A letter from Cardiff Christian Chaplaincies to Higher Education
Regarding the International Churches of Christ
As Christian chaplains in Cardiff we draw attention to our concern about current recruitment aimed at those in H.E. by the sectarian religious organisation known as the `International Church of Christ’ (ICC). Originally founded as the `Boston Church of Christ’, this umbrella organisation has planted individual churches in various cities, that usually take that City’s into their name, (e.g. the `London Church of Christ’) and is seeking to establish itself here. Much of what this church organisation stands for seems to be a conservative Christianity and indeed appears to be followed with sincere commitment by its members. These impressions lend it a credibility – perhaps especially to Christians. The Chaplains concern is not only over their sectarian claims to be the true church offering the one true faith, and so requiring baptism of those already baptised, but over the following manipulative practices noted by cult researchers (REVEAL) and former members.
- Deceptive recruitment. Many religious organisations welcome people they feel would benefit from the supportive company of a church and more or less proactively offer opportunities for people to learn about a faith. Our concern is that the International Church of Christ (ICC) seem in the short term to befriend new members, but does to an exclusive degree which in the longer term can be seen to be manipulative.
- Mandatory, one-over-one discipling. The requirement that all members report all significant areas of their lives, and particularly sins, to another “more spiritual” member chosen by the leadership, and obey and emulate that member except when to do so would violate the Scripture or their conscience, at least in theory. In practice, members find it difficult, if not impossible, to successfully object to a discipler’s orders on those grounds. This is further enforced by the communal living of members of the ICC.
- Mandatory tithing. Charitable giving should be entirely voluntary, without coercion, but members of the International Church of Christ are required to donate a minimum of 10% of their gross income to the church. In addition, a special contribution is taken up once a year, which is expected to be from twelve to twenty times the member’s normal weekly gift. Close tabs are kept to ensure that members are giving what they are supposed to give. Members report been pressured to give even when circumstances have changed.
- Psychological and spiritual abuse. Former members report psychological, spiritual and even physical abuse from disciplers. In some cases this abuse was clearly condoned and even ordered by the leadership. In others, when the victim complained, the abuse was ignored and/or the victim was chastised for being “unspiritual” and a “grumbler” for complaining. Some of these abuses have included violations of confidentiality, `breaking sessions’ where several members in turn accuse a member of various sins and infractions in order to get him to obey the leaders more closely or quit objecting to certain requirements, and lies and slander about members and former members which the leadership wants to discredit.
We advise students to be aware that the ICC exerts a tremendous level of control over the lives of its members and is largely unaccountable to anyone for its actions, which is perhaps why there have been abuses. We advise those who are approached to be aware that this seemingly attractive church leads not to that freedom that is opened to us by faith, but to an enslavement by an oppressive organisation, and those who have been to meetings to be aware of the first signs of manipulation, and to leave before they are drawn in any further.
If anyone would wishes to speak to us further, and in the strictest of confidence, we are available and can be contacted as directed in the students handbook.
- Paul Dear (Methodist Chaplain)
James Harris (Anglican Chaplain)
Andrew Hughes (Baptist Chaplain)
John Meredith (Catholic Chaplain)
Peter Noble (URC Chaplain)
Paul Overend (Anglican Chaplain)
Cath Williams (Presbyterian Chaplain)
This article was originally published at http://www.cf.ac.uk/uwcc/suon/angsoc/cults.html
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