Sydney Church of Christ investigated

Parramatta Advertiser/April 16, 1997

Three months after joining the International Church of Christ, Charles was ready to sell his Parramatta business and his North Rocks home to help recruit new church members in Lebanon. Charles, 28, claims one-on-one discipling, where his church discipler told him where to live, who to date and how to spend his money, left him unable to make clear decisions. "They control every aspect of your life, " He said. "I know people who have been completely indoctrinated after just six weeks."

Charles left the church's western Sydney Zone last Sept after seven months of living in "a Psychological prison". He and other former members are concerned that a recruiting drive in Parramatta last month attracted new members.

The International Church Of Christ began in Boston in 1979 as a breakaway group from the mainline church of Christ, From which it is now disavowed. Also known as the Boston Movement, its hierarchical structure, high pressure recruitment techniques and control over members' lives have drawn widespread claims it is a cult not a church. The International Church of Christ western Sydney Zone leader Dean Haustead declined to comment.

Former member Rachel, of Telopea, said she lost her late teens by letting the church control her life for three years. "The bible says the truth will set you free, but you don't feel a sense of freedom within this Church", Ms Rachel, 21, said. "I lost my confidence. I couldn't make decisions and I found it very hard to trust people outside the church." She was "gullible, subservient and stupid".

Rachel and other members were pressured to recruit friends, relatives and strangers using techniques called "love-bombing". "You're looking for truth and friendship and they will offer so much love and support it's hard to say no," She said. "You think that you've never met more sincere, beautiful, encouraging people."

Charles agreed: "you get loved straightaway, but when you try to leave you realize that love is entirely conditional. You're in a psychological prison because they tell you if you ever leave you will go straight to hell."

Charles - apart from running a key-cutting business in Parramatta - spends most of his time helping disgruntled members extricate themselves from the church. It is difficult and expensive, sometimes requiring professional exit-counseling. "Some of the members have been programmed for years, so you have to prove every point by going over the scriptures and showing them documentation about inconsistencies in the church's teaching." he said.

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