The Universal Church Kingdom of God (UCKG) is a community of churches that are mostly located in Brazil. The UCKG started in 1977 by Edir Macedo, a former Brazilian state lottery employee, who is now the head of an international network of churches with numerous degrees. This organization started holding services in a park, then expanded to a movie theater and now has five thousand locations in Brazil alone. In 1986, the UCKG expanded to the US and now has locations in several states.
The beliefs of the UCKG are similar to that of a conservative Pentecostal church: the Holy Trinity, that Jesus in the Savior and that it is possible to absolve your sins through the practice of confession are all present. Baptism and communion are the two most important sacraments; through these practices it is possible to become holy. These two sacraments are also signs of obedience. Further, the UCKG believes that the teachings of pastors and bishops are divinely ordained.
The UCKG has been mired in a slew of controversies. Plagued by accusations of fraud, the UCKG has been known to accept large sums of money from poor members of the congregation and use it to enrich the leaders of the church. This coupled with accusations of tax evasion and charlatanism have incited many investigations and cast much doubt onto the business practices of the church.
The UCKG was also involved in a very public scandal when one of their bishops, Sergio von Helde, was caught kicking, hitting and insulting a statue of the Patron Saint Our Lady Aparecida on Record TV. This clearly violated Brazilian law criminalizing public discrimination and contempt against another religion. After the incident von Helde fled the country and Macedo accused Record TV of manipulating public sentiment by repeatedly showing the incident.
The most disturbing allegation made against the UCKG is in regard to their involvement with the death of Victoria Climbie, an 8 year old girl who was believed to be possessed by the devil. Brought in by her guardians to see Pastor Alvaro Lima, a UCKG pastor in the UK, he scheduled a ceremony to expel the devil from her as opposed to calling authorities as he suspected abuse. A week later she was brought in for the ceremony and was instead rushed to the hospital where she died a day later because of neglect and abuse.
In spite of the numerous allegations, the church has remained a strong and powerful voice throughout the region with thousands of members still seeking guidance from their pastors and bishops every Sunday. The dynamic organization, headed by the charismatic Marcedo, is likely to continue to grow and recover from these scandals, continuing to perpetuate its message and good works. He was a man who had a dream to start a church and it grew far beyond what he had imagine. If you share this dream, please visit GetOrdained.org in order to become a pastor online and get information on how to start your own home church.
For more information on the scandals surrounding the Universal Church, please visit Rick A. Ross Institute’s website.