Is a cult recruiting UW students?

Is a cult recruiting UW students?

Imprint (University of Waterloo), November 19 1999
By Kate Schwass, Imprint staff

Is there a cult on campus? The International Churches of Christ (ICOC) denies allegations that it is one, despite its efforts to recruit members both on and off campus in Waterloo.

The group, founded in 1979 in Bob and Pat Gempels’ Boston living room, has grown from the original 30 “would-be disciples” to the more than 185,954 members worldwide to date, according to the International Churches of Christ Website (

The Website also describes the beliefs of the ICOC. These beliefs include that there is one true God, Jesus is the world’s only Lord and Savior and that the Bible is the only written message of God inspired by the Holy Spirit and is without error.

The site goes on to say that a person is saved through the grace of God and the blood of Jesus Christ and through obedience and faith, people can “reach out to receive this free gift of salvation.”

A person must also repent of their sins, be baptized and forgiven in order for the Holy Spirit to be part of their lives. “Only baptized disciples are members of Christ’s church.” After baptism, the new Christian needs to be taught or “discipled” by another Christian and every disciple must be “committed to the vision of making disciples of all nations.”

Many people who have joined this group, and then left, have come forward to talk about their experiences on the Reveal Website ( are testimonials on this site, including one by Amelia Manteufel entitled, “I Didn’t Plan on Joining a Cult.”

Amelia talks about how she met a man on the Internet who was part of the International Churches of Christ. He invited her to come to a service. At first, she said, “everything seemed normal.”

When Amelia began her studies, she was asked to bring a “sin list” to a study group with her and she needed to read it out loud to everyone.

According to Amelia’s testimony, “After the reading of the letter, many questions arose. One in particular, which continues to make me feel spiritually violated, was about a scar I have on my chest. I was asked to show the scar to prove I wasn’t being deceitful.”

After that, Amelia was “baptized” and that is when things got rough. Living alone, she lived off of Spaghetti-Os and tuna fish, providing the church with 60 per cent of her net income.

Upon leaving the group, Amelia “lost all of [her] friends and was harassed by some members.”

The Website states that, despite there being no written creed, beliefs are well defined and agreed upon amnong members.

These beliefs include following only the Bible and “no creeds of man,” the church itself has no authority to develop doctrine or initiate practices. The Nicene Creed (which is repeated in many other Christian churches) is not repeated because it is also seen as being a creed of man.

There is also the “five finger exercise” which is that a believer must hear the gospel, believe it, repent sins, confess belief in Jesus as the Son of God and be baptized by immersion in water.

According to Federation of Students VP Internal Chris Harold, the International Churches of Christ Waterloo branch is “not recognized by the Federation of Students.”

Although some people believe that the group poses a threat to students, Harold said that “any group can become recognized by the Federation of Students, you just have to follow the guidelines outlined in the Clubs policy.” A group must have a constitution, fill out a formal application, have a certain number of members, have an executive and approval of the clubs committee.

“If a student wishes to join any group, that’s up to the student… the concern of everyone is how these groups recruit,” commented Harold.

He also suggested that anyone who is being recruited should ask if the club is recognized by the Federation of Students and ask what the group believes in.

“Ask, don’t be afraid to ask.”

If a student is feeling uncomfortable with the recruitment of any group on campus, contact security, go to the Federation of Students’ office or talk to the people at the Turnkey Desk. Harold suggests for students to”do something about it, don’t just walk away.”

Kevin Hoeke, the leader of the Waterloo branch of the ICOC, could not be reached for comment.

Back to other media reports about the International Churches of Christ.