Wembley attacked over ‘cult rally’

Wembley attacked over ‘cult rally’

The Independent (UK), 13 July 1994.

Administrators of a high-profile London conference centre have been attacked for allowing a cult organisation to use it for the purposes of a recruitment rally.

A pressure group called Triumphing Over London Cults is furious that the Wembley Conference Centre is to be used by the London Church of Christ, a group of evangelists which has been accused of authoritarian behaviour and brainwashing. Anger over the event has been further fuelled by what they have described as ‘tactless’ naming of the meeting which the Church has entitled Fan into Flame 94.

The rally is the culmination of the church’s campaign to draft in new members from London and the rest of Britain. At present there are 1,000 members, with about two thirds coming from the London area.

The church is being investigated by the Charities Commission. The Inland Revenue is also believed to have launched an inquiry.

Ayman Akshar, the TOLC’s honorary chairman, and a former member of the church, has written to Sir Brian Wolfson, the chairman of the Wembley Conference Centre to demand an explanation.

‘Little more than a year after the Waco tragedy, the London Church of Christ is attaching the famous Wembley logo to events with titles such as Playing with Fire, Too Hot to Handle, Kindle the Flame, and Burn Your Bridges, he said.

‘Innocent people will be lured to the meetings, thinking the cult has Wembley’s full approval. It may take years to rebuild their shattered lives.’

In his letter to Sir Brian, Mr Akshar branded the London Church of Christ as one of the ‘fastest growing and most dangerous religious cults in this country’.

However, the church’s spokesman, Nevil Lee, yesterday disputed the cult status, saying they were not connected in any way with the Branch Davidian Sect siege at Waco in Texas, where 89 people lost their lives. ‘All our members hold down regular jobs and work and live in society,’ he said.

The London Church of Christ is an evangelical organisation which believes deeply that the words of the Bible should be carried out in everything they do. ‘All Christians have a responsibility to evangelism and to spreading the gospel,’ their spokesman said yesterday.

The church has been worshipping in Britain for 12 years having originated in Boston as part of a larger group called the International Churches of Christ, with which it is still affiliated.

The sect was banned from several universities after allegations of brainwashing and was described by one consultant psychiatrist who treats former members as ‘frightfully authoritarian.

However, recent exposures of the sect’s activities did not deter hundreds of young people who turned up for its first service at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year.

Mike Potter, the general manager of the Wembley Complex, which includes the conference centre, said the venue was bound by a contract with the church over Sunday’s event which could not be broken.

However, he added that if the pressure group’s allegations about the cult were true, he would have to seriously reconsider their policy of booking out space. ‘It’s hard to be judgmental about something like this, but if they are as bad as they say they are then we will have to change the way we deal with people booking space in the future.’

He added that he had received the letter to Sir Brian and would be replying to it in due course.

Back to other media reports about the International Churches of Christ.