The Church of God Restoration, located in Aylmer, Ontario, has been in and out of the news for the last year, usually in cases involving the government seeking to shut them down, all to no avail. Led by Pastor Henry Hilderbrandt, the church and its leadership have been a thorn in the side of the province of Ontario for nearly 14 months now, all the while gaining more and more prominence and notoriety.
They gained attention by ignoring the province’s early prohibitions against having even a drive-in church service, and later on fully open services, along with being issued tens of thousands of dollars of tickets and fines. In fact, one time the police gave all the present congregants at a church service $880 fines, but still they persisted.
Standing up to political bullies and tyrants has inevitably resulted in Hilderbrant becoming a rock star on the free-speech stage in Canada and a prominent speaker, yet along with attention, so comes with it the scrutiny.
While we appreciate the stand he is taking and the sacrifices he has made, it must be said clearly and publicly that we do not consider him a brother in Christ, we reject their doctrinal distinctives, and would actively discourage anyone from attending their church if they care even a little bit about their own soul.
By way of brief background, the Church of God Restoration was formed after a major split from the Church of God, initiated 40 years ago by a man named Daniel Layne. Coming from a Holiness/Wesleyan movement, he viewed the denomination as too liberal, breaking away and forming 21 congregations worldwide, composed of about 4000 members. These congregations, about 10 in North America, are all close-knit and are led by a group of Capital-A “Apostles.”
Founder Layne ruled the congregations with an iron fist. While starting off relatively stable, he would later claim he was one of the angels of God prophesied in the book of Revelation, sent to open up the seventh seal. He came to Aylmer, where Henry Hilderbrandt now pastors, and preached that the churches there were ‘dead’, and that they had found the True Church.
The church website describes the body:
This (The Church of God Restoration) is a divine move of the Spirit, ordained by God and prophesied of in Revelation and other scriptures. God is restoring His church and calling all of His true children out of every sect and schism back to the one fold.
Unlike the Amish who like to be left to themselves, the COGR are not shy and will aggressively proselytize among other churches, seeking to draw away congregants into their folds and having the greatest success among fundamentalist churches and Mennonites. In Aylmer’s case, they emphasize that in order to get to heaven, the person being recruited needed to leave their false church and join the true church. Around 50 people joined him from surrounding churches and they formed their congregation.
Layne passed away in 2011 and was succeeded by Ray Tinsman, who is now the Chief Apostle. COGR teaches that those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit can and must attain sinless perfection, and they have rules in place to see that attained. A small summary, but by no means an exhaustive list of the rules and regulations that must be followed include:
- No TV, jewelry, alcohol, caffeine, holiday celebrations, dancing, or no ball games.
- There is to be no decorating your home, wearing fragrances, or introducing children to cartoon characters.
- Marriages are arranged by the pastor.
- Some jobs are off-limits to members, such as being a police officer, doctor, nurse, military, long-distance trucker, or any job in a restricted place like a restaurant or casino.
- They are against the medical industry and refuse any sort of medical intervention, medicine, or vaccines.
- Men and boys cannot wear jeans, but rather must wear dark pants and white shirts, along with black vests. This does not change no matter how warm it is outside.
- Women must wear long dresses that cover their ankles and have sleeves that go down to the wrist.
- They cannot cut their hair and cannot wear lace of any kind, irrespective of the article of clothing.
- They also cannot wear the color red and the church controls the color of underwear and stockings congregants are allowed to wear.
Along with this rigid legalism comes bizarre and blasphemous views on the Office of the Apostle and the way they view scripture.
After taking over from founder Daniel Layne, Tinsman formed the “Presbytery.” The Presbytery is comprised of 12 apostles, two of which are women, and one who is Henry Hildebrandt from Aylmer.
In COGR theology, ‘apostles’ are described and defined as “sent ones,” given by God’s Spirit, to “progressively restore truths lost in the great falling away, and…not only to complete the restoration of all truth, but also to lead in and oversee the gathering together of the members of Christ’s body into one fold.”
Basically, these apostles are the replacements for the 12 apostles that Jesus had and are elevated to blasphemous heights.
At a recent gathering where one of their “apostles” was teaching, they gave the “Chief Apostle” Tinsman some very lofty titles, bestowing upon him:
the only name, the name that is above all names on this creature earth, the governor of the world, the judge of all this world … our very own, brother Tinsman.”
Crucially, they believe that these apostles can teach new modern-day revelation that is on par with the scriptures. Apostle Henry Hildebrandt taught at one of these all-church meetings, noting:
If we do not recognize, accept, and receive the present-day apostles of the Lord, we are no better than short-sighted man or the Catholic church.
If you identify the Bible as your ‘present truth,’ why do you go to service? Why go to the meetinghouse? You have your Bible at home and Walmart sells them for just a few dollars. You come to service to hear what the Spirit is presently saying to the church. Present truth comes through men. From the creation of the world until now, God has always had men who were in charge.
In an open Q&A at Tinsman’s church in August 2019, where lay people and regular folk can attend and ask the leadership questions, the following interaction took place.
Participant: ‘Could an apostle (of the Church of God Restoration) write scripture?’
Tinsman: ‘Most all scripture was written by an apostle.’
Participant: ‘Could one of you write scripture?’
Tinsman: ‘Yes sir.’
Participant: ‘Do you have any plans to?’
Tinsman: ‘No sir.’
Participant: ‘Why not?’
Tinsman: ‘I don’t know.’
When asked, “Do you have the ability to take away someone’s salvation?” Tinsman replied, “Yes!”
Much like the Mormons, this church presents a theological facade and looks relatively normal and orthodox on the surface, if a bit strict. But once drawn into the fold, the full breach and scope of their blasphemous beliefs are discovered and made manifest.
Consider them to be marked and avoided.
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