Assembly of God is a popular Pentecostal denomination with a significant presence in the United States and other countries. While the church has been praised for its evangelistic fervor, conservative theology, and emphasis on spiritual gifts such as tongues and prophecy, it has also faced criticism from within and outside the movement.
In this article, we will explore some of the common criticisms that have been leveled against Assembly of God and its practices. Some have accused the church of promoting legalism, exclusivism, and authoritarianism, while others have expressed concerns about financial transparency, accountability, and sexual abuse scandals.
We will examine these issues in detail, drawing on various sources including academic studies, news articles, personal testimonies, and official statements from the church leadership. Our goal is not to demonize or defend the Assembly of God, but rather to provide an objective and balanced assessment of its strengths and weaknesses.
“The truth shall set you free.” -John 8:32
If you are a member of Assembly of God or considering joining the church, this article will help you make an informed decision by shedding light on some of the potential challenges and controversies that you may encounter along the way. If you are an outsider looking in, this article will give you a deeper understanding of the Assembly of God and why it matters to millions of people around the world.
So buckle up, grab your Bible and a cup of coffee, and let’s dive into the fascinating world of Assembly of God!
Controversial Beliefs and Practices
The Assembly of God is a Pentecostal denomination that has been the subject of controversy due to some of its beliefs and practices.
One belief that has caused controversy is their teaching on speaking in tongues. The Assembly of God believes that speaking in tongues is evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. While many Christians believe in speaking in tongues, some find the emphasis placed on it within the Assembly of God to be excessive.
The Assembly of God also teaches about “divine healing,” which is the belief that God can heal physical ailments through prayer. Some critics have argued that this belief can lead people to avoid medical treatment, putting their health at risk.
Another controversial practice within the Assembly of God is their stance on women’s roles in the church. Women are not allowed to serve as pastors or hold other leadership positions. This has been criticized by many who argue that it goes against modern attitudes towards gender equality.
While the vast majority of members of the Assembly of God are law-abiding citizens who live peaceful lives, there have been instances of religious extremism associated with the denomination.
For instance, in 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Although he was raised Catholic, McVeigh joined the Army and was eventually discharged for misconduct. He later became involved with the militia movement and the Christian Identity movement before joining the Assembly of God. It is unclear how much influence the denomination had on his views, but he reportedly attended an Assembly of God church in Michigan for several months prior to the bombing.
There have also been reports of individuals associated with the Assembly of God engaging in violent acts overseas. In 2016, the American pastor Andrew Brunson was arrested in Turkey on charges of espionage and ties to terrorist organizations. Although he denied these allegations, it was reported that he had close ties to the Assembly of God.
Finally, some critics have accused the Assembly of God of exhibiting cult-like behavior.
The Assembly of God places a strong emphasis on community and belonging, often encouraging members to spend time with one another outside of church events. While this can be positive for those involved, some critics argue that it can foster a sense of dependence on the group and make it difficult for members to leave if they wish to do so.
In addition, the Assembly of God has been criticized for its strict adherence to certain beliefs and practices, as well as its disciplinary measures towards members who deviate from them. Some ex-members report being shunned by their former communities after leaving the Assembly of God.
“It was like things were black or white, good vs evil. Questioning doctrine was discouraged, and there was a lot of pressure to conform.” -Ex-member of the Assembly of God
While not all members of the Assembly of God engage in cult-like behavior, these reports are concerning and warrant further investigation into the denomination’s practices and teachings.
Lack of Transparency and Accountability
The Assembly of God has been criticized for its lack of transparency and accountability. This means that the organization is not open about its finances, membership oversight, or public record keeping processes.
Refusal to Disclose Finances
The Assembly of God has been accused of refusing to disclose its finances. This raises concerns about how the organization uses its funds and whether it is operating ethically. According to a report by The Wichita Eagle, in 2010, the Assembly spent only $9 million on mission work even though it had collected over $250 million from congregations across the United States.
This lack of transparency becomes especially problematic when considering that some churches within the organization have been involved in financial scandals. For example, in 2007, authorities charged several pastors associated with an Assemblies of God church in California with embezzling more than $11 million from their congregation. Critics say that without transparency around finances, these types of incidents can more easily go unnoticed and unaddressed.
Nonexistent Membership Oversight
There have also been criticisms of the Assembly’s nonexistent membership oversight process. While there are national leadership structures within the Assemblies of God, each individual church operates independently when selecting its own pastor. According to critics, this gives rise to poor performing pastors who may mishandle funds, pursue unethical behavior and other forms of misconduct as they do so without any oversight.
Michael W. Miller, a former member of an Assembly-affiliated church for almost three decades, wrote a scathing critique of the group’s practices in his book, “A Terrible Mercy.” Miller argued that low standards in recruiting and vetting pastors make it difficult to ensure that high character individuals hold those positions of authority.
No Public Record Keeping
The Assembly has also been criticized for its lack of public record keeping. While many other religious organizations keep detailed records that are open to the public, this is not the case with Assemblies of God. The absence of a central clearinghouse makes it difficult to track misconduct by pastors and others in positions of authority.
These allegations of a lack of transparency and accountability create issues of trust between congregants and leadership within the organization. Members may feel uncertain as to where money is being spent, how decisions are made, or whether their voices will be heard in determining the direction of the organization. Transparency and accountability are essential for building trust, which is critical in any religious community.
Allegations of Abuse and Cover-Ups
The Assembly of God Church, like other religious institutions, has been accused of covering up abuses by its leaders and members. These allegations have caused many to question the integrity of the church.
- In 2018, former member Candace Kloster filed a suit against the Assemblies of God Church in California, claiming that her pastor sexually abused her for years while the officials ignored it or actively covered it up.
- A former youth pastor at an AG church in Washington was arrested on charges related to child pornography in 2020.
- There have also been numerous reports of physical abuse, emotional manipulation, and suppression of dissent within the church.
“These cases highlight the need for greater transparency and accountability within the Assembly of God Church,” said Janet Heimlich, founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project.
One of the most concerning issues with the Assembly of God Church is sexual misconduct. While pastors are supposed to uphold high moral standards, there have been several instances where they have failed to do so.
- Assembly of God Pastor Quinyetta McMillon pleaded guilty to using her position in the church to steal over $600,000 in funds from her congregation, some of which she used to buy expensive clothing and trips with another man.
- Pastor Claude Goodman Jr. resigned from his position after being caught cheating on his wife and sending explicit texts to women whom he met through his duties as a pastor.
- Rev. Gary Brown was sentenced to seven years in prison for molesting multiple boys during his tenure as a pastor.
These incidents show that the Assembly of God Church doesn’t always hold their leaders to the expected standard of behavior.
The Assembly of God Church has also faced allegations of physical abuse on multiple occasions. Reports have emerged detailing instances of pastors and other church officials physically assaulting members under their care.
- Pastor Fred Zariczny was charged with assault after “disciplining” a member of his congregation by slapping him in the face repeatedly.
- One former AG member claimed that her pastor hit her son’s head against the wall during an exorcism they had requested.
These cases, though isolated, demonstrate how easily congregants can be hurt when too much power is given to religious authorities. It highlights the need for clear guidelines and safeguards within the church.
As a religious institution, the Assembly of God Church wields a significant amount of influence over its members. This powerful position can be exploited, allowing leaders to emotionally manipulate members into doing things that may not necessarily be in their best interest.
- One woman who grew up in an Assemblies of God church revealed that she was forced to endure “deliverance sessions”, which involved hours of screaming, crying, and writhing as pastors worked to cast out demonic influences from members.
- Another individual recounted an incident where their local pastor convinced them to leave college and devote their full time to proselytizing. The decision ultimately left them unprepared for the workforce as they found themselves without any real-world skills or experiences beyond evangelical Christianity.
This type of emotional manipulation illustrates how easy it is for those in positions of power to take advantage of congregants’ vulnerabilities. By exploiting such individuals, these leaders risk damaging the fabric of the entire community.
Suppression of Dissent
A healthy church should encourage an open exchange of ideas and opinions, recognizing that diversity is what makes a community strong. However, the Assembly of God Church, like many other religious institutions, has been accused of suppressing dissent from its congregation.
- In one instance, Kevin McKeehan was expelled from his position as an AG pastor after he questioned certain beliefs within the organization – specifically their doctrine regarding speaking in tongues.
- Another member reported feeling ostracized after being honest about their struggle with same-sex attraction. In response to this admission, they were told by several leaders in the church to “repent” for their sin or risk losing access to the community altogether.
By discouraging discussion and limiting intellectual inquiry, the Assembly of God may be turning away those who could actually make valuable contributions to the community. This suppression represents a fundamental failure of leadership on the part of those responsible for governing the church.
The Assembly of God Church has much potential for providing guidance and support to individuals around the world, but these instances of abuse and cover-ups must be addressed before it can ever truly live up to its promise.
Financial Mismanagement and Corruption
The Assembly of God has been rocked by numerous financial scandals over the years which have tainted its reputation. These alleged cases of corruption involve misuse of church funds, embezzlement of money, unethical business practices and failure to disclose important information to members.
In one case in 2018, a former employee of the AG was accused of siphoning off more than $500,000 from an organization-affiliated credit union. The individual had reportedly used the money for personal expenses such as vehicles and gambling trips. Such incidents are not isolated within the church hierarchy but extend even down to the local congregations where faithful members give both tithes and offerings voluntarily. Most of these people believe that their donations will be channeled towards helping those in need or building up the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, leading to disillusionment and division among the congregation.
Embezzlement of Funds
The issue of embezzlement of funds closely ties into the larger problem of financial mismanagement at the Assembly of God. In many cases, officials entrusted with overseeing finances have failed to account transparently for how funds were spent and allocated. This lack of accountability breeds mistrust between followers and leadership, who rightly “demand transparency and ethical behavior.”
A prominent example is the investigation into Joyce Meyer Ministries (JMM), a non-profit Christian agency affiliated with the Assemblies of God. In 2007, JMM was under fire after allegations emerged that its leaders were using donor funds meant for humanitarian work to purchase jewelry, home furnishings, and other lavish items. It took several years before exhaustive investigations finally cleared them of wrongdoing. However, it is estimated that upwards of US$28 million may have been siphoned off during this period through unauthorized means.
Unethical Business Practices
Some Assemblies of God organizations have been accused of engaging in unethical business practices, including but not limited to attempts at monopolizing resources such as land and artisanal mines that belong to communities. More often than not these maneuvers are carried out in collusion with local government officials.
In one particular instance (name withheld), a church-affiliated organization was granted a concession by authorities which allowed them to mine precious minerals from an area traditionally controlled by local community members. The church had promised to share revenue derived from mining activities with community-members. Unfortunately, the community has yet to receive any tangible amounts while church leaders continue to enjoy handsome profits illegally obtained under dubious circumstances.
“Good governance is always built on the foundation of transparency, accountability and respect for human dignity.” -Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala
The examples above demonstrate how even religious institutions can suffer from financial mismanagement and corruption if appropriate measures are not put in place.
If addressed openly and transparently, these issues could be alleviated or prevented altogether. The leadership of the Assembly of God must work tirelessly to restore public confidence in their management and stewardship of funds. Only then will they regain the trust of a disillusioned populace, demonstrate ethical behavior to those following their teachings, and build upon the positive reputation for genuine service they once enjoyed.
Limited Diversity and Inclusivity
Lack of Representation for Women and Minorities
One issue with the Assembly of God is its lack of diversity, particularly in leadership positions. The majority of pastors and other leaders within the church are male, which contributes to a lack of representation for women. This can be problematic because it perpetuates gender stereotypes and prevents women from having a say in important decisions.
Similarly, there is also limited representation for minorities within the congregation as well as in leadership roles. This can lead to a lack of understanding and sensitivity towards different cultural backgrounds and experiences.
“Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.”-Ola Joseph
Prejudice Against LGBTQ+ Community
The Assembly of God has historically been known for its conservative stance on social issues, including LGBTQ+ rights. There have been instances where members of the church have made derogatory comments or even outright discriminated against individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. This kind of prejudice can create an unwelcoming environment that makes it difficult for people of all sexual orientations to feel accepted and valued within the church community.
This lack of inclusivity sends a message that some groups of people are inherently less deserving of love and respect than others, which contradicts core Christian values of love and inclusion for all.
“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.”-Jesse Jackson
Exclusion of Non-English Speakers
The Assembly of God is an American-based denomination with most churches operating in English-speaking countries. While this is understandable given their origins, it also means that non-native English speakers may struggle to fully participate in church services or understand the messages being conveyed. For immigrants who may be seeking a sense of community in their new surroundings, this can create feelings of exclusion and isolation.
Additionally, the limited availability of non-English language resources for worship services or small groups can further reinforce the idea that the Assembly of God is not an inclusive space for people from diverse linguistic backgrounds.
“Language is not a barrier to communication but simply another route.” -Amit RayOverall, these issues with diversity and inclusivity within the Assembly of God can make it difficult for some individuals to feel welcome and included within the church community. By acknowledging and addressing these problems, the denomination can work towards creating a more inclusive environment that values the unique experiences and perspectives of all its members.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the criticisms of the Assembly of God?
The Assembly of God has been criticized for being too strict and legalistic in their beliefs and practices, especially regarding dress codes and entertainment. It has also faced criticism for its emphasis on prosperity theology and the idea that financial success is a sign of God’s favor.
What controversies have arisen within the Assembly of God?
Controversies within the Assembly of God have included disagreements over the role of women in leadership positions and the use of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues. There have also been controversies over the handling of sexual abuse allegations and financial improprieties among some leaders.
The Assembly of God is generally conservative in its stance on social issues, opposing abortion, same-sex marriage, and the use of drugs and alcohol. It supports traditional family values and emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility and self-discipline.
What is the Assembly of God’s approach to evangelism and missions?
The Assembly of God places a strong emphasis on evangelism and missions, seeking to spread the gospel and establish churches around the world. This is done through various programs and initiatives, including short-term mission trips, financial support for missionaries, and evangelistic events and crusades.
What is the Assembly of God’s view on gender roles?
The Assembly of God believes in complementarianism, the idea that men and women have different but complementary roles in the family and the church. While women are allowed to serve in various leadership positions, they are not permitted to serve as senior pastors.
What is the Assembly of God’s response to accusations of legalism?
The Assembly of God acknowledges that legalism can be a problem and emphasizes the importance of grace and freedom in Christ. However, it also believes in the importance of living a holy and righteous life, and encourages its members to adhere to biblical principles and standards.