The End of an Era

The Children of God abruptly ended as an organizational entity in February 1978. Reports of serious misconduct, financial mismanagement, and abuse of their positions by a number of the established leaders caused David to dismiss all leadership and to declare the general dissolution of the COG structure. He had entrusted and delegated the organizational leadership of the Children of God to others, and many of them had misused their authority. This radical shift was known as the “Reorganization Nationalization Revolution” (RNR). In all, over 300 leaders were summarily dismissed.

In January 1978, in presenting the “Reorganization Nationalization Revolution,” David wrote:

The [Chain] government became so complicated with such a tangled web of officers and so top-heavy with bureaucracy that it could hardly move and get the job done.

We have also heard of colonies where members were abused, cruelly mistreated, not provided for nor taken care of, shepherds who were cruel in their exacting of high taxes from the sheep and placing on them heavy burdens they couldn’t bear, shocking unauthorized taxation of 25–50% of Colony income levied by higher officials instead of the only 10% which was authorized to go to World Services. …

So we are going to totally abolish the “Chain of Cooperation”, which has become a chain of command in slavery because of the way it has been administered to some!

Not all of our shepherds have been bad and cruel and selfish. I believe those have been the exceptions. But in order to weed them out we are going to have to weed out everybody and make you all hit the road to find out who has got what it takes!

So as of my birthday, February 18, 1978, you [“Chain” leadership] are all fired and everybody is going to be required to find a new job! Each colony should have an immediate worldwide new election or reelection of local shepherds on February 18th!—Throw out the tyrants and put in your own choice of leaders you know love and care for you!

“The Reorganization, Nationalization Revolution,” 1978

The top leadership was reorganized, and each community was required to elect new shepherds. In an effort to reduce dependence on American leadership, one member of each community’s pastoral management was required to be a national of the country in which they resided.

Before the RNR, most COG members were living in communities where the Chain strictly controlled their day-to-day activities. By declaring the RNR and sweeping away the entire hierarchy of Chain leadership, a new day of liberty and previously unknown freedom was declared. With the restrictive influence and controlling policies of over 300 former officers lifted, average members who had lived regimented and regulated lives within Children of God colonies suddenly found themselves free to follow the Lord according to their own personal faith and convictions.

A third of the total membership chose to leave the movement, while those who desired to continue became part of the reorganized movement, dubbed “the Family of Love,” and later, simply “the Family.”

In its ten year history, the Children of God, with less than 7,000 members, had established mission works in over 70 countries. Members had distributed over 306 million pieces of Gospel literature in 47 languages and prayed with 1.5 million people to accept Christ. Countless millions heard the Gospel message through their music, street skits, and the widespread media coverage they received. “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:4).