Warning as cult moves in
This is Lancashire, 16 April 1999
A religious cult which has been criticised for targeting vulnerable, lonely students has begun operating in Preston.
The group, part of the global International Churches of Christ, is believed to be recruiting members into its religion, a form of Christianity, within the Preston area.
Experts on religious cults have told the Citizen new recruits are showered with affection and are gradually alienated from family and friends.
Workers at the Cult Information Centre (CIC) charity say they have received calls from concerned parents worried about the group’s activities in Preston.
The religious group, which is believed to be working under its Manchester name, the Manchester Christian Church, has already been banned from many university campuses.
The CIC says members of the ‘church’ are recruiting on the town’s streets, approaching people and gradually luring them into conversations about religion and inviting them to meetings.
Ex-Prestonian Ian Howarth, director of the southern-based CIC, revealed that his group has been able to draw similarities between the International Churches of Christ and the cult behind the infamous Waco siege.
He said: “This group operates across the globe, systematically targeting new areas and giving itself a local identity.
“It ‘lovebombs’ new recruits with affection and they gradually become alienated from the rest of the society. We do not know what the motives of those at the top of the group’s hierarchy is, but I am sure people involved at a local level are sincere about what they are doing, but they are misguided, and we fear more people will become misguided.”
Ian added: “We have had parents ringing up asking why their children have changed. The group promises an idealistic solution to life which the students relate to and they then become involved.
“An area like Preston is a prime target because it already has a lot of evangelical churches and the language this group uses is very similar to that used by the evangelical churches so their activities seem more normal.”
Conservative estimates suggest the International Churches of Christ collects around $60 million a year from its members, with its leader, Kip McKean, living a luxurious existence in California.
One Preston vicar, who asked not be named, said: “Their antics aren’t Christian. I see it as a form of betrayal, lying to people to lure them into the web where they become trapped.”