7NEWS Spotlight investigates the ‘Kidney Cult’: Inside the church that encourages followers to donate their organs

Tucked away in suburban Melbourne is a nondescript home. From the outside, you wouldn’t know that it’s the headquarters of a church referred to widely as The Kidney Cult.

The secretive group, otherwise known as the Jesus Christians, is led by David McKay.

Formed in 1981, the group has established small congregations in Australia and other parts of the world, including Canada, the US, Mexico and Kenya.

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But with only a few hundred followers worldwide, they’re a fringe group by anyone’s standards.

Despite this, it’s fair to say that The Jesus Christians punch above their weight when it comes to scandal.

Almost two decades ago, McKay and his followers hosted a whipping of their own members in a public display of supposed atonement for the sins of others.

Other scandals followed. But the group is best known for being referred to as The Kidney Cult, with devout followers encouraged to donate a kidney to complete strangers as an act of kindness.

“Think of the people that have donated kidneys because Dave McKay influenced them and coerced them in his own methodical way to give up a kidney,” cult specialist Rick Ross says.

“Those people are scarred literally for the rest of their lives.

“Dave McKay’s demands on them will change their lives forever.“

Ross says he’s followed The Jesus Christians closely and believes the group fits the profile of a “destructive cult”.

“Over the years, he has recruited very young people often, and they are idealistic.

“They care about the condition of the world. They have faith in God, they believe in the Bible.

“And Dave McKay manipulates that and orchestrates that for his own purposes. I see him as a deeply narcissistic man, a man that craves attention, and he will do virtually anything so that he can get attention.”

One of the people embroiled in the group is Renee Spencer’s daughter Ellicia.

She was 22 years old when found the group on YouTube in 2017 and began fervently watching their videos, emailing a contact address on the channel and meeting members in person.

One of the members, a man named Joseph, would become her husband within months.

“She fell in love,” Renee says.

“I think she genuinely fell in love with Joseph almost as soon as she met him.”

When Ellicia joined The Jesus Christians, Renee says she didn’t initially open up completely on the nature of the church.

Instead, she directed her mum to a website that, on the surface, “just seemed very much like that website that they were just this hippie Christian group”.

Now, Renee knows more of the church.

“It’s led by a controlling, manipulative leader who thinks that he has divine authority and that he’s an apostle of God,” she says.

Renee sued McKay for defamation after one of his videos accused her of worshipping the devil.

She won the court case, a judge awarding her $85,000 in damages and $100,000 in court costs. But her daughter testified against her, damaging further an already frayed relationship.

McKay, meanwhile, is adamant he is not the figurehead of a cult.

Granting 7NEWS Spotlight never-before-seen access to the inner workings of The Jesus Christians, McKay tells reporter Liam Bartlett that calling his church a cult is akin to calling someone an “a**hole”.

“It’s just an insult. That’s all it’s, it’s purely and simply an insult.

“I recognise we’re different. I recognise we’re a high-demand group. I recognise we’re a new religious movement.”

McKay invites 7NEWS Spotlight’s cameras to spend time with him and the secretive Jesus Christians community, granting unfettered access to their home life, daily routines, beliefs and the inner workings of one of the world’s most controversial religious cults.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.


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