An award-winning documentary about a controversial religious group in Manchester is free to watch right now

Much like many of the stories about WMSCOG, this article might not last long, so give it a read and watch the documentary while you still can.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 26th February 2024

We recently stumbled across one of the best short films we’ve watched in a long time and it revolves around a controversial religious group known as ‘WMSCOG’ that has roots all over the world — including right here in Manchester.

You’d be forgiven for having never heard of World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCOG) before but, chances are, if you’ve simply walked through Manchester city centre you will likely have come across them at some point whether you know it or not.

Having been described as everything from a ‘doomsday group’ that has put forward multiple failed world-ending predictions, to an ‘abusive’, ‘opportunistic’ and ‘mind-controlling cult‘ by former members who now condemn the church, their story is one of the most intriguing subjects in modern theology.

With a highly complex and often confusing religious framework, comprised of multiple sub-strata and levels to their hierarchy which all centres around worshipping an old lady in South Korea, it can be tough to wrap your head around exactly who and what they are. And that’s exactly what this now award-winning short documentary tries to achieve.

The short documentary examines the lesser-known but controversial religious group and its church here in Manchester.

Created by journalism graduate Harry Robinson, Mother’s Ruin: Unmasking the WMSCOG, started out as a final project for university and has now gone on to win both Best International Director at the Oregon Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Texas Short Film Festival, as well being awarded the Will Venters’ Memorial Prize by ITV News.


In less than half an hour, Robinson – with nothing more than his computer, a camera and some help from a fellow uni student – delivers a truly eye-opening exposé on a pseudo-religious group that claims to have more than three million followers across 170 different countries and yet somehow remains largely under the radar to most.

As well as sharing some seriously shocking stories and allegations from people who have left the church, or ‘escaped’ as many of them would put it, the 23-year-old also goes to confront WMSCOG on their own doorstep at a location right here in Manchester. Stretford, specifically.


The members who come to the door of the unassuming building on a small industrial park in Old Trafford decline the right to a reply and have no interest in speaking to him, even despite reading out a laundry list of accusations including coercion, mental manipulation and even encouraging members to get abortions.

Visiting former members and even WMSCOG deacons like Luke Biggs (pictured above) who still lives just a few miles away from their Manchester church, as well as cult survivor turned counsellor at the University of Salford Richard Turner, learning about how the group operates feels truly surreal at times.

The church has at least two locations here in the UK — one being in Manchester and the other in Epsom, Surrey — but its reach is thought to be truly massive even whilst remaining predominantly in the background and despite being a government-registered charity on Companies House.


Unsurprisingly, the documentary has had quite the reaction already, with Harry revealing to us and in the film itself that the insight into the church has helped many feel comfortable enough to come out and speak on their own struggles with religious organisations and groups some would consider ‘cults’.

As mentioned, it’s received some impressive critical acclaim for a student filmmaker too, who had to communicate with participants via secret emails and has an estimated 30+ hours of interview footage.

Robinson also received an award for his first film, The Real Black Sabbath (2022), which once again focuses on an alternative church.

Be it believing in the concept of ‘God the Mother’, i.e. the messiah reincarnated in the form of 80-year-old Zahng Gil-jahr, their deity who co-founded the church alongside the now deceased Ahn Sahng-hong (God the Father), or having predicted the world was going to end in 2012 like the Mayans, it’s quite staggering to hear what makes up WMSCOG’s belief system.

They have also been cited as having changed their core tenets and retconning claims within their own doctrine when certain predictions or practices haven’t gone quite as planned and gaslighting their followers into believing they were mistaken or simply ‘misinterpreted’ their teachings.

As explained by Robinson, several articles on WMSCOG’s controversies have been deleted and now simply display error messages, and even the original video he shared on a former member’s awareness site appealing for others to come forward with their experiences was removed for an ‘invasion of privacy’.


In fact, one of the few proper investigative articles still left standing was written up by none other than our very own University of Manchester’s The Mancunion.

Perhaps one of the most telling examples of how the World Mission Society Church of God has dealt with media attention in the past is demonstrated by the interview with Michele Colón, who spent a lengthy period in a fierce legal battle after the church tried to sue her for a genuinely staggering sum.

The group itself has actually been around in some form since 1964, starting out in South Korea and eventually going on to establish itself in Seoul as the Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God in the mid-80s, before rebranding once again as WMSCOG in 1997.

Nevertheless, knowledge of the church still remains very limited and after speaking to fellow University of Sheffield graduate and cinematographer for the documentary, Maddie James, she said the whole thing “felt outrageous” and “didn’t really believe it” until the pair arrived at the door to confront them.

“It felt like something out of a movie”, she continued, adding, “It got very serious and upsetting when we arrived at the location and I quickly began to realise how much it had impacted people”.


Maddie even told us how she believes he may have been approached by WMSCOG members handing out fliers when leaving the Arndale Centre not long after filming the documentary — a regular recruitment tactic according to ex-members. They are also said to approach young and impressionable students on university campuses.

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It goes without saying that we respect everyone’s right to practice any faith of their choosing but given the years of online discussion surrounding the religious group and their conduct here in Manchester, the US and all over, it’s fair to say there are plenty of questions to be posed.

We don’t want to spoil too much more about the documentary itself but all we can tell you is that within just a 24-minute run-time, Mother’s Ruin is probably one of the most fascinating watches you can put on whilst eating your tea or having a brew at the weekend.

You’ll quickly be putting your drink back down, mind, and won’t be able to resist digging further. How many other things can promise that kind of shock and intrigue in less than half an hour?

You can watch the Mother’s Ruin: Unmasking the WMSCOG in full for free down below.

A truly staggering watch.

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Featured Images — Harry Robinson (via YouTube)/Supplied