Universal Church of the Reign of God (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus)

Doctrines As a stream of Neo-Pentecostalism the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (IURD) emphasizes the importance of the Bible and encourages its members to bring outsiders into the church. The church has many of the features of the charismatic movement - baptism in the Holy Spirit, the power of the gift tongues, supernatural healings, and an emphasis on material prosperity. While being less explicitly moralistic than other Pentecostal churches, the IURD is opposed to vices such as drug taking, gambling or sexual immorality.
The format of the service is similar from one church to another. A church will typically have four to five services a day, each of which will last about two hours. In addition to the daily services are practices called "chains of prayers", which consist of the performance of prayers or offerings based around a specific theme such as healing, family life, finance, or spiritual life.
Responsible for the management of the church are paid pastors. These are hierarchically organised, with local pastors, state pastors, and assistants who deal directly with the Bishop of the church, Edir Macedo. The pastors' roles will consist of officiating over ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms, preaching in church services, performing exorcisms and directing the chains of prayers. The pastors are assisted by so-called "floating clients" who are involved with the direction of the church services on an informal basis. Also involved with the running of the church are volunteers called obreiros (laborers); these are church members who work voluntarily and perform tasks such as cleaning the building, looking after children, performing exorcisms, and receiving worshippers into the church.

History The IURD began in 1976 when Edir Macedo, Roberto Augusto Lopes and R.R. Soares, who were members of a Pentecostal church called Nova Vida (New Life), established their own church at Abolicao, a working class section of Rio de Janeiro. They called their new church "Igreja da Bencao" (Benediction Church), but the church was renamed Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus in 1977, when the church was officially registered by the Brazilian government.
In1981 the two remaining founders of the church, Edir Macedo and Roberto Augusto Lopes, consecrated themselves as bishops of the church. Later, Edir Macedo, split with Lopes and assumed sole leadership of the church.
Since the mid-1980s the IURD has experienced impressive rates of growth. In 1986 IURD churches were established in the United States. In 1989 it acquired its own television station in Brazil. Macedo's controversial criticisms against other areas of religious life in Latin America - particularly, the Roman Catholic Church, Candomble and other afro-syncretic religions - and arrest (but not prosecution) for extortion did not prevent the continued growth of the movement. There are now IURD churches in most Latin American countries, as well as in the United States and Portugal.

Symbols As in mainstream Protestantism, IURD does not use statues or images. The sacred is represented using a chalice of blessed oil, prosperity is symbolised by a table with fruit on it.

Adherents The church has about 1 million members.

Main Centre
 Sao Paulo, Brazil.