722 Prospect Ave., Bronx, NY 10454
The Assembly of Christian Churches, Inc., grew out of the Concilio Olazabal de Iglesias Latino Americano shortly after the death of that church’s founder, Francisco Olazabal (1886–1937). In 1939 Bp. Carlos Sepúclveda, pastor of the Bethel Christian Temple in Manhattan, invited various Spanish-speaking Pentecostal churches in the city to unite in an evangelistic crusade. The effort proved so fruitful that some of the cooperating congregations created a new permanent denomination. In 1940 they extended their work to Puerto Rico, where they operated as La Asamblea de Iglesias Cristianas. Their work spread rapidly and within the first generation it not only spread across the United States and throughout Puerto Rico, but to the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Central and South America, and India.
The doctrine of the assembly is like that of the parent body, there having been no doctrinal issues involved in the establishment of the assembly. The church is led by a bishop elected by the membership. In 2008 the bishop was Rev. Dr. Domingo Rodríguez Díaz.
Not reported. In 1980 there were approximately 60 congregations with 800 members. There were 54 churches and 1,200 members in Puerto Rico, and additional churches in Central and South America. There was one English-speaking congregation in the Virgin Islands and one in India.
Assembly of Christian Churches, Inc. www.aicinternacional.org/historia/index.php. Piepkorn, Arthur C. Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada. Vol. 3. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.
1925 E 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90033
The revival on Azusa Street in Los Angeles that launched the Pentecostal movement soon spread and attracted some Spanish-speaking Christians. Most were affiliated with the Assemblies of God, formed in 1914. Among the early leaders was the Rev. Francisco Olazabal (1886–1937). The Mexican-born Olazabal had become a Methodist minister and worked among the Methodists of southern California. In 1917, however, he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a prayer meeting in the home of George Montgomery and his wife Carrie Judd Montgomery (1858–1946). As a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, George Montgomery had had a direct influence on Olazabal’s conversion and entry into the ministry. By 1917 the Montgomerys had become Pentecostals. Olazabal left the Methodists and became an Assemblies pastor. He experienced great success in establishing new churches and recruiting pastors. Then in 1923 he led a movement out of the Assemblies, which he had come to feel had placed an insensitive Anglo in charge of the Spanish-speaking work. With his supporters he began independent work along the West Coast and the Mexican border. In 1931 Olazabal came to New York, after which he made visits to Mexico City and in 1934 to Puerto Rico. In 1936 he organized the Latin American Council of Christian Churches. In 1937 Rev. Olazabal died and was succeeded by Rev. Miguel Guillen. The present name of the church was adopted after Olazabal’s death as a means to honor his life work.
Reverend Olazabal had close contact with Ambrose J. Tomlinson (1865–1943) and his son Homer Tomlinson (1892–1968), then with the Church of God of Prophecy, who noted Olazabal’s natural affinity to Church of God doctrine rather than to that of the Assemblies of God. Olazabal followed the emphasis on the three experiences of justification, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Assemblies position negated the necessity of sanctification prior to baptism. The Council is also, like the Church of God, pacifist in orientation.
Not reported. In 1967 there were seven churches with 275 members in the United States, with an additional four churches in Mexico.
El Revelator Christiana.
DeLeon, Victor. The Silent Pentecostals. Taylor, SC: Faith Printing Co., 1979.
Tomlinson, Homer A. Miracles of Healing in the Ministry of Rev. Francisco Olazabal. Queens Village, NY: Author, 1939.
170 Mt. Eden Pkwy., Bronx, NY 10473
The Damascus Christian Church is a small Pentecostal body formed in 1939. It grew out of the work of Francisco Rosado and his wife Leoncai Rosado in New York City. By 1962 it had spread to New Jersey, with foreign affiliated congregations in Cuba and the Virgin Islands. The church is headed by a bishop who is assisted by a council of officers and a mission committee.
Not reported. In 1962 the church had 10 congregations and approximately 1,000 members.
PO Box 2816, Bayamon, PR 00621-0816
The Defenders of the Faith was formed in 1925 by an interdenominational group of pastors and laymen headed by Dr. Gerald B. Winrod (1900–1957), an independent Baptist preacher. Winrod gained a reputation in the 1930s not only for his fundamentalism but also for his support of right-wing political causes. The Defenders of the Faith became the instrument by which Winrod promoted his ideas, and during his lifetime it was a large organization. After Winrod’s death in 1957, the group lost many members. However, in 1963 it began a three-year revival under Dr. G. H. Montgomery, who died suddenly in 1966. After that, it grew slowly but steadily under Dr. Hunt Armstrong, its new leader.
Its main program consists of publishing a magazine, The Defender, and numerous pamphlets and tracts; administering six retirement homes in Kansas, Nebraska, and Arkansas; maintaining a school (opened in 1957) and headquarters in Kansas City; and conducting a vigorous mission program.
The Defenders of the Faith was neither intended to be a church-forming organization nor meant to be associated with Pentecostalism. In 1931, however, Gerald Winrod went to Puerto Rico to hold a series of missionary conferences. There he met Juan Francisco Rodriguez Rivera, a minister with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Winrod decided to begin a missionary program and placed Rodriguez in charge. A center was opened in Arecibo, and El Defensor Hispano was begun as a Spanish edition of The Defender. Rodriguez’s congregation became the first of the new movement. In 1932 Rodriguez accompanied Francisco Olazabal, founder of the Concilio Olazabal de Iglesias Latino Americano, on an evangelistic tour of Puerto Rico. The Defenders of the Faith received many members as a result of the crusade and emerged as a full-fledged Pentecostal denomination. A theological seminary was opened in 1945 in Rio Piedras. Members of the Defenders of the Faith migrated to New York in the late 1930s. In 1944 the Defenders’first church in New York was begun by J. A. Hernandez. From there, the movement spread to other Spanish-speaking communities in the United States.
Doctrinally, the churches are not specifically Pentecostal; for example, they do not insist that speaking in tongues is the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They are fundamentalist, believing in the Bible, the Trinity, salvation by faith, and the obligation of the church to preach the gospel, carry on works of charity, and operate institutions of mercy. Baptism is by immersion. Beyond the basic core of theological consensus, there is a high degree of freedom. Many congregations have become Pentecostal. Others are similar to Baptist churches. Premillennialism is accepted by most.
A central committee directs the work of the Defenders of the Faith. An annual assembly is held. Ties to the national office in Kansas City, which in 1965 discontinued all specific direction for the Spanish-speaking work, are very weak. The Kansas City office, however, does continue its support of Defenders of the Faith’s missionaries and pastors. American congregations of Defenders of the Faith are located primarily in the New York City and Chicago metropolitan areas.
Not reported. In 1968 there were 14 churches and approximately 2,000 members in the United States, and 68 churches and 6,000 members in Puerto Rico.
Defenders Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.
The Defender. Available from 928 Linwood Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64109.
1490 N Flamingo Rd., Plantation, FL 33323
G12 Vision International is a vigorous Christian movement that originated in the ministry of Cesar Castellanos, pastor of a large megachurch in Bogota, Colombia. The church has some 150,000 members in Bogota, and an additional 80,000 located throughout the country. Members are organized into cell groups, following a pattern initially used by David Yonghi Cho, who pastors the megachurch in Seoul, Korea. To Cho’s organizational pattern, Castellanos added the G12 Vision given to him in 1983: He asks each church member to become a leader and form a group of 12 new members. In winning people to Christ, the older member assists the new members to become established in faith and then trains them as disciples to send out to win others with the gospel message.
Based on the G12 vision, Castellanos started the International Charismatic Mission Church with eight people at the original meeting. As the church grew in Colombia, the movement was exported overseas. The church is a mainstream Trinitarian Pentecostal Church with beliefs similar to those of the Assemblies of God.
Castellanos is assisted in his work by his wife, Claudia Rodriguez de Castellanos, who is a senator for the Republic of Colombia. In 1997 she was called to the ministry and subsequently was ordained and led an international network of women.
As the work in Colombia developed, pastors and others from other countries began to contact Castellanos to learn about the G12 work and how they could incorporate it into their ministries. Thus the vision spread, with many using the G12 materials produced by Castellanos in their own churches and others seeking to more closely align with Castellanos. In the 1990s G12 Vision International and the International Charismatic Mission Church spread to the United States, primarily among Spanish-speaking Pentecostal and Charismatic believers.
G12 Vision. www.visiong12.com/.
Castellanos, Cesar. Dream and You Will Win the World. Plantation, FL: G12 Editors, 2006.
———. The Revelation of the Cross. Plantation, FL: G12 Editors, 2003.
———. Successful Leadership Through the Government of 12. Plantation, FL: G12 Editors, 1999.
———. Touching the Father’s Heart. Plantation, FL: G12 Editors, 2006.
Box 396, Humacao, PR 00792
The Iglesia Evangelica Congregacional, Inc., de Puerto Rico resulted from the spread in the mid-1930s of the Pentecostal experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the associated speaking in tongues within a congregation of the non-Pentecostal Iglesia Evangelica Unida in Barrio Aguacate de Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. The congregation split and the Pentecostal members created a council they called Hermanos Unidos de Xristo (United Brothers in Christ). Their work prospered and by 1948 a number of additional congregations had been formed. That year the council was dissolved and the work reorganized as the Iglesia Evangelica Congregacional, Inc., de Puerto Rico. Over the next decades, the church followed the migration of Puerto Rican members to the continental United States and in the 1970s work was established in Gary, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois.
The church is a holiness Pentecostal organization that believes that sanctification in this life is a condition for entering the kingdom of God. They depart from most Pentecostal groups in that they believe that speaking in tongues is not the only sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The church practices baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper. Infants are not baptized but are presented for a dedication service. The church specifically rejects the Roman Catholic practice of saying novenas and prayers for the deceased.
Members follow a strict dress code. Men must not wear neck chains, loose shirts, shirts with short sleeves, or large collars. Women must dress modestly and not show much skin. They should not cut their hair and should avoid wearing jewelry, adornments, and expensive fabrics. Women who allow themselves to be sterilized and husbands who consent are expelled from the church.
Not reported. In 1980 there were two churches in Chicago, one in Gary, and seven in Puerto Rico. The total membership was approximately 600.
Piepkorn, Arthur C. Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada. Vol. III. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1979.
Oficinas Administrativas, PO Box 72, Caguas, PR 00725
La Iglesia de Dios was founded at Fajardo, Puerto Rico, by a small group of nine Pentecostal believers in 1939. It spread throughout the island during its first generation. In the years after World War II, as Puerto Ricans moved to the continental United States, members of La Iglesia de Dios also arrived stateside, and in the 1970s the church extended its work along the Eastern seaboard and into the Midwest, as well as to the Virgin Islands.
The church’s doctrine is similar to that of the Assembly of God. It believes in the Trinity, repentance and the new birth, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the spirit, divine healing, and the premillennial Second Coming of Christ. The church is sabbatarian, believing Saturday to be the only biblical day of rest. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and foot washing are observed as ordinances. Women are to dress modestly. They may serve as deaconesses and missionaries, but not in the ordained ministry. They have shown special concern for opposing witchcraft, which has been noted to be quite popular in sections of Puerto Rico.
Not reported. In 1980 the church had approximately 70 churches in Puerto Rico, and 18 in the continental United States (in Spanish-speaking communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Illinois, and Florida). There were 2 churches in the Virgin Islands. In total that year, there were 5,500 members 12 years and older.
La Iglesia de Dios, Inc. www.conciliolaiglesiadediosinc.com.
Piepkorn, Arthur C. Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada. Vol. 3. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.
115 E 125th St., New York, NY 10035
The Latin-American Council of the Pentecostal Church of God of New York, Inc. (known also as the Concilio Latino-Americano de la Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal de New York, Incorporado) was formed in 1957 as an offshoot of the Latin American Council of the Pentecostal Church of God. (The latter is a Puerto Rican church without congregations in the United States, and therefore not discussed in this encyclopedia.) Work in New York had begun in 1951 and the New York group became autonomous in 1956, though it remains loosely affiliated with the Puerto Rican parent body.
Doctrinally, the Latin-American Council is like the Assemblies of God. Healing, tithing, and a literal heaven and hell are stressed. The matter of participation in war is left to the individual members. Secret societies are forbidden and no political activity is advised beyond voting. An unaccredited three-year school of theology with an average enrollment of 500 trains Christian workers. Mission activity is carried on in Central America and the Netherlands Antilles, among other places.
Not reported. In 1967 there were an estimated 75 churches, most in the New York metropolitan area.
4765 E 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90022
International Headquarters: Glorieta Central de la Iglesia La Luz del Mundo, Colonia Hermosa Provincia, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
The Light of the World Church (officially the Church of God, Column and Pillar of Truth, Jesus the Light of the World) (La Iglesia de Dios, Columna y Apoyo de la Verdad, Jesus La Luz del Mundo) was founded in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, in 1926 by Eusebio Joaquin Gonzalez. Gonzalez, later known popularly as the Apostle Aaron, has given the church is common name in Mexico, the Aaronistas.
Gonzalez was converted in 1926 and subsequently met two itinerant lay preachers, known as “Saul” and “Silas,” who had appeared within the Pentecostal movement in northern Mexico in the 1920s. Following his baptism by Saul at San Pedro de las Colonias (near Monterrey), he traveled with the two bearded and barefoot “prophets” for a few months. Saul pronounced a prophecy to Gonzalez, calling for the change of name to “Aaron” and predicting that Gonzalez would be known worldwide. Gonzalez/Aaron later noted the moment of the giving of this prophecy as the point at which he experienced God’s call to establish the Light of the World Church. The new church was to be dedicated to restoring the Primitive church of Jesus Christ. Aaron selected Guadalajara as its spiritual headquarters.
Over the first generation, the church grew to some 25,000 members. At first, Aaron and his initial converts traveled on foot through rural Mexico establishing house churches. The church’s first temple was opened in 1934 in Guadalajara. Aaron established the rules and regulations governing the church (including an obligatory 5:00-am daily prayer service). Members began to view him in messianic terms. In 1952, Aaron purchased land outside Guadalajara where he founded the Colonia Hermosa Provincia as a community for church members. The Colonia became the site for the construction of a large church seating some 3,000 people and a walled, self-contained community
Samuel Juaquin Flores, who succeeded his father as the church’s apostle in 1964, led the church into a more outward-oriented era symbolized by removing the stone wall around the Colonia Hermosa Provincia. He also encouraged the growth and development of colonies across Mexico and other countries and led in the erection of a new central church. Among its several unique attributes, the church requires all ordained pastors to come to the Mother Church in Colonia Hermosa Provincia (symbolic of Holy Jerusalem) annually on August 14 (Aaron’s birthday) for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. On that same day, church members (symbolic of the new spiritual People of Israel) also make a pilgrimage to the church to present the Apostle Samuel with special gifts.
Doctrinally, the Light of the World Church is similar to many churches belonging to the “Oneness” non-Trinitarian Pentecostal movement. It follows the Old Testament in its emphasis on high moral standards; its members are well known for their industriousness and honesty. The authority of the Bible is affirmed and Bible reading and memorization are emphasized. The worship style is simple, and during worship the sexes are separated by a central aisle. There are no musical instruments used in worship.
The Light of the World Church has a hierarchical form of church government centered on the apostle. The prophetic messages that have been spoken by both the former and present apostle are considered as “the fountain of truth.” In addition, some songs used in the movement honor Aaron as the Church’s First Apostle with appellations such as “Anointed One,”“Sent One,” or “The Prince.”
The church suffered an initial division in 1942 when several church leaders accused Aaron of misusing church funds. Though a rival movement, the Good Shepherd Church (Iglesia El Buen Pastor) emerged, the Aaronists survived and thrived. As it has grown, its centralized organization and unorthodoxy have made it the subject of criticism. However, during the last quarter of the twentieth century it experienced a surge in growth that saw membership shoot up to 1.5 million by 1986 and more than 4 million by 1990. Simultaneously, the church developed a membership in the United States, initially as members resettled across the border, and then as evangelistic work was pursued in Spanish-speaking communities, especially in California and Texas.
Not reported. There are more than 60 centers scattered across North America, of which the majority are found in California (28) and Texas (14). There are more than five million members internationally, in Mexico and in more than 20 additional nations.
Iglesia La Luz del Mundo USA/Light of the World Church USA. www.lldmusa.org.
Berg, Clayton, and Paul Pretiz. Spontaneous Combustion: Grass-Roots Christianity, Latin American Style. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1996.
De la Torre, Renee. “Pinceladas de una ilustracion etnografica: La Luz del Mundo en Guadalajara.” In Identidades religiosas y sociales en Mexico, ed. Gilberto Gimenez. Mexico City, Mexico: Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales de la Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1996.
Gaxiola, Manuel J. La serpiente y la paloma: Historia, teologia, y análisis de la Iglesia Apostolica de la Fe en Cristo Jesus (1914–1994). 2nd ed. Nacaulpan, Mexico: Libros Pyros, 1994.
La Luz del Mundo: Un análisis multidisciplinario de la controversia religiosa que ha impacto a nuestro Pais. Bosques de Echegaray, Mexico City, Mexico: Revista Acadica para Estudio de la Religiones, 1997.
c/o Bishop Rolando Gonzalez Washington, 15906 E San Bernardino Rd., Covina, CA 91722
The Missionary Church of the Disciples of Jesus Christ dates to 1970 and the arrival in Los Angeles of Rolando González Washington and his wife, formerly associated with the Soldiers of the Cross of Christ, International Evangelical Church, a Pentecostal church founded in Cuba early in the twentieth century. Washington and his wife had felt a calling to “preach the Gospel of Christ in the State of California.” They found people who would assist them in their evangelistic endeavors, and began to preach on the streets and held Bible studies in any homes that would open their doors to them. After five years, however, they had not made a single convert. Then, after going through a period of discouragement, the work began to succeed and a church emerged through the late 1970s. As the work grew, Washington opened rehabilitation centers to assist youth in freeing themselves from drug and alcohol addiction. Two such centers remain in operation, one in Baja California and another in Bell Gardens, California.
Like the International Evangelical Church, the Missionary Church of the Disciples of Christ is a sabbatarian Pentecostal church based on the authority of the Bible. It affirms that “the Sabbath, the seventh day, is the day of rest blessed by God,” the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and divine healing. It teaches that the Bible’s admonitions on healthfulness should be observed by church members, especially its designation of clean and unclean foods. It practices baptism by immersion, the Lord’s Supper as a memorial to Christ’s death (not his resurrection), and foot washing.
The church actively solicits financial assistance from nonmembers to support its charitable activities, including the providing of hot meals to the hungry, rescuing runaway teens, assisting teens with alcohol and drug addictions, and managing rehabilitation centers. In Southern California, they have set up tables in public sites to generate income. In 2001, their activity in front of several Wal-Mart stores led to Wal-Mart’s suing the church. Wal-Mart charged that the church was raising some $115,000 per month and that the store had received many complaints from its customers because of their positioning themselves in front of the entranceway. The litigation was ongoing as of 2002.
Not reported. The church has approximately 1,000 members. In 2008 the church’s Web site listed a least 17 missions in the United States.
Missionary Church of the Disciples of Jesus Christ. www.disciplesofjesuschrist.org/. “Wal-Mart Sues Church to Stop Its Solicitors.” Arizona Daily Star, (July 9, 2001).
636 NW 2nd St., Miami, FL 33128
The Soldiers of the Cross of Christ, Evangelical International Church was founded as the Gideon Mission in the early 1920s in Havana, Cuba. Its founder, affectionately known among his followers as “Daddy John,” was Wisconsin-born Ernest William Sellers. Sellers was assisted by three women—Sister Sarah, Mable G. Ferguson, and Muriel C. Atwood. Their successful efforts led to the spread of the mission throughout Cuba. In 1939, the periodical El Mensajero de los Postreros Dias (Last Day’s Messenger) was begun. Until 1947, Daddy John functioned as the bishop. But at the annual convention of that year, he was named apostle, and a three-man board of bishops was selected. In 1950 the church sent out its first missionaries, Arturo Rangel Sosa and Arnaldo Socarras, to Panama and Mexico, respectively.
Prior to his death in 1953, Daddy John named Bp. Angel Maria Hernandez y Esperon as his successor. During Hernandez’s eight years as an apostle, special attention was given to overseas missions, which were started in nine countries. Plans for starting a mission in the United States were also made.
After the death of Apostle Angel M. Hernandez, Bp. Arturo Rangel became the third apostle. He was in office during the Cuban revolution and the subsequent persecution of the church by the Castro government. Church periodicals were shut down and many places of worship were closed and/or destroyed. In 1966, the same year the American mission was opened, Apostle Rangel, a bishop, and an evangelist all disappeared and have not been heard of since. The remaining members of the board took control of the church, and in 1969 moved its headquarters to Miami, Florida.
The Soldiers of the Cross Church is a sabbatarian Pentecostal body. Members believe in keeping the Law of God (the Ten Commandments) and the dietary restrictions on unclean food (Genesis 7:2; Leviticus 11). They believe in baptism as the first step to salvation, the Lord’s Supper as commemorating Christ’s death (not his resurrection), and washing the feet as a sign of humility. They believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, and have a strong belief in the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy and revelation by means of dreams and visions. Ministers are not to be involved in politics.
After Apostle Rangel disappeared, Bps. Florentino Almeida and Samuel Mendiondo headed the church. They were designated archbishops in 1971. They revived The Last Day’s Messenger. In the United States, because of the similarity of the church’s name to that of the Gideons International, the Gideon Mission used the name Gilgal Evangelistic International Church. At the annual convention held in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1974, the church adopted its present name.
The church conducts work in 20 Latin American countries as well as in Spain and Germany. Much of the work is in the Spanish language.
The Last Day’s Messenger.
SCC Atlanta. www.soldadosdelacruzatlanta.org.