Banned group recruiting at Northeastern University
Boston Church of Christ targets students for membership
The Northeastern News (Northeastern University), February 3 1999
By Christine Walsh, News Staff
The small square flyers seemed innocent enough as they circulated around Northeastern’s campus last week.
“Come join us as we examine the difference that faith can make in our daily lives,” the advertisement proclaimed. “Following the service there will be free food and fun as we watch the Super Bowl together on a giant screen.”
But this wasn’t just any Super Bowl party. It was sponsored by the Boston Church of Christ, a religious organization forbidden to recruit on most local college campuses, including Northeast-ern.
The party was the latest in the church’s attempts to recruit members, usually college students who are new to the area.
Although it has attempted to become a recognized student group, the Boston Church of Christ has been banned from Northeastern’s campus for at least the past 10 years, said Sister Rosemary Mulvihill, director of NU’s Spiritual Life Office.
The main reason is the church’s methods of recruiting, Mulvihill said.
“Their recruitment is often duplicitous; it’s not always as it seems,” she said.
The Boston Church of Christ was not available for comment.
It starts off harmlessly enough. A church member will invite a student to a social event, without letting on that it’s sponsored by the Boston Church of Christ. The student accepts the invitation and is later inundated with phone calls from church members.
“They follow up with phone calls and continually pursue the person,” Mulvihill said. “It really takes away a person’s freedom.”
An additional concern is the church’s literal interpretation of Scripture. They pressure members to believe there is only one “Way” at a time when it’s healthy for students to ask questions and explore their faith.
Over time, members become cut off from their families, friends and roommates, Mulvihill said. Often, students’ grades will suffer.
“It also seems to take up a lot of students’ time and money in an inordinate way,” she said. “A lot is asked of the members of this group.”
Members of the Boston Church of Christ often target students who are lonely and vulnerable, those who are looking for God but don’t know where to start, and those who have reached a low point in their lives, Mulvihill said.
In the past week alone, Mulvihill has heard at least four complaints about the church. One was about an NU employee who was encouraging students to join the cult. Parents and roommates worried about students spending too much time with the group.
Last year, Mulvihill worked with a student who had so much difficulty separating from the Boston Church of Christ that she withdrew from the university and had to seek counseling.
Mulvihill is concerned about the number of students who report being harassed by the group. Some students have had to change their phone numbers.
A middler history major, who would not reveal her name for fear that the church would try to contact her, said students need to be educated about cults on campus.
A lifelong Bostonian, the student has had several encounters with the Boston Church of Christ. She is also a member of the Campus Crusade for Christ, a resident assistant and an orientation leader who often fields complaints from students about the cult.
“I’ve known about them all my life,” she said. “Not a week goes by that I haven’t heard about them.”
Earlier this year, she said, the church was running a focus group out of one of NU’s residence halls, a privilege reserved only for sanctioned student groups. And recently, she found some of them holding a Bible study in the Marino Recreation Center.
“They had a freshman with them who didn’t know better,” she said. “She could really feel their love and acceptance.”
The student admits that members of the Boston Church of Christ “are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” That can make it even easier for susceptible students to fall into their trap.
As a member of the Campus Crusade for Christ, the student worries that students will confuse cults with sanctioned student groups. In fact, cult education is no longer a part of summer orientation because students ended up perceiving religious student groups to be cult-like.
Mulvihill said it is healthy for students to join on-campus religious groups like Hillel, the Newman Club and the Campus Crusade for Christ.
“A lot of student religious groups on campus represent a variety of traditions, all of which are people searching for the truth as they know it,” she said.
The Spiritual Life Office welcomes phone calls from students who have questions about cults, or think their friend or roommate may be involved in one. The number is 373-2728.