This Church of God Restoration led by David Layne has been in Aylmer, Canada for about 12 years. It is actually a splinter group, which broke away from the mainline Church of God in the United States and is not affiliated in any way with that denomination. A high percentage of the current members are former mainline Church of God members in Aylmer. The Layne church is at the north end of town and its sign simply reads "Church of God meets here."
It seems to me that David Layne's "Church of God Restoration" stretches the truth to suit its own needs and situations. This church may say it allows medical treatment, but there is a social stigma attached to this within the group. It is not viewed as a "spiritually mature" for a person to seek medical care, and instead this is seen as a sign of "weakness."
My mother died as a result of these beliefs. She was "spiritually mature" and strongly believed that she would be healed by her faith. She refused any type of medical treatment from area doctors, which would have demonstrated her "weakness." My mother accepted her illness as what God had ordained, as she struggled to breathe without oxygen. Church members have said that she didn't suffer or die in pain. But I know that her last night alive she suffered tremendous pain and her caregivers recommended medication, but they couldn't use it until they called Danny Layne for permission.
Children in the Church of God Restoration under the age of 10 have not been inoculated from any disease. The church doesn't believe in this either.
The rules of the church pertain to all facets of a member's life. Members do not have the right to choose a spouse, as "God chooses" for them instead. They are told if they are "spiritually mature," they will give control to "God." And only if they are "weak spiritually" would they want to do otherwise. By allowing "God" to choose a mate members believe that they are virtually guaranteed their marriages will not end in divorce.
The process of choosing a spouse begins when a man talks to his local pastor. He must obtain permission from that pastor and receive his blessing before going to the woman's parents to seek permission. In some cases, the pastor may propose to a woman instead, because that woman does not have a premonition of "God's leading."
The congregation then prays about the choice and gives its blessing to the relationship. And after all this, the woman then gives her response (typically she will agree) and the courtship begins. Courtship generally lasts about six months. Before marriage, couples are not allowed to touch, which includes holding hands or kissing.
Education isn't encouraged within the group, though they claim they believe in it. They provide their own schools where few if any of the teachers have a post-secondary education. Most of the teachers at the Aylmer school have obtained only a Grade 12 diploma through correspondence. Such teachers often lack the basic skills equal to secular teachers at accredited private or public schools. The group's teachers also don't read much other than church doctrine. Newspapers and other media outlets are discouraged and seen as the influence of "the world."
Corporal punishment is encouraged and this is the foundation for all correction. Such punishment begins before a child reaches their first birthday. The members believe that a child should learn to be absolutely obedient. Children must not challenge their parents about anything and immediately obey a command the first time it is given. Children are reminded of this principle, of first command obedience, continuously. When a child disobeys they will be spanked until a certain level of crying is achieved. The goal is submission, which members believe is demonstrated by the tone of crying.
Certain clothing is a traditional for Mennonites. Some people within the Church of God Restoration don't have a problem with the group's rules about dress because they have a Mennonite background. Women in the group grow their hair long, as it is their "covering," which replaces the traditional headpiece worn by Mennonites. Immediately after joining the group a person's dress typically changes dramatically, most often as the direct result of peer pressure. To have the same relationship with God as others within the group, church members seem to believe they must change their manner of dress. Salvation is not only about faith, but somehow also dependent upon what is seen externally.
Some women from a Mennonite background may actually feel that the Church of God Restoration is liberating. Because they are no longer subject to their husband's control, especially if a spouse doesn't attend the church. A woman can take control of her family and become the head of the home, if she is considered more devoted. If there is physical abuse, a woman may leave her husband, but she will not be allowed to marry again, as that is "adultery."
In the church, women are also allowed to take leadership roles and even become ministers if they feel "called by God." Women are allowed to speak in church and are expected to testify as they experience spiritual growth. They are given a place and a position in the church.
The church not only believes in equality of gender, but also regarding every racial background. And people who join find a place with instant friends and acceptance. Members call other members when they have any questions and these people are always available and ready to help.
It is important to understand though, that the Church of God Restoration is an exclusive community. That is, the church claims that it alone has the only really complete understanding of the bible. To go to heaven you must join them. And if you are honest about your faith, God will lead you to them. They supposedly have all the answers and that includes how to enter heaven. However, their version of salvation is actually highly conditional and it depends upon following their rules and regulations, which must be obeyed. If a member chooses to disobey any of those rules and 'rebel,' their fate will be worse than before, and the friendships and acceptance they have experienced will be withdrawn and ultimately disappear.