By Eric Wise, Assistant News Editor —
On Jan. 30, UTC police began receiving reports about solicitors on campus asking students to speak with them about “God the Mother” and asking for students’ contact information. The complainants referenced social media posts that they had seen from other schools about the organization being linked to human trafficking and sex trafficking.
The reports led to campus police trespassing eight members of the World Mission Society Church of God from the university on Jan. 31 for not having gone through the proper channels to speak on campus. The police investigated the reports from students, and UTC Chief of Police Robert Ratchford said they found no evidence of the group being involved in criminal activity.
“The thing that we were trying to put a lid on were the rumors that university and college students were being abducted, and there were allegations that there was human trafficking involved,” he said.
Nathan Gulcynski, deacon for the World Mission Society Church of God, said that they haven’t had problems speaking on campuses in the past.
“It’s actually because of the false allegations that have come out online now,” he said. “Because a vicious false rumor saying that those who were preaching about ‘God the Mother’ were doing human trafficking, but we had no affiliation with it whatsoever.”
Gulcynski said that they went to college campuses to talk about their ASEZ initiative. ASEZ, “Saving the World from A to Z,” is the organization’s community service project that plans to clean-up 40,000 kilometers of parks and streets around the world. On Jan. 28, the Church of God led a community clean-up project in Memphis, as reported by WMC Action News 5.
Gulcynski said he doesn’t understand how these allegations could be directed at them, when they just want to spread their message and be involved in community service projects around the world. The Church of God has received the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service award in 2011, 2014 and 2015. It was also awarded the U.K. Queen’s Award in 2016.
Members of the Church of God said these allegations affects them personally. Angela Rocco, a member of the Church of God in Atlanta, said that she now has to carefully consider inviting friends or coworkers to her church.
“I’m an elementary school teacher, and I’m also a member of the Church of God,” she said. “I like to invite coworkers, neighbors [and] friends to come visit the church. Now that ‘God the Mother’ is associated, falsely, with human trafficking, the implications for me as a public service agent… could hinder my ability to effectively teach a classroom.”
These allegations first arose from other college campuses across the southeast, including the University of Mississippi in Oxford and the University of Georgia in Athens.
Those reports led the Oxford Police Department and University Police Department at Ole Miss to investigate the Church of God and solicitors on their campus. The OPD and UPD said that the Church of God was not involved in illegal activity, according to The Oxford Eagle. Additionally, the Grady Newsource at UGA retracted a story that connected the Church of God to human trafficking.
Billy Coker, the branch church leader in Chattanooga, said they would like to come back to campus to speak about ‘God the Mother.’
“We have to be cognizant and aware of the policies here on campus, so if we’re allowed to come back, we would love to,” he said. “We are still trying to find a way to, not only get students involved in the church and understanding more about what we believe through the Bible, but also [involved] in some of our volunteer services.”
Ratchford said that he encourages students to report any suspicious activity on campus, and to not give out any personal information.
“We want them to come forward and let us know about it so we can actually check these folks out [and] find out who they are,” he said.
You can learn more about the World Mission Society Church of God at their website, http://usa.watv.org.