitting at the reception desk said "hello" as I came in, and two or three stewards said "good morning". No one spoke to me during the service.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very – but the seats aren't used much. After everyone stood at the start (see below), it was nearly 40 minutes before anyone sat down again.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People sitting around, spread out across the auditorium, chatting to one another. Lots of busy stewards rushing around.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good morning, good morning... blah, blah, blah." I didn't catch any more because the mike the speaker was using was so loud and the acoustics made it difficult to follow. But it must have been something about coming to the front, because nearly everyone went and crowded around at the foot of the stage, following the speaker in a couple of "impromptu" songs, prayers and sermonettes. This went on for about 10-15 minutes. The speaker has a good singing voice.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
After half an hour, we were invited to open our songbooks – "if you have one". If you didn't, no problem, you could "come down to the front and purchase one for '6". Oh, and why not get a copy of the church magazine, too ('1) which had pictures of the new church in Luton? Apart from "What a friend I have in Jesus", the songs weren't known to me.

What musical instruments were played?
One man sitting at the foot of the stage played a keyboard/synthesiser. But it wasn't used much, as many of the songs were unaccompanied and led only by the main speaker. To my surprise, there wasn't much mood music.

Did anything distract you?
Where do I start? The volume of the mike was uncomfortable, to say the least. It made it difficult to understand what was being said, and it completely drowned out everything else. During the singing, all you could hear was the speaker leading at the front. Good job he had a good voice – unlike the woman sitting behind me who was a very enthusiastic and very off-key singer. The weirdest thing, though, was the stewards. There were over 30 of them, men and women, all dressed identically in dark suits (tights and skirts for the women), standing at the sides and at the doors. Together with a few more men in lighter suits and dog collars, they patrolled the aisles, scouring the congregation. The effect was like the US Secret Service on the look out for potential assassins. Call me paranoid, but I began to worry that if I didn't look enthusiastic enough, I might be pulled out of the crowd!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I had expected a rip-roaring, Pentecostal, "whip it up", extreme happy clappy type of worship – but in fact, it was quite the opposite. The service followed a pattern of the leader praying or speaking from the front in a fairly low key fashion, calling for the Holy Spirit to intervene in our lives, and occasionally ordering the congregation to pray, too. People then prayed out loud, some presumably in tongues, but drowned out by the mike. These times of open prayer were interspersed by sermonettes and singing, led from the front. Occasionally the leaders would come down from the stage and patrol the aisles alongside the stewards, presumably to pray with particular congregants.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes, plus 5 minutes of prayer at the end. Having said that, it was difficult to tell exactly which of the mini-sermons could best be honoured with the title of sermon.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – He wandered around a little during the sermon, including onto the floor of the auditorium, stuck to two or three main points and made them succinctly. His only annoying habit was to keep asking the congregation, very loudly: "Yes? No?"

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
This Sunday was a "special blessing for couples", so no guessing as to what the sermon was about. In case you were not married or engaged and wondered whether this sermon had anything for you, there was no need to worry, because "one day you will be married or engaged". In a nutshell, the key to a successful marriage lies in following the Manufacturer's instructions. "You might say to me, 'Bishop, I can't do this'. These are not my words, they are the Manufacturer's." There are two instructions: one for husbands (love your wives), and one for wives (respect your husbands). It's about being consistent in obeying these instructions, and about praying.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The longer I sat there, the more I thought: this is not the place for me. Precious little was like being in heaven, I'm afraid. I found it disturbing and a little boring. But the building's great and the people were friendly.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The most disturbing part came after the sermon when next week's theme was advertised: the consecration of tithers. UCKG is seriously into health and wealth. While I suppose not everyone would object to that, it left me feeling very disturbed. The congregation were told that if their wages were too low (and the assumption seemed to be that many were on low wages or none), and felt that this was unjust, they should appeal to God, not their unions. They then needed to "name" their preferred living wage and tithe accordingly in faith. If they did this, then God would reward them with their preferred wage. To press the point home, a steward was brought up to the front. She said that two years ago she was on low wages and '25,000 in debt. She decided to "name" her wage and consequently gave a tithe (to the church) that was larger than she could afford. A few months later she got a better job – at a wage even bigger than the one she had named. Now she was debt free. While you can argue about the theology of health and wealth – or even the potentially positive aspects of the psychology behind it – I found this disturbing, certainly irresponsible, and probably immoral.

If intercessory prayers were said, what issues were raised?
There was no mention of the general election or of Pope Benedict – or anything else, for that matter. There was an acceptance that life was hard for many of those present, but the assumption seemed to be that adhering to Christian principles would overcome this. On that basis, an acknowledgement of the wider world is presumably unnecessary.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It didn't happen, I'm afraid. My alias refers not only to my mixed feelings about church, but also to the football team I support. They were kicking off at 12 in a crucial match (which they lost 4-1, so guess the team and laugh). At 11.45, with no sign of the service ending, I made a dash for the door, only to be intercepted by a steward who asked whether this was my first time there, and had I enjoyed it.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I had a great espresso in the café across the road before the service started.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – My personal view would be to avoid this place like the plague. The shame of it is that there are plenty of people desperate enough to turn to this, and presumably there's no one else out there with anything to say to them.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
No, just depressed. The church is clearly extremely well organised and run, and I would have to guess, sincere in what it does. The stewards I talked to were very friendly and helpful. The congregation seemed like a fairly normal bunch of ordinary people, but I find health and wealth just so difficult.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The 4-1 defeat.
 

OneWingedBird

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Also an interesting blog entry here from April 2009, from a guy who claims they attempted deliverence/exorcism on his teenage daughter:

UCKG – Still Demon Hunting
By jaycueaitch

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) has not abandoned its professed belief that children are possessed by demons, it would appear.

This is the church connected with the Victoria Climbie case. She is the little girl brutally murdered by Marie Therese Kouao, her great-aunt, and Carl Manning, Kauao’s boyfriend. Victoria had 128 injuries when she died, including cigarette burns and broken bones. Her great-aunt claimed that Victoria was possessed by evil spirits and the pastor of the UCKG church she attended, Alvaro Lima, did nothing to discourage her from this notion. Indeed, he seemed to go along with it. He was later to explain that the Bible says demonic possession happens and “We do not question the Bible”.

One would like to believe that the UCKG would be chastened by this experience and perhaps learn from it. Regretably, this does not appear to be the case. Take what happened during the Easter Sunday ritual at their Peckham centre, for example:

The pastor played a Beyonce video and started banging on about pop music and rap music being a vehicle for the Devil. This is nothing new, you might think, Black Sabbath faced these sort of accusations thirty years ago (although in their case the name did not help matters). What was new here was that the pastor had the children at the ritual convinced that they were possessed, to the extent that they started speaking in growly voices, saying that Satan could take the souls of those made angry by rap music. I can’t quite follow the logic here, perhaps someone could explain it to me. One girl told me that she was physically restrained while she was “possessed” and that when the pastor placed his hands on her to drive Satan out she immediately stopped struggling..

Assuming that all the children involved were not merely faking just to please the pastor, what was really going on here? It sounds to me like some form of hypnosis. I recall many years ago watching a stage hypnotist convince a number of people (including a friend of mine) that the water he was giving them by the tumblerful was in fact vodka. They all became appropriately drunk, staggering and slurring their words. When the hypnotist ended their trance, they immediately became sober.

From the description of the UCKG ritual, I suspect the pastor (maybe even unknowingly) put members of his congregation into some sort of hypnotic trance and when he told them they were possessed they began behaving like extras for an Omen remake.

I emailed the UCKG (without mentioning the name of my informant) to express my concerns. As yet, they have not bothered to reply.
 

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They have a centre just around the corner from me. Meant to check them out. Didn't realiose they were this dodgy.
 

OneWingedBird

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They sound like a real piece of work :evil:

The Leeds one is on the other side of the city to me but not far out, and i think quite close to a pub i used to frequent... maybe i'll make a little trip across one evening and investigate.
 

rynner2

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BlackRiverFalls said:
They sound like a real piece of work :evil:

The Leeds one is on the other side of the city to me but not far out, and i think quite close to a pub i used to frequent... maybe i'll make a little trip across one evening and investigate.
It would be tempting to ask if 'Universal' means they have congregations on other planets.... 8)

Play the part of a Holy Fool, and see if they tie themselves up in knots!
 

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Brazilian televangelist calls for media 'fast'
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/wor ... 64122.html
TOM PHILLIPS in Rio de Janeiro

Fri, Jul 29, 2011

HE IS one of South America’s most powerful televangelists, a billionaire preacher and media mogul who presides over one of the world’s fastest-growing and most controversial Pentecostal churches.

However, despite controlling a major Brazilian communications empire, Bishop Edir Macedo, the head of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is urging his followers to embark on a complete media fast. Twitter- and Facebook-obsessed Christians have been told to log off and get closer to God.

“It will be a fast from each and every kind of secular information: TV, internet, newspapers, magazines, radios – from everything that is not Godly,” Bishop Macedo wrote.

Many suspect the move, however, is a tactic to divert followers’ attention from bad media coverage.

The Christian news website Gospel+ noted that Bishop Macedo had called for “media fasts” twice in the past. Both times the fasts coincided with negative stories about the Universal Church that were widely disseminated in the Brazilian media, including allegations of money-laundering.

Earlier this month the Universal Church came under attack after claims that a nine-year-old boy had been coerced into selling his toys during a televised service.

As his mother underwent a violent exorcism on stage, the boy told the preacher he hoped selling his toys and donating the proceeds to the church would stop his parents fighting at home.

Promoting the media fast on his popular blog, the Blog do Macedo, the preacher claimed: “The spirit of the Lord will descend upon all sincere participants.”

Bishop Macedo added that “in the first 21 days of August, we will carry out a veritable spiritual clean-up”, calling on believers to “abstain from all forms of media and entertainment”.

His critics believe that while the fast will prevent church-goers from following the latest developments on spicy telenovelas shown by Brazil’s Globo media giant, they will be allowed to tune in to programmes on Bishop Macedo’s rival Record network, as well as religious services. – ( Guardian service)
 

ramonmercado

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More crookery by UCKG.

Prosecutors in Angola have ordered the closure of places of worship belonging to one of Brazil's biggest churches, accusing it of corruption.

At least seven buildings belonging to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) have been seized in the capital, Luanda. Prosecutors said the evangelical church had been involved in tax fraud and other fiscal crimes. UCKG officials have previously strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Last year about 300 Angolan UCKG bishops broke away from the Brazilian leadership, accusing it of mismanagement and not being African enough. UCKG officials described the accusations as "defamatory".

The UCKG claims to have about eight million members in Brazil and branches in several African countries. It promotes "prosperity theology", whereby believers are told their faith and donations to the Church will lead to material wealth.

The row started last year when Angolan bishops broke away from the Brazilian Church, accusing it of "fiscal evasion" and of practices contrary to the "African and Angolan reality".

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-53792021
 

GNC

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Is it the Angolan church building that seats a million (!) people?
 
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