Ministry or Mind Control?

November 13, 1995 Transcript--WBTV Charlotte, South Carolina
Nancy Ross reporting

People in the Carolinas are joining one of the fastest growing religious movements in the world. Others are leaving it just as quickly. Critics call the church a destructive cult. Tonight, photographer Ross Bennett and I begin a NEWSchannel 3 Extra: "MINISTRY OR MIND CONTROL?"

{Video of an ICC congregation during service clapping}

"Ready, here we go...YEAH!"

{vo - voice over video footage, Nancy Ross}

One by one, young adults around the world are taking the plunge.

{Taped interview with new ICC member, Ellen Wilson, at the Charlotte Church}

"It's the best thing that's ever happened to me, That I can imagine happening to anybody."

{Video of baptisms}

{Taped interview with Dr. Norman Geisler, local cult expert}

"They are forming friendships and saving lives from their point of view. But the question is, what are they saving them from and what are they saving them to? Are they jumping from the frying pan into the fire?"

{Taped interview with former ICC member, Rob Pinkston}

"My heart's desire is to rescue them from what I call bastion of hell."


Rob Pinkston's talking about his former church - the International Church of Christ, or ICC. He and his wife Donna say the authoritarian church used guilt and fear to control everything from their their sex their faith.

{continued interview with Rob Pinkston}

"I was very depressed. In fact at the time I finally left, I was almost faithless."

{Video of singing in an ICC church}


This is the church the Pinkston's left...the Charlotte Church, whose 290 members meet at Spirit Square. The church is part of the ICC.

{Interview with Rick Maule, Charlotte Church Evangelist}

"What we're trying to do is follow Jesus Christ. We're trying to see the example that he lived an put his commands into practice and call people all over Charlotte to be disciples, just like we are."

{Camera on Nancy Ross}

The Charlotte Church would not let our cameras inside the auditorium. But we were able to attend today's can best be described as a spiritual pep rally filled with lots of singing, shouting, clapping and laughing.

But behind the scenes, there's turmoil. This hard-lined bible-based group....a breakaway sect from the much larger, traditional Church of Christ...ranks third in complaint calls to the cult awareness network in Chicago.

Some accusations? Mind control, manipulation and alienation from family and friends. A study done by an outside psychologist hired by the church...found that pressure to conform to the group norm...caused 'unhealthy personality changes' in its members.

{continued interview with Rob Pinkston}

"They really eventually replace your brain. They do your thinking for you."

{Taped interview with Melissa Barnes, ICC member}

"I've never felt controlled. I just feel like we have very tight friendships."

{Video of Kip McKean, ICC founder}

"Together we shall save our planet. Or together we shall perish in its flames!"


ICC's 50-thousand members worldwide are told to imitate their fiery leader. Kip McKean's taken his movement from Gainesville, Florida in the 1970s, to Boston, to more than 60 nations...planning a church in every nation in this generation.

ICC teaches IT is the TRUE CHURCH of God. Ramona Solomon says she was told...unless she was baptized into THIS CHURCH, she was going to hell.

{Taped interview with Ramona Solomon, former ICC recruit}

"I wanted to shake them and say, do you realize what you have just done? You have just played God!"


How do they allegedly play God? ...critics say, through a discipling process...set up like multi-level marketing. Each new member must recruit other disciples...and advise them on their spiritual and personal lives.

But Donna Pinkston says it goes too far:

{Taped interview with Donna Pinkston, former ICC member}

"You load your gun, you point your gun, and you fire."


She says new members are verbally pistol-whipped, pressured to confess sins and secrets...used as spiritual blackmail to keep members obedient. Some members deny that, but say this about the power of God:

{Taped interview with Chris Mayes, ICC member}

"He works through us. And if you're a disciple, if you call yourself a Christian, I have every right to challenge you on that."


Donna Pinkston's challenge to find her lost faith:

{continued interview with Donna}

"I deal with a lot of guilt because I did these things to these people."

{Fade out and fade in to Nancy Ross}

Again, the International Church of Christ is separate from and not recognized by the traditional Church of Christ.

ICC also has church groups in other Carolina cities: they include Durham, Greensboro, Rock Hill, Mooresville, Columbia, Charleston and Wilmington.

Tomorrow night at six, we'll show you how ICC is targeting college students in the Carolinas...and see why the group's banned from many campuses.

College students...searching for structure, for answers in life...are joining a relatively new church in the Carolinas.

But University officials's a destructive religious group that tears them away from their families and takes their tuition and book money.

Tonight Nancy Ross continues her WBTV NEWS Extra...MINISTRY OR MIND CONTROL?

{vo-voice over video, Nancy Ross, WBTV reporter}

This church is part of a movement embroiled in controversy worldwide...but many new young members like Crystall Stocks aren't even aware of it.

{Taped interview with Crystall Stocks, new church member}

"It's not a cult. We just have to talk to God and read the Bible."


The Triangle Church is part of the International Churches of Christ...or ICC...a breakaway group from the mainline Church of Christ.

ICC's banned from many college campuses...and is accused of using high-pressure tactics to recruit members...and mind-control techniques to maintain them. So we tried to ask Crystall why she joined. But first, church members huddled around her, took off her microphone, AND we believe, told her what to say about all the criticism.

{continued interview with Crystall}

"The Bible says persecution, you will have persecution, even from a big university."

{Video of a skateboarder on NCSU campus}


And that's where Crystall, a freshman from Hickory, was recruited into North Carolina State University.

Campus Ministers tell me because of years of student complaints about this group, the university's issuing a new warning to students - watch out what you sign up for...destructive religious groups could prey...on you...demanding your time and money.

Who's doing the recruiting?

{Taped interview with Carol Sugg, mother of former ICC member}

"Clean cut college kids, I mean they're not in robes and shaved heads at the airport handing out flowers. That's a misnomer. They don't want wackos."

{Video of ICC}


The ICC is also known as the Boston Movement, it follows a strict interpretation of the Bible...and teaches those not baptized in the church...are going to hell:

{Taped interview with Bailey Forrest, NC State campus minister}

"It's very difficult for them emotionally, very stressful, and students who experience that and experience leaving the group often experience depression."

{Camera on Nancy Ross}

Pamphlets like this one, warning students about destructive religious groups and cults went home to all freshmen at NC State this semester for the first time. Other universities are using the same weapon...awareness.


Some go a step further. We've learned more than a dozen universities have banned ICC from campus...including Georgia Tech, Queens College in Charlotte and Meredith College in Raleigh...for harassing and deceiving students.

{Taped interview with Jacklyn Simpson, UNCC Religious Affairs Director}

"They befriend that person, bring them into that group under a pretense of just friendship, and then once they get them into that group, they start alienating them from other friendships and family and then they start this, this is the real reason you're in this group. So it's deceptive."

{Taped interview with Sam Laing, Triangle Church Evangelist}

"I don't believe our people are harassing or deceiving people."


Sam Laing is the evangelist at the Triangle Church in Durham, a branch of the ICC. He an original member of the movement.

{continued interview with Sam}

"I'm more concerned that an atmosphere of fear and suspicion is being created on our campuses that are supposed to be bastions of free speech."


Jeff Kiel agrees. He says there was no deception or coercion when he joined the church at UNC Chapel Hill...

{Taped interview with Jeff Kiel, ICC member}

"More it was me saying, yes, I want to do it. Yes, I want to study the Bible. I want to change my life. I'm not happy with where I'm at and I need friends in my life."

{Camera on Nancy Ross}

You should know...ICC's student organizations use different names on different campuses. The groups have included 'Students for Christ', 'Alpha Omega', 'Triangle Church' and 'Bible Talk'...

Again we want to stress that the International Churches of Christ is separate from and not recognized by the much larger traditional Church of Christ.

Tomorrow night at six, hear advice from parents and experts on destructive religious groups. One of the world's fastest growing churches is recruiting on Carolina campuses...and door-to-door in communities.

But the church is controversial...accused of psychological and spiritual abuse.

Tonight, we conclude our NEWSchannel 3 Extra: MINISTRY OR MIND CONTROL?

{Video of an ICC church}

{Taped interview with Tom Perkins, ICC member}

"The love in the church was incredible. I must have shook 50 hands within five minutes, didn't get then feet in the door...[fade under]"

{vo-voice over by Nancy Ross, WBTV reporter}

It all starts with what some call love-bombing...

{continued interview with Tom}

"That's the draw. It's not the religion, it's the friends."


Carol Sugg says her step-son was drawn into the International Churches of Christ, or ICC...she says the church told him where to live, who to date and what to believe.

She hired a special counselor, or de-programmer to get him out:

{Taped interview with Carol Sugg, mother of former ICC member}

"We were very lucky that he had been in long enough that he had seen the abuses."


Sugg says the abuses start with deception...

...that those who join ICC's churches including one in uptown Charlotte and another near Chapel Hill...aren't aware it has characteristics of a cult:

{Video of Kip McKean in Los Angeles, founder of ICC}

"The true Church of Christ to God be the glory! [applause]"


A charismatic leader - Kip McKean - who broke away from the traditional Church of Christ...and teaches only his 50-thousand followers worldwide are true Christians...that not even Billy Graham or Mother Teresa are saved.

This former member says she was told:

{Taped interview with an un-named former ICC member}

"You know you're going to hell if you leave this church."

{Taped interview with Gale Marshall, mother of an ICC member}

"I'm really angry at the whole church."


Gale Marshall says ICC alienates her from her son...who needs the church's permission to visit her...and commits much of his time to Bible studies and recruiting new members.

{continued interview with Gale}

"He's doing things that I consider life-threatening. He had a wreck this summer and could have killed himself or other people. And he told me it was because he's not getting enough sleep. He fell asleep at the wheel."


Critics say sleep deprivation is another cult tactic...along with exploiting members' time, money and energy.

{Taped interview with Frank Turek, former ICC member}

"They said, are you coming to the meeting tonight? And I said, Ray, no, I can't come. I got car trouble. And he said, Frank, you love your car more than God. And I said, hold on, wait a minute."

{Taped interview with Dr. Norman Geisler, cult expert}

"Just some of the things that make it a dangerous cult."


Doctor Norman Geisler is head of Charlotte's Southern Evangelical Seminary, and a world-renown speaker on Christianity and cults.

{continued interview with Dr. Geisler}

"Very concerned about this group and any cult. Because you can lose your kids very easily. Today, young people are looking for something in a society where we've lost all authority, we've lost all moorings, they're looking for something that has a purpose...

[cut to] and they get sucked right into it."

{Taped interview with Trevor Mander, New Zealand's "Cult Watch"}

"It's like a combine harvester. They go through, find young Christians, take them in and chew them up and spit them out the other side."


This exchange student from New Zealand keeps track of ICC churches in his country.

{continued interview with Trevor}

"It gives these young people a terrible idea of what Christianity is all about, they don't want it anymore."


What it leads to, former members say, is a loss of self-identity...even mind control.

Charges church leaders laugh at:

{Taped interview with Rick Maule, Charlotte Church evangelist}

"They've need to come and check it out for themselves. I didn't sign my mind away at the door. We've got people in here with quite a bit of education who love the church."

{Taped interview with Amy Perkins, ICC member}

"It has been wonderful for our lives. It's changed my children, it's changed our marriage. It's changed how we reach out to our families."


...and how they reach out to the community.

ICC's 'HOPE for Kids' campaign offers free immunizations in cities worldwide.

What former ICC members offer to those looking for a this around.

{Camera on Nancy Ross}

Again, the International Churches of Christ is not part of the mainline Church of Christ.


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