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An Independent and Critical Resource on the "House of Jacob"

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Basic Beliefs of the "House of Jacob"

Founded in 1910, the full name of the church is "The Supreme Council of the House of Jacob of the United States of America, Inc." -- "House of Jacob" or "HOJ" unofficially.

They follow the teachings of an African American, born General Washington, but who later began calling himself Father G. W. Israel, P.O.I. (Pope Of Israel). He claimed to have received the spirit of Christ -- like Moses, Jehovah, and the Apostles of the New Testament. He went one step further and claimed the same status as the Holy Trinity. This is one reason members call him "Father." He is treated like God: members believe and do whatever he says, without question. From Article 26 of the church's Constitution and Bylaws: "It is disrespectful and even wrong for any member to rebel in any way against the father of this church. The board shall go its limit to clarify and show the rebel that the voice of the father shall be heard and recognized above the words of anyone else. A ruler's word is to be kept above all others' on earth. A great mistake is made whenever one deems the father to be no more than other men. The ministers of this body must protect the ruler of this church from disgrace moreso than to protect their own families and children from such."

Members sometimes don't enjoy the harsh rules of the church, but they follow them anyway, since they are taught they will go to hell if they don't. They also fear they will suffer the public humiliation of the "backseat," this church's form of shunning. If you are sentenced to the back seat, you are shunned by the church: No one from church talks to you -- in or out of church, you are not allowed to participate in any way during the church service. Disgraced members are rarely given a specific time period they must "serve" on the backseat. They are required to go to church as usual -- 4 to 5 times a week -- and only when the "Spirit" moves the congregation or pastor to do so is the shunned member welcomed back into the congregation.

Some beliefs and practices of the "House of Jacob":

  • Members deny the virgin birth, believing that Jesus was literally the son of David (who had been transformed into the angel Gabriel).
  • Women may not wear pants, makeup, colored fingernail polish, or shoes with open toes and heels during church.

  • Girls over the age of 12 must wear pantyhose to church and on church property.

  • Absolutely no sports are allowed -- not golf, basketball, swimming, track, football -- whether at school or in the community. Members may not play sports for recreation However, sports such as basketball on church property with other church people is allowed. Swimming is allowed in the church-owned pool, but members are not permitted to go to public pools or school pools.

  • Members do not celebrate any "worldly" holidays. The "House of Jacob" celebrates only their own holidays:

    January 1: Church's Anniversary Day

    Sunday after "world's" Easter: Annual Wild Game Dinner

    Last Sunday in April: Rally Day (when ex-members report they gave of their financial resources until "it literally hurts")

    Sunday before "world's" Memorial Day: Memorial Day of the church's bishops, superior mothers, fathers

    Last Sunday in May: Annual Seafood Dinner

    First Sunday in June : Pentecostal Day (when members "tarry," or say "allelujah" over and over again until they go into convulsions -- which they call receiving the holy spirit or getting more spiritual strength).

    July 4 : Founder's Birthday and gift exchange

    Last Sunday in July: Mid-Western Convocation (9 services in 3 days, in a hot church with no air conditioning -- former members claim that many pass out from the heat and a few have even died, "gone onto an even better life").

    Third Sunday in August.: Easter Convocation

    Second Sunday in October: Wester Convocation

    November 19: Thanksgiving and third "father's" birthday

    Last Sunday in November: Fall Sacrifice/Rally Day

  • Members are not allowed to attend school functions of any type, no choir concerts, football games, dances.

  • No Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts

  • Most children are not allowed to go to birthday parties for school friends or to visit playmates homes -- unless they are members of the church.

  • No movies at the theater

  • The "House of Jacob" has its own songbooks. But because of the secretive nature of the church, members must wait for at least a year after joining before being permitted to own church songbooks, literature, history, or other church-related books. During the church service, songbooks are not provided freely to members, as is the practice in most hymn-singing denominations.If you haven't been a member long enough to purchase a songbook of your own, you must depend on others to lend you theirs during the service.

  • Mandatory tithing is checked thoroughly -- one might say, obsessively. Members turn tithes in before the church service begins. The tithes secretary tallys the total during service and makes checkmarks beside members' names who paid and how much they paid. Members are required to mark on the outside of the envelope the amount of gross pay and their contribution, showing all the arithmetic (10% tithes and 1% offering). If a member makes a mistake or is short by a few cents, the tithes secretary will ask the member for it before he or she leaves church. If a member does not pay his or her tithes -- even if unable to pay because of poverty -- they receive a "talk" from the pastor. If the member still does not or can not pay, he or she and his family is put on the backseat. If despite shunning, a member is unable to pay, he or she receives a letter from "father." Finally a member is kicked out of the congregation and church. At one time, so many members were not paying that the church was losing a large number of members. Their response? They raised the tithes to 14% on all remaining member to cover the shortfall for approximately 5 years.

    The "House of Jacob" organizes the flow of all this money through what they call their "central banking system." All the churches in over 40 states count, check, record monies collected, and have cash transporters (because they don't like checks) bring all this money to headquarters, where it's deposited into a single bank account. Local churches are forced to support themselves with bakesales, local rallies, and other such fundraisers to pay utilties and other maintenance.

The "House of Jacob" is reported to be very secretive. Membership may be as high as 98% African American. They do not report membership numbers to church members, but former members estimate total enrollment to be approximately 8,000 to 10,000. There are "House of Jacob" churches in more than 40 states, yet most of America has never heard of them. Until recently cult information specialists and organizations such as AFF and Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center have been unaware of the church. The Watchman Fellowship, however, ran an article in the June, 2000, issue of Profile.

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