Gospel Assembly Church

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This church is not a cult, pastor says


By William Simbro, Register religion writer

In an advertisement, the congregation insists that just because its pastor is revered, that doesn't make the church a cult.

Whatever one thinks about the Des Moines Gospel Assembly Church, one thing is sure. It is a congregation that does some pretty unusual things.

It was unusual when members, in 1979, sold or took second mortgages on their homes and gave big chunks of money - for many members, $20,000 or more - to pay for a new church that they would then build with their own labor.

The reason: Believing that Christ would return by the 1990s and that the small number of Gospel Assembly churches were the true "remnant" within an "apostate Christendom," a big, new church was needed for the influx of converts before the end times.

And it was unusual for the church at 7135 Meredith Drive to publish a six-page advertising supplement that appears in some editions of today's Des Moines Register.

Written by the Rev. Lloyd Good-win, 64, the church's pastor for 30 years, the supplement condemns labeling a church as a cult and strongly denies that the Des Moines Church is a cult. "Good Churches Discredited as Cults" is the heading, for a series of Goodwin articles contained in the supplement.

It insists that lists cult-watchers have drawn up of characteristics of cults and their leaders are also descriptions of characteristics of biblical figures, admired religious leaders through the ages and of Christian congregations.

In a Thursday interview, Goodwin called the advertising supplement "a six-page teaching supplement." He said it expresses a "divine mandate" to counter the efforts of false accusers who would like to disrupt the harmony of good churches.

"Thousands of dollars," was Goodwin's reply when asked what the advertising supplement cost the church. He declined to disclose the figure. Jolene Porath, who handled the account in The Register's advertising department, said the cost was confidential.

Unique Move

"I don't think any church in the history of the United States has done it," said Goodwin of the extensive nature of a supplement to get a specific message across by an individual church through an advertisement in a major newspaper.

He insisted the supplement "is not a defense of me and my ministry." He said it is an effort "to put things back together. Churches have been in a tailspin the past 10 to 15 years."

Goodwin said he is combating "a general spirit of accusation everywhere. Children have lost respect for parents, citizens have lost respect for leaders, and church members have lost respect for elders and defy au-thority. The Bible teaches us to submit to those who have authority over us."

Goodwin charged that there has been a "complete turnaround" in American attitudes toward morality and the role of churches and pastors. Someone must rise up against this or this nation will be (like) another Sodom and Gomorrah."

There is "a prevailing attitude that the church has nothing to offer," he said. Through his newspaper supplement, "here comes the church forward very boldly, authoritatively and wisely (to inform the community)."

"Many allegations have been made against me over 30 years," Goodwin acknowledged.

But he said the Apostle Paul also was falsely accused.

"People around the city have told our people that we are a cult and the pastor is a dictator. There's not a pastor of any length of time I know of who has not had allegations made against him and his conduct, even if they are not so."

In a recent Saturday night sermon at Gospel Assembly, Goodwin said, "Just because a minister is authoritarian, that doesn't make him a leader of a cult. Just because individuals love their pastor and even worship the pastor, it doesn't mean he is building a cult." But, he said, "If he demands worship, that makes him a cultist."

Shouting for emphasis, Goodwin declared, "This church is not a cult. We preach salvation only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Just because some churches have more discipline than others doesn't make them a cult."

Many in the crowd of about 250 shouted "Amen."

In the sermon, Goodwin said the church was under attack and "charges of cults and improprieties are being bandied about. "Some people were "sowing seeds of hatred, distrust and division," he said, but he declared the church would be victorious.

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