Cutting ICC’s Strings
Creative Loafing, November 4 2000
Letters to the Editor
Cutting ICC’s Strings
To The Editors:
I felt shock and a vast amount of relief when I read Julie E. Townsend’s cover story, “Strings Attached” (October 28). Two months ago, I visited my younger sister during her first semester at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. During my visit with her, she told me she needed to talk to me about something important. She told me she had met some wonderful new friends who lived in the same dorm with her and that they had started a Bible study together. I was excited about both of these things until she continued her story.
She had started to feel concerned because they were pressuring her to participate in more Bible study sessions and accusing her of not being faithful enough. Worse, they had invited her to church one Sunday, but failed to tell her the church location was 45 minutes away and lasted well over five hours!
Every example you listed in your story about The International Churches of Christ clicked! I’m angry and frightened to think she could have been sucked in by these seemingly friendly people! However, I’m thankful she’s independent and secure enough with her own faith to realize that many of the things they were preaching and pressuring her to do weren’t “quite right.” I have e-mailed the link for this article to her to reinforce her wise decision to not become involved with these folks.
This was an excellent, timely article, and I thank you for printing it.
Angela J. Mattson
Queens College Development Office
To The Editors:
After reading the “Strings Attached” cover story, I was shocked. You see, I wrote an article very similar about another Christian denomination being a “cult” in the 12th grade, in which I compared several hard-core Christian religions to cults in general. The denomination is the United Pentecostal Church, as it is globally called. They have small, start-up churches in NC, and an annual camp. They are much larger in states up north and in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. I know this because I was raised the son of a UPC Minister. In fact, I moved to NC at 17 with my father to start one such church. Their practices are identical to the ones mentioned in the article, and if you hadn’t mentioned a name, I would have thought you were referring to the UPC.
I am 34 now, and have no contact with my remaining family, who are in “The Church,” as they call it. I was kicked out of my house at 17 shortly after moving here because of my increasing questions concerning the practices I had grown up with. The UPC churches are still growing strong, and the same tactics are being used.
It’s not just the ICC. The one difference I noticed was that the UPC denomination forbids all women from wearing pants or makeup, or cutting their hair. Just thought you’d be interested in the fact that there are other denominations out there every bit as bad, if not worse, than the ICC.
Brent L. Bordelon
To The Editors:
Thank you so much for the story on The Charlotte Church and their manipulative methods. It’s people with small minds indeed who think everyone needs to think exactly the way they do. There’s a word for that attitude and for their methods: it’s a kind of spiritual “fascism,” a term I first saw used about the People’s Temple. The Charlotte Church’s methods and beliefs aside, however, my question is this: why does Spirit Square allow this group, which obviously has attracted national attention as a cult-like organization, to rent their facilities?
Stephen L. Herring
Inside The ICC
To The Editors:
I salute Creative Loafing for printing the story on the ICC (“Strings Attached” by Julie E. Townsend, October 28). Your article is bound to save hopefully countless individuals and families from devastation.
My family became involved with the ICC three years ago. An associate at my husband’s new place of work invited us to their church. Being relatively new in town and with an open mind toward most paths to God, we attended — mostly because of the very friendly hospitality.
The church was truly amazing. The very warm spirit of the members, the unbelievable singing, and the amazing racial integration made one feel that something must be right and good about the place.
Then came the invitation to dinner and a Bible study. Again, the warmth from the attending members made you feel like you had finally found a base of good friends. Dinner was simple, but the hospitality made you feel like you were a featured family in Southern Living magazine — and so did the house (of ICC founding members).
After dinner, the men and women split for separate Bible studies. . . OK so far. . . we are in the South, after all. And the children played outside. Life was perfect at this point.
We opened the bible and began reading. Questions were posed. . . to me! I let it pass. More questions. . . directed at only me! (I have had a strong faith and belief system since I was in elementary school.) I finally asked the group if we were gathered there for my benefit. . . and the answer was yes! Why wasn’t I told about this, I wondered. This was the first noticeable deception. They invited my husband and I to this warm dinner and Bible study to begin the first lesson in their phased approach to conversion. But they didn’t mention the saving-our-souls-part it in their kind invitation.
My husband and I talked about this deception that night, and we decided to overlook it for the time being. Maybe this is how Charlotte people act. We are tolerant people, and believe that you can always learn from every experience.
More Bible studies. I was never comfortable with their approach. But their approach made me uncomfortable about my beliefs. I actually took a day off from work, crying (out of character for me) and feeling extreme heartache, trying to cope with the confusing demand that I must confess my 38 years worth of sins to three lay people and be baptized by their church in order to get into heaven. My sins were previously confessed over the years. I was baptized, confirmed and raised in the Catholic Church. My husband was baptized and raised in the Baptist Church. Why did we have to get dunked in another church’s water to be saved? Why did we have to confess our sins again? I believed before I met these people. What was so special about this church?
The ICC said over and over that ONLY THE MEMBERS OF THE ICC would be going to heaven. That meant that only 78,000 people out of the world’s entire population would make it. I could not believe that our heavenly father would create this world and save only a statistically insignificant few. What about Mother Teresa? Or babies and children too young to understand? How can one discredit the billions of people that have faith in, and devotion to, a heavenly father?
I went to the main library to research the ICC since we were a week away from joining and I wanted to understand the complete doctrine before commiting. Nothing. There was no mention of this institution in all of the reference books on religions of the world. Thank goodness for the web. One search and BAM! Tons of information on the deception of the ICC. And it correlated.
We were devastated. We believed that the people that we had come to know truly liked us for who we were. We had to accept the fact that these friends were really only after us to join their monetary network. Sure enough, when we bowed out gracefully, they would have nothing to do with us.
Which brings up another point. They tell you that you should not associate with anyone outside of the ICC — except in the case of new recruits. I have never seen this requirement in the Bible.
I disagree with Dr. James Tabor, professor of Religious Studies, and Nancy Williams, instructor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies, at UNC-Charlotte on the typical university (liberal) method of trying to explain away why we shouldn’t call this group a cult. Liberal approaches may foster out-of-the-box thinking at the university, and I’m all for that, but this organization is hurting individuals and families. This organization deceives. That alone should condemn it. The fact that they use deception to convince one to believe that their way is the only way to heaven should qualify them as a cult. Period.
I hope that your story will help prevent others from experiencing the emotional devastation that our family felt along with countless others which can be observed on the web. Needless to say, we’ve been keeping our prayers at home for the last three years.
Back to other media reports about the International Churches of Christ.