Questionable club on campus

Campus Press, Univ of Colorado at Boulder/October 18, 2000
By Chris Taylor-Shaut

When Morgan Minyard, a sophomore MCDB major, was invited to a "non-denominational" church service, she had no idea what she was getting into. "I was given a flyer on campus for a Sunday service, and I went to the service, thinking it was a non-denominational church," Minyard said. Minyard didn't know she was being recruited into the Boulder Advance, part of the Denver Church of Christ.

"I thought it was just a church service," Minyard said. She was then introduced to her church "disciple," who would meet with her regularly to study the bible and invite her to the daily activities.

"(The disciple) told me that it was a lot of fun," Minyard said. "We would watch movies related to the church, go to services on Wednesdays and Sundays. There were constant activities that I had to fit into my schedule. Sometimes members would have to meet at 6 AM for a prayer group."

The members also have to take part in what the church called "sharing," according to Minyard.

"Once a week, for sharing, we would handout flyers and try to get people's names and numbers," Minyard said. "Everything members do leads up to being re-baptized. You are not a true Christian until you are baptized into the Church of Christ."

Since freshmen may be lonely and confused because they are away from home for the first time, the ICC appeals to their vulnerability by supplying a community of members who closely interact with each other, according to former Denver Church of Christ member Kim Starr.

"They will target the incoming frosh class... invite them to watch videos, eat pizza," Starr said. "They will suddenly be inundated with new best friends. There will be some type of activity all the time, leaving little time for regular student life. Contact with family, unless they are open to joining the ICC, will become more limited. Grades will generally slip. The ICC won't even be mentioned, or it will be referenced as a 'non-denominational church'. If anyone shows any interest at all in the ICC, they are 'love bombed'-- lots of calls, activities, friends, until they don't know which end is up."

Campus minister Steve O'day said that the church gets a lot of unfounded criticism. "Most of the bad things you hear are from people who left the church," O'day said. While the campus ministry does try to spread the word of God to as many students as possible, many other campus groups also try to gain the interest of students, according to O'day.

"Every ministry has a booth by the UMC at the beginning of the semester," O'day said. O'day was turned on to the church when he was a freshman at CU. He finished his college career with a pre-med major and is now married with a son. Both his wife and son are members of the ministry.

When asked if his work with the church is more important than saving lives would have been as a doctor, O'day responded that it definitely is.

"We help many people change in good ways," O'day said.

According to O'day, if someone wants to leave the church, they are not at all pressured into staying with the ministry.

However, Minyard said that when she wanted to leave, the church made it very hard for her. "I called my disciple at 8 or 9 PM" Minyard said. "Later that night, members called me to try and convince me not to leave. They came to my room at 8 AM. the next day, banged on my door and woke me up. I was too scared to leave my room for an hour."

But Minyard said that she sees members that she knows now and feels fairly comfortable around them.

O'day said he feels no animosity towards former members, but wishes that they would not be so critical of the church.

While the ICC has been banned from many campuses, they have overturned many decisions on first amendment grounds.

"Someone who initially showed interest, but then realized (the ICC) used very cult-like tactics, has to have phone numbers changed, phone calls screened, in order to get left alone," Starr said. "Usually if you tell them you'll press charges if they don't leave you alone, they do. They don't want legal action or complaints to the dean. Enough complaints to the dean will get them banned."

After realizing the sacrifices that have to be made during ICC membership, most people try to leave the church, according to Starr.

Starr said that most people are so disillusioned by their experience with the church, that they become apprehensive of organized religion in general after leaving the group. This is probably the worst consequence of involvement with the ICC, according to Starr. Starr urges colleges to give out information on cults and the ICC during orientation, so that students will be aware of their presence on campus.

"Awareness helps to cut down the numbers that fall for the ICC," Starr said.

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