Church seeks to proselytize Yalies

Yale Daily News/September 13, 1995
By Shaheena Ahmad

As singing groups, athletic teams and Yale publications aggressively recruit members of the class of 1999, the Chaplain's Office and some students have cautioned this year's freshpeople against the advances of one organization on campus -- the New Haven branch of the Boston Movement/International Church of Christ.

Several students and former students who have been involved with the organization describe the group's tactics as "cult-like" and say leaders use mind control techniques to attract and keep new members.

"They employ a lot of psychological coercion," said Emmanuel Dizon '94, who was a member of the church for several months when he was a student. "They isolate you from your friends, spend every minute of the day with you."

"It gets to the point that if you want to take a step back, you find that you're all alone because you've left your friends."

One junior who wished to remain anonymous said she was approached during her freshperson year in Durfee Sweet Shoppe by a woman who was not a Yale student. "She learned my schedule and knew what time I was going to be in my room," the student said. "She'd call every day and talk to me on the answering machine if I didn't pick up the phone."

"Being a freshman definitely made me more vulnerable," she added. "I was in this place where no one recognized me, and there was this person who waved at me across the campus."

Some freshpeople said they have already been approached by members of the Church of Christ and similar religious organizations. "They position themselves on campus," Heather Hawthorne '99 said. "I guess they tend to target younger people because they think we're more impressionable."

The Chaplain's Office has distributed a packet on the International Church of Christ, which has no affiliation with the office, compiled by Boston University in 1989 to any student who requests the information.

The church, whose membership now exceeds 50,000 internationally, was founded by Kip McKean in 1979 in Boston, Mass.

"We've had parents and roommates of students -- not the students themselves -- express concerns about a child or peer who no longer seems to be independent in their thinking," said University Chaplain Rev. Jerry Streets.

The Chaplain's office responded to the concerns by meeting with local leaders of the church, Streets said, but they denied using a coercive approach. "I want to stress that if students feel they are being coerced or harassed in any way, they should talk not only to their friends, but any authority figure in the Yale community they feel comfortable with," Streets said.

"We certainly don't want to impose on anyone's religious freedoms," Streets added. "We've made the information from Boston University available, but students have to make their own decision. We'd just like it to be a studied one."

Current church members made extremely positive comments about the organization. "It's really been a great experience," said Sylvia Mendoza '96. "I just can't express it ... if you're not living out Christianity, it's hard to explain." Mendoza declined to comment on the recent negative publicity surrounding the church. "All I can say is, I feel like God will take care of it."

Rev. Barry Baity, the church's minister, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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