KING OF SALEM TIMELINE
1971 (February 23): Lisbet García was born in Cárdenas, Matanzas, Cuba.
1988: Lisbet García joined Ministerio Internacional Creciendo en Gracia (Growing in Grace International Ministry), led by José Luis de Jesús Miranda, whom she will later marry.
2013 (November 15): Miranda died in Orlando, Florida.
2013 (November 18): Lisbet García declared her spiritual resurrection, claiming that Melchizedek spoke to her, and told her that he is God the Father and that she should speak to the people that Miranda had left in uncertainty. The date is regarded as the foundation of King of Salem.
2013 (December 6): Lisbet García announced publicly that Melchizedek is the name of God the Father, and that he had sent her as his archangel Michael to fight the battle of Armageddon (the carnal mind) and guide God’s people to the Promised Land (the spiritual mind).
2014 (February): Following Lisbet García’s instructions, her associate Martin Guío announced the fall of Babylon in the minds of those who listen to, and believe, Lisbet’s message.
2014 (March): Andrés Cudris, who had been one of Lisbet García’s key associates, left the group and founded his own organization.
2014 (May): Martin Guío announced publicly that he no longer agreed with Lisbet García’s teachings, and that he and his followers would form a separate organization.
2017 (August 26–28): Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, but the King of Salem headquarters and its followers were unaffected, which the movement attributed to divine protection.
In 2015, posters appeared in several countries of the world, proclaiming “Did you know that Christ is a woman?” [Image at right] The posters had been put up by King of Salem, a primarily Spanish-speaking new religious movement, headquartered in Houston, Texas. The movement has a prehistory in the evolution of Ministerio Internacional Creciendo en Gracia (Growing in Grace International Ministry (see this separate profile on WRSP), a group that grew rapidly and claimed in its heydays some 2,000,000 followers throughout the world.
The process leading to the foundation of Creciendo en Gracia dates back to the years 1980s in Miami, Florida, where pastor José Luis de Jesús Miranda (1946–2013), born in Ponce (Puerto Rico), had migrated after a short time in Massachusetts. In the 2000s, the increasingly successful Miranda claimed to be first, in 2004, the Second Coming of Christ, then, in 2007, the Antichrist. His followers started tattooing themselves with the number 666, believed to be the number of the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation. However, for Miranda, the expression “Antichrist” did not carry any negative connotation. It referred to the need to focus in the twenty-first century on the Second Coming of Christ (i.e. Miranda himself) rather than on Jesus of Nazareth.
In April 2012, Miranda announced a great “transformation” for the next June 30, when he and his followers would receive visible immortal bodies and will live forever. Nothing visible happened on June 30, and on August 8, Miranda’s ex-wife, Josefina Torres, announced that the pastor had died in Sugar Land, Texas. Widely reported in the media, the news was exposed as false when Miranda reappeared in public on September 11, claiming his health was excellent. Torres’ motivations for the announcement remain unclear. However, on November 15, Miranda really died in Orlando, Florida, and this time the information was confirmed by his family and movement.
These events created a predictable situation of disarray and confusion in Creciendo en Gracia. A Cuban woman named Lisbet García, born in Cárdenas, Matanzas, Cuba on February 23, 1971 had been the pastor’s third wife. [Image at right] Three days after Miranda’s death, on November 18, 2013, his widow, Lisbet, reported that she had experienced a spiritual “resurrection,” where God the Father began speaking to her, revealing his name as Melchizedek and giving her all his wisdom. She regarded November 19 as the date of birth of a new organization, that she called King of Salem, proceeded to reorganize the shattered flock of Miranda, announcing on December 6, 2013, that the name of God the Father is Melchizedek, and that she was his Archangel Michael. This was contested by the leader of Creciendo en Gracia in Guatemala, Emilio Gramajo. Javier Valverde, another leader of Miranda’s movement, from Costa Rica, took over the website domains (creciendoengracia.com, and telegracia.com). A new website (lacienciadejh.com) was also created, with reference to “The Science of JH,” which is the name these branches use more frequently.
Two other key leaders of Creciendo en Gracia, Andrés Cudris and Martin Guío, remained initially with Lisbet. In the following months, however, both Cudris and Guío rejected Lisbet’s authority, refusing what they perceived as new teachings incompatible with Miranda’s original message. Cudris left in March 2014 (and died in 2016), and Guío left in May 2014. Their groups remained small, while the majority of those who had remained with Miranda until his death followed Lisbet and her organization, King of Salem.
Headquarters were established in Houston, Texas, with congregations organized in twenty-two countries. When Hurricane Harvey hit the city on August 26–28, 2017, neither the headquarters nor the homes of the followers living in Houston were affected, which was interpreted as a sign of divine protection.
King of Salem’s doctrine goes well beyond a reinterpretation of Miranda’s role in sacred history, and is in fact a radical reinterpretation of Christianity itself (which I have reconstructed here based on both the group’s literature and interviews with followers in 2017 in Italy and in 2018 in Houston).
It took time for Lisbet to realize who she really was after Miranda had died. But in the end, she understood herself as being both God the Father, and God the Mother, the Father’s wife, the Christ. God (Elohim) is plural in the Biblical account of creation, which is interpreted by King of Salem as referring to God Father and Mother, who made humans in their image, male and female. King of Salem is aware of the fact that a similar interpretation of Genesis 1:26–27 is offered by the Korean movement World Mission Society Church of God, which proclaims that its leader is God the Mother, but points out that the Korean group has a different and wrong understanding of Jesus Christ, identified by the Society as being male, with a Korean preacher who died in 1985. King of Salem’s position regarding this group is that, “since they do not reveal Gods name, nor proof that God the Father is with that group, they’re a fraud just like everyone else who claims to represent God.”
King of Salem affirms that Christ Lisbet, who is also Melquisedec Lisbet [Image at right], and whose complete sacred name is MelquisedecChristLisbet (with Melchizedek spelled “Melquisedec,” as it occurs prevalently in Spanish), is the only one giving testimony to God the Father, who sent her to preach and is one with her. All the so-called Christians, the movement insists, speak on their own account, and give their own interpretation of the Bible, but none was able to reveal the name of the Father, Melchizedek, because none of them was really sent by the Father. Only the returning Christ makes the Father known and reveals the whole truth about God (as prophesied in John 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 4:5). King of Salem believes that the Bible is a book manipulated by humans, and is not the whole truth about God. Only Christ, i.e. Lisbet, can reveal and explain the mysteries hidden in the Holy Book (alluded to in 2 Timothy 1:10), and save humans through her teachings.
For King of Salem, Jesus was a woman. According to the movement, evidence that Jesus was female is found in the image and iconography of Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29), within a Jewish context where only female lambs were regarded as a perfect offering (Leviticus 4:32), and in the fact that Jesus was sold by Judas for thirty pieces of silver. This was the price of a woman, not of a man, in the case of a special vow to God, according to Leviticus 27:2–4 (King of Salem 2018:1). Moreover, Jesus is represented with long hair, which was against the admonition of Ezekiel 44:20 for men, but normal if she was a woman (King of Salem 2017:9). Additionally, according to King of Salem, Christ always used feminine examples when discussing herself (the movement always uses “she” rather than “he” for Jesús); which shows that indeed Christ was and is a woman. For instance, King of Salem argues, Christ called herself the True Vine (John 15:1, 5, “I am the True Vine, and my Father is the gardener… I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing”), which is a reference to Psalms 128:3, “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine. In the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table.” The movement also points out that Jesus used to compare herself to the shen that gathers her chick: Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
For King of Salem, another important and clear evidence that Christ was and is a woman is found in John 1:1-3, mentioning the Word who was always with the Father and became flesh, and through whom everything was made. The movement sees here an echo of Proverbs 3:19 and 8:30 and its reference to a feminine Wisdom, who was constantly at God’s side, rejoicing always in his presence, and through whom God created the earth. The deuterocanonical Book of Wisdom, in turn, which is included in the Catholic version of the Bible, although not in the Protestant one, includes several passages about the Wisdom, referred to as female, which find close parallels in references to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. For King of Salem, this divine Wisdom is Lisbet. [Image at right ]
When Jesus was crucified, a soldier pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, and blood and water came out (John 19:34). For King of Salem, this is further evidence that Jesus was a woman. According to the movement, the meaning of this episode is that the “previous dispensation” of John the Baptist had to be born again of the spirit, in the womb of Christ. But since her contemporaries did not accept Christ and crucified her, that “spiritual child” died during the crucifixion.
According to Lisbet, John the Baptist was not Jesus Christ’s precursor but an Antichrist, since he did not prepare the way for Jesus, but instead prevented many from believing in her message. John the Baptist is interpreted by King of Salem as a figure of Miranda. The latter was the Antichrist, who did not prepare the way for Lisbet and did not acknowledge her (although the movement also underlines that on several occasions Miranda referred to Lisbet as having a greater faith and being more important than he was).
Jesus’s crucifixion was not preordained by God and was an atrocious crime. Prophecies about a crucifixion in the Old Testament are symbolic, and refer to a necessary crucifixion of our carnal mind. The movement notes that before Pilate, Christ stated that her purpose was to preach the truth about God, not to die physically. Jesus, however, promised to return in the “third day,” i.e., according to King of Salem, in the Third Millennium, when Lisbet reveals herself as the Second Coming. [Image at right]
Jesus, the movement also teaches, had a twin sister called Didymus (which means twin), who took care of the finances of the newly established Christian Church. Lisbet also has a twin sister, who oversees the finances of King of Salem. Judas needed to kiss Jesus, to distinguish her from her twin sister for the benefit of the Roman soldiers. They believe that this is a figure of how much Christ Lisbet loves us, and that she is the first to be sacrificed so that everyone else can also die in the same manner she does, to inherit eternal life, as explained in John 15:13, “Nobody shows more love than one who gives their life for their friends.” But this is not a physical death and sacrifice but a spiritual one.
King of Salem believes that early Christian leaders, who quickly created a curtain of lies to hide the fact that Christ was a woman, changed the truth about God (as prophesied in Jeremiah 8:8), preventing people from obtaining the eternal life, here on earth, which Jesus had promised. They were, thus, “ministers of Satan,” who “spiritualized” the central promise of Jesus by insisting that those who would believe in him would receive eternal life after physical death. The “ministers of Satan” of the various denominations keep preaching this lie today (King of Salem 2017:14–15).
For King of Salem, Jesus’s promise referred to physical immortality. True believers in Jesus should not have died. The “ministers of Satan” and their followers, however, died. This is the proof that they failed to understand that the key to immortality is to reconcile the carnal mind, the elder brother, with the spiritual mind, the younger brother. The carnal mind is not eliminated but purified. No human can achieve this result by himself or herself. The presence of Jesus on earth is required, and this presence is with us today in the person of Lisbet, “God as Two in One,” MelquisedecLisbet, who is both Christ Lisbet and the image of God the Father, Melchizedek (King of Salem 2017:1). [Image at right]
In King of Salem’s eschatology, Heaven is the mind of Christ Lisbet. She has also the power to introduce into Heaven (i.e. into God’s wisdom, as announced in Psalms 104:2) the minds of those humans who have been reconciled, after having been born again spiritually, through the Word of Christ Lisbet. And Hell is also in the mind, which is a place of darkness where humans live if they fail to accept Christ Lisbet as “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). The symbol of the fire is interpreted by King of Salem as ambivalent. The fire could be the humans’ worst enemy, if they do not live in accordance with Christ Lisbet’s commandments. But believers can become precious stones and, instead of being consumed by the destructive fire, they may be refined by God’s purifying fire.
King of Salem believes that there is no afterlife. The movement insists that Christ Herself is the Promised Land, rather than a geographical place on earth. Those fully purified by MelquisedecChristLisbet will receive the benefits of God’s promise and will not experience the physical death. They will live forever in a transformed Earth. This transformation is not the Apocalypse. It is a change that takes place in the mind, because the Kingdom of God is spiritual rather than physical. Therefore, the battles mentioned in the Scriptures are not fights between armies, but struggles to overcome the carnal mind. If followers of King of Salem die, this is evidence that they were not fully purified and doubted MelquisedecChristLisbet. Purification comes through integral obedience to the message of Christ Lisbet, without rejecting any part of it.
There is no formal liturgy in King of Salem, and there are no special buildings for worship. In some countries, the devotees may rent a location, such as an auditorium. In others, they rent hotel rooms on Sunday. [Image at right] The service includes songs, testimonies about the joy of having been saved by MelquisedecChristLisbet and the progress of the missionary activity throughout the world, and sermons by Lisbet herself. Lisbet normally speaks through video connections, which also allows many followers who live in areas where there is no local community to follow her weekly teachings via the Internet.
King of Salem is led by its charismatic leader and God, MelquisedecChristLisbet, but there are collaborators in charge of different departments. Followers are called “holy angels.” Their missionary activity consists in saving the “lost sheep” who heard but did not accept Lisbet’s message when she started preaching, and also in taking her message to the “foreigners, those who have only heard about Lisbet through the evangelism activity of her holy angels, thorough flyers left in public places, or through the Internet.
King of Salem uses a state-of-the-art technological outreach, spreading its teachings mostly with video conferences and the Web, with a physical presence in some twenty-two countries, and an Internet presence in many others.
There are no official statistics. Certainly, several followers of Creciendo en Gracia simply left the movement after Miranda’s prophetic failure and death. Most of those, however, eventually joined King of Salem, and followed Lisbet. The numbers of those meeting regularly are probably in the tens of thousands, with more living in areas where there is no local community and following the teachings offered in Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Italian via the Internet. The largest communities are in the U.S., Colombia, and Brazil.
Couple relationships are known as “the order of head and body,” and are regarded as very important, as they mirror the perfect union of God the Father, Melchizedek, and God the Mother, or God’s wife, Christ Lisbet. Couples take a single name. For instance, a female follower is called Roberta and her husband William, and they identify themselves as two in one, now known as WilliamRoberta. There are also specific programs aimed at teaching the basic principles of King of Salem to children. [Image at right]
Followers are encouraged to live a prosperous, orderly, and healthy life. There is no prohibition against voting or participating in political activities, although most followers believe that catastrophes, including the natural ones, which are often discussed in the Sunday service, or as they call it, the Feast, derive from the disorder of the carnal mind in humans. All problems of society will not be solved by human politicians, but rather by God MelquisedecChristLisbet, as soon as all humans will submit to her perfect order. In the meantime, however, King of Salem preaches respect to political authorities, and interprets the Biblical command of “rendering unto Caesar” as implying that churches should not require tax exemptions. The movement proudly reports that it is not tax-exempt and may be the only religious organization that pays its taxes without seeking privileged status.
Understandably, the claim that Christ is a woman, and that those teaching that Christ is a man are “ministers of Satan,” did not endear King of Salem to Christian churches. There is a growing literature produced by Christian counter-cultist denouncing King of Salem as a heretic group. In Latin America, Baptist minister Julio César Clavijo Sierra, together with Luis Enrique Polo Bello, defended a master’s thesis on Creciendo en Gracia as a “destructive cult” at the International Baptist Theological Seminary of Cali, Colombia, in 2016 (Clavijo Sierra and Polo Bello 2016). Additional material critical of King of Salem was posted on the Internet by other post-Creciendo en Gracia groups, although most of them are slowly disappearing. Secular anti-cultists may occasionally list King of Salem as a “cult,” but they are largely unaware of what it is all about.
The main reason devotees join the King of Salem is also its main challenge. The movement offers an opportunity to achieve physical immortality. Those fully believing in MelquisedecChristLisbet and who would learn to overcome the dominion of the carnal mind, will not age nor die, following Lisbet who, they believe, is immortal. While the history of religions is there to demonstrate that immortality has always been attractive for mortal human beings, persuading the skeptical that a group or person is the only one in human history capable of delivering real immortality has never been easy. However, King of Salem encourages all to prove the veracity of God, by, “Asking God the Father Melquisedec in the name of God the Mother, Christ Lisbet, to receive everything they ask for as long as it is just and the perfect will of God.” [Image at right]
Image #1: King of Salem’s billboard “Did You Know that Christ Is a Woman?”
Image #2: Lisbet García.
Image #3: Melquisedec Lisbet logo, a registered trademark of King of Salem.
Image #4: Lisbet García as the Divine Wisdom, poster of King of Salem.
Image #5: Lisbet García preaching on television.
Image #6: King of Salem booklet, “God as Two in One.”
Image #7: Banner in a hotel room rented for a Sunday service.
Image #8: Booklet for children, with Lisbet as superhero.
Image #9: A King of Salem flyer.
Clavijo Sierra, Julio César, and Enrique Polo Bello. 2016. “‘Creciendo en Gracia’—El Principio y el Fin de una Secta Destructiva.” Master Thesis. Cali, Colombia: Fundación Universitaria Seminario Teológico Bautista Internacional de Cali.
King of Salem. 2018. “Did You Know that Christ Is a Woman?” Flyer. Houston: King of Salem.
King of Salem. 2017. “God Is Two in One.” Houston: King of Salem.
4 July 2018