University plays host to cult church

Daily Telegraph (London)/August 5, 1991
By Damian Thompson

A sect banned from several universities over allegations of brainwashing begins its annual assembly at Liverpool University today. The London Church of Christ has been condemned or its recruiting methods and treatment of its mainly young followers.

In the decade since American evangeiists set it up in Britain, the sect has been accused of breaking up families and of questionable fundraising practices.

Bans are in force at Birmingham University, King's College, London, and the London School of Economics.

But Liverpool University has defended its decision to host the assembly for the third year. A spokesman said: "We undersand that, as last year, the conference is for members and will not be involved in recruiting."

An offshout of the American Churches of Christ, which now disown it, the sect demands unquestioning obedience to its leaders. Recruits, many in church accommodation, are assigned to "disciplers" who control their spiritual life and encourage them to make donations.

The anti-cult FAIR group said compulsory late-night Bible studies "seem to make members appear permanently tired... fasting is encouraged. with seven-day fasts not being uncommon".

Dr Elizabeth Tylden, a former consultant psychiatrist at University College Hospital, London, who has treated former recruits, said: "It is a frightfully authoritarian cult."

"They go on and on and on about sinfulness and eternal damnation. It's absolutely disastrous for students. They fail their examinations and get terribly muddled about their aims and goals."

Graham Baidwin, a chaplain to London University until last month. said parents had told him of losing touch with their children, who had fallen into debt.

Mr Baldwin said sect recruiters infiltrated student Christian groups, and some had changed their names after adverse publicity. He said funds from a sponsored shoe-shine in Covent Garden for "Christian Youth shining in Africa" went to a sect branch in Nigeria.

Lucy Steele, a young lab technician vho spent two years in the sect, said members were pressed to give money, and that friends who remained said she had "gone to the devil".

A spokesman at the sect's Acton, West London, offices declined to comment.

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