Boston Church accused of cultism
Associated Press, 19 September 1988.
By Kevin Galvin
The Boston Church of Christ opened a four-day seminar Thursday amid criticism from traditional Church of Christ groups who contend the church uses mind control techniques and is taking over other ministries.
Al Baird, an elder in the Boston Church, blames the accusations on a few disgruntled former members and jealousy from less successful congregations. The Boston church has risen from a few dozen members to more than 3,300 members in ministries as far away as South Africa and Argentina over the last 10 years.
“And people are suspicious of anything growing as rapidly as we are,” Baird said. “There must be something wrong with it, there must be something mysterious about it. Nobody else is growing like that, what are you guys doing? You must be controlling people.”
The Churches of Christ comprise about 18,000 independent congregations with a U.S. membership of more than 2 million. The churches preach basic Bible teachings and consider baptism an essential part of the salvation process.
The 1988 World Missions Seminar is attracting about 9,000 Church of Christ members and other Christians to workshops on “God’s Eternal Plan” and “God’s Secret Weapon” and speeches from church elders.
“People come and really get some in-depth teaching, a lot of in-depth reports on what’s going on around the world,” said Baird. “And it’ a time that people make some new commitments in their personal lives.”
The controversy surrounding congregations related to the Boston church stems from their high-profile recruiting techniques and their practice of “discipling,” an intense one-on-one relationship between a person in the congregation and a new convert.
New church members are taught to submit to their “discipler” in personal as well as spiritual matters to learn the ways of the church.
Members have been barred from proselytizing on the campuses of Boston University and Northeastern University in Boston because students complained they were being harangued to join Bible study groups.
In Nashville, Tenn., the president of the Church of Christ-affiliated David Lipscomb University last week denounced a newly founded Boston Church of Christ offshoot in Nashville.
Harold Hazelip, the school’s president, warned students not to join the new ministry, which he likened to a mind-controlling cult, after church members began circulating pmphlets on the Lipscomb campus.
Baird denies that the church seeks to control minds, and compares the “discipling” process to an internship or a student-teacher relationship.
“The controversy basically is: Does anybody have the right to tell you what to do?” Baird said. “Obviously no one has to do anything. No one is ever asked to go against their conscience, no one is ever asked to violate the Bible.”