Concerns surfacing about new religious organization recruiting on campus
The Tulane Hullabaloo, 24 April 1998.
Rose Garr, news editor
Recent activity on campus by the New Orleans Church has been the source of concern among some Tulane University faculty and students.
Representatives from the church, a branch of the International Church of Christ, have been recruiting on campus for the last two months.
“They pose as Tulane students when they’re not,” said Dick Wells, the Presbyterian chaplain of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. “We have reports of these people [representatives of the New Orleans Church] following students to class, to dormitory rooms.”
Tulane College sophomore Sherman Hatton attended a weekend in Florida last month sponsored by the New Orleans Church.
According to Hatton, his home church was in Houston, and he was checking out churches in the area to attend. When a representative approached Hatton and offered a weekend in Florida sponsored by the New Orleans Church, he decided to attend the event with a friend.
“First of all, they told us we were going to Tallahassee and we ended up near Gainesville. There was badgering and a lot of talk that if you weren’t a member of this church you were going to hell … there was an eerie feeling the whole weekend. I was considered a rebel because I had my own strong beliefs,” Hatton said. “They even had one workshop on recruiting at Tulane. When I got back I warned people.”
A police report was filed on the incident.
Head of Multicultural Affairs Carolyn Barber-Pierre said, “We wanted what happened to be documented in a police report, so we will have documentation of it if anything happens in the future with this group.”
According to Barber-Pierre, she first heard of the organization three years ago. “I went to a cult training workshop a number of years ago, and the International Church of Christ was identified.”
Barber-Pierre first became aware of recent activity when she was approached by the roommate and friends of a Tulane student who had withdrawn from their relationships after she became involved with the organization.
The religious life staff and the multicultural office will be distributing a brochure warning students about unhealthy religious groups today. Entitled “Learn to be a Questioner: Avoid Vulnerability,” the material will warn students against organizations which do not allow difference of opinions.
“We want students to recognize behaviors and techniques which are mind controlling,” said Barber-Pierre. “Students have the right to choose what they want to believe, but we want them to be informed.”
“There are several legitimate religious groups on campus, and just because one group is a little questionable, that isn’t a reflection on every group,” said Dick Wells, chaplain of the Presbyterian church on campus. “We [Intervarsity Christian Fellowship] are very clear on our name and who we are; we don’t lie; we don’t manipulate; we don’t stalk.”
“There is a difference between coerciveness and our type of discipleship,” Chris Klingenfus, campus minister for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship said. “It’s not the fact that they share their faith that is disturbing, it is how they do it. It’s their tactics, not necessarily that they have bible studies, it is their approach. For us, no means no.”
The New Orleans Church recruited briefly at Tulane last spring. The organization is also present at the University of New Orleans, Xavier University, Dilliard University and Louisiana State University.
“LSU has been inundated by [The New Orleans Church] already. They are all over the campus,” said Barber-Pierre. “They have been targeting Xavier, Dillard and Tulane.”
Klingenfus, who also works with students at UNO, said, “They [The New Orleans Church representatives] haven’t done as well at Tulane. I mean, it’s hard to tell, but they are all over the place at UNO.”
The New Orleans Church is a branch of the International Church of Christ, founded in the early 1980’s by Kip McKean in Boston.
The International Church of Christ has major branches in Los Angeles, London and the Bahamas. Branches of the ICC usually assume the city name plus “Church of Christ”: the Los Angeles Church of Christ, the Greater London Church of Christ and the Trinidad Church of Christ. Other names are used if the Church of Christ name is already in use by another organization, as in the New Orleans Church.
History Professor Roseanne Adderly has attended services and been recruited by the International Church of Christ during studies at the University of Pennsylvania and while researching her thesis in London and Trinidad.
Adderly said, “They target students they perceive as vulnerable.”