Church leaders condemn cult
University takes action to protect student body
Belfast Telegraph, October 14 1988.
By Noel McAdam
Church leaders at Queen’s University today voiced alarm over a new cult-like group which they claim is targeting students on the campus.
The International Church of Christ today confirmed they have “planted” a six-strong group in Belfast but deny they are targeting under- graduates. The organisation’s London base is to be featured tonight on a television documentary called Living with the Enemy (BBC2).
Chaplains at Queen’s, who are warning against the group, have called in an expert on cults and religious groups to help them deal with the group.
Mike Garde, of the Dublin-based Dialogue Centre which monitors religious groups, is due to meet and brief the chaplains representing all the main denominations next week.
Baptist Minister Rev David McMillan said: “The Queen’s chaplains are very concerned because of the way people in this sect approach people. They seem to work mainly in student areas, perhaps because young people are more impressionable and therefore vulnerable to them.”
A Presbyterian mission worker said: “They can be really deadly. They take over people’s lives and do their thinking for them and take them away from their relatives.”
But John Partington, an elder in the Church, which already has a 70-strong group in Dublin, said: “We have planted a small group of six in Belfast in the last few weeks, and two more will be joining them soon. We don’t target anyone but we do share our faith and reach out to people. We want to call people away from these dead religions and that is not looked on favourably by the other Churches.”
He said he was willing to meet with local church leaders to help allay fears. “Unfortunately it seems wherever we go, the Students’ Unions and other people slander our church,” Mr Partington, who is based in London, added.
“We are mainline, evangelical and we don’t have any weird or wonderful doctrines. Others do complain about what they consider targeting but which to us is actually, actively sharing our faith. We don’t force people. We invite them to come and see us and make up their own minds, but the main difference between us and other Churches is simply commitment.”
Earlier attempts to establish a permanent centre in Belfast were delayed after an arranged marriage for one of its leaders failed to take place.