University of Nebraska-Lincoln official says church preys on lonely
Omaha World Herald, 19 September 1992
By Paul Hammell
Lincoln – A University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) administrator expressed concern this week about the Lincoln Christian Church, saying its members prey on lonely students.
The warning is being extended to Omaha, which the administrator said is the church’s next target.
“My primary concern is that they are deceptive,” said Peg Blake, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at UNL. “They recruit new members by lying and not telling the full truth. They then get people in and demand more than they are expecting to give.”
“People end up losing control of their own life and giving total control to their leader,” she said.
A support group of parents who said the church has recruited their children placed an advertisement in Monday’s edition of the campus paper, the Daily Nebraskan, warning students about the church.
Ms Blake said the church pairs recruits with “disciplers” who end up dictating a recruit’s life. She said some students have been asked to change college majors or quit school and get higher-paying jobs to benefit the church.
Others have flunked out or quit school because of the time required to belong to the church, Ms Blake said. Recruits also become alienated from their families and past, she said.
Attempts to reach church leaders Friday were unsuccessful.
One church leader, Jay Kelly, told the Lincoln Journal that the advertisement in the Daily Nebraskan was a misrepresentation. He said it reflected the “bad attitude” of a former church member.
The Lincoln Christian Church was founded in January 1990. It is affiliated with the Boston Church of Christ, a fundamentalist church described as a cult by the Chicago Cult Awareness Network.
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Kelly said the Lincoln church was not a cult.
Ms Blake said that in Lincoln, church members have spent much of their time recruiting college students, either on campus, at movie theatres or at other places where students gather, The church has about 90 members, who hold nightly Bible talks. Services are Wednesday nights at area homes and Sundays at a south Lincoln chapel.
The church is not affiliated with mainstream Churches of Christ or Christian Churches in Omaha or Lincoln. Ms Blake said the church has tried twice but been denied recognition as a campus organization.
She said she is not trying to deny the church its freedom to recruit students. However, she criticized the church’s tactics and the demands she said it makes on recruits.
The Rev. Larry Rouse of the Church of Christ at 31st and C Streets said the Boston church targets college-age students, especially those who are younger and lonely.
Rouse has worked with the parents’ Lincoln Chrsitian Church Support Group. He said he saw the damage caused by a similar Boston church’s recruiting effort while a minister in Alabama.
“They ‘love bomb’ people. They show these people a lot of affection,” Rouse said. Soon, students are bound to the church, which begins to exercise power over their lives, Rouse said.
Mark Larson, a 20-year-old UNL student from Lincoln who was once a member of the church, said the church exercised “mind control”.
He said his grades dropped because of the demands by his discipler to recruit new students and attend Bible studies. Larson said the church has organized Bible studies in Fremont and Omaha.
Ms Blake said the church has members from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln and Midlan Lutheran College in Fremont. She said she heard the church is planning to transfer 30 members to Omaha in January.
Unaware of recruiting
The Rev. Darrel Berg, a campus pastor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said he was unaware of any recruiting at UNO by the Boston Church, which he called a cult.
He said he wants church members to know he will resist any organizational efforts at the UNO campus.
“I want them to know that I, for one, am coming out to meet them.” Berg said.
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