Ministers urge students to avoid religious group

Signed ad questions practices of organization at Texas Tech

Associated Press/February 22, 1999

LUBBOCK - A dozen Texas Tech University ministers are urging students to avoid a new campus religious group, the International Churches of Christ, calling it America's most dangerous cult.

The national organization's local affiliate, the Lubbock Christian Church, began meeting late last month at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.

In response, the 12 Texas Tech ministers have signed their names to an advertisement warning students about the group. The ad, headlined "You Have a Right to Know," is expected to appear in this week's University Daily campus newspaper.

"We, as established campus ministry organizations . . . cannot endorse or support the activities of the ICOC on the Tech campus or in our community," the ad reads. "People use caution and sound judgment if approached by a member of the Lubbock Christian Church."

The ministers say the church has a history at more than 30 other universities.

"Our goal is to limit their effectiveness on the campus," Adam Looney of Christ in Action Student Ministries told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

"I know that sounds terrible, but they are potentially harmful to . . . [students'] emotional, social and spiritual well-being," Mr. Looney said. "It's a basic Christian message on the outside, but it's what happens once you get inside."

In response to the ministers' comments, Lubbock Christian Church Minister Brian Akins said: "I'm not interested in starting a little editorial war. Thanks anyway."

Although not calling the Lubbock Christian Church a cult, Mr. Looney said, "They use the same techniques."

"I have known people who come out, and they're destroyed," he said.

Grear Howard of Baptist Student Ministries said the group tells students to cut off communication with their parents, to sever relationships with anyone not involved with ICOC and to give large amounts of money to the group.

"This is not so much religious as it is a mind game under the guise of a Christian church," Mr. Howard said. "They're telling untruths under the guise of truth."

After a Fox TV report in January, Al Baird, an ICOC media official based in Los Angeles, disputed the assertion that students' grades fall after they join the church. "We expect every student to be the best student that he/she can be," Mr. Baird said. "Not only do we not encourage students to drop out of school, we want them to become better students after they become disciples."

Jerry Jones, a Bible professor who spent five years as an elder and evangelist with the group in the mid-1980s when it was called the Boston Movement, said the church attracts young, single, mobile and idealistic people.

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