Eastern Lightning

A controversial movement proclaiming the advent of a female Christ in China.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Chinese Church (branched from the Shouters)
Founder: Yang Xiangbin
Founded: 1991
Location: Mainly in China, with some presence internationally
Size: Estimated hundreds of thousands of members
Other Names: Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom, The Church of the Almighty God
Website: en.godfootsteps.org

Eastern Lightning, also known as The Church of Almighty God, is a new religious movement that was founded in China in the early 1990s by Zhao Weishan. Deviating from mainstream Christian doctrine, the movement revolves around the belief that Jesus Christ has returned to earth as a Chinese woman, Yang Xiangbin, who is worshiped as the Almighty God. Eastern Lightning’s teachings are also non-trinitarian and emphasize the obsolescence of the Bible, arguing for the advent of new revelations through the words of the Female Christ, who provides the path to salvation.

Eastern Lightning is an explicitly anti-Communist movement, equating the Chinese Communist Party with the Great Red Dragon of the Book of Revelation. It teaches that the world is in its final age, the Age of Kingdom, where God has returned as the Almighty God to reveal the fullness of truth and work to free humans from sinfulness. Human history is understood as “God’s six-thousand-year management plan,” culminating in the current era where God’s final incarnation is to establish a kingdom of peace and joy on earth​​.

The organization is hierarchical, with regional and subregional leaders overseeing local congregations. Meetings are held weekly in private homes within China and in community houses abroad, where members engage in prayer, reading and discussing the revelations of Almighty God, singing hymns, and sometimes presenting artistic performances. A significant part of their international ministry functions online, where they proselytize through websites, social media, and group chats​​​​.

Controversy surrounds Eastern Lightning due to its aggressive proselytization tactics and alleged connections to criminal activities. The group has been accused of condoning and supporting acts of violence, including a series of assaults and robberies in China. The organization has also been accused of using aggressive and unethical tactics in its proselytizing efforts, including kidnapping, brainwashing, and financial exploitation. One notable incident that brought the group international infamy was the 2014 murder of a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant in Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province, by individuals who claimed to be members of Eastern Lightning.

The group is highly secretive, partly due to its underground operation in China. It has been officially banned and labeled a cult by the Chinese government since 1995​​ and has faced severe repression with thousands of its members arrested, and some reportedly tortured or killed in custody​​​​. Despite being banned in China, Eastern Lightning has grown significantly, with estimates of its membership varying widely. The group has been particularly active in rural areas and among disenfranchised individuals.

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