Auckland University Students to disaffiliate "cult"

Craccum Magazine/May 25, 1995
By Shannon Lindsay

Auckland University Christians will try to have a church group they say is a dangerous cult disaffiliated from AUSA at this Wednesday's SRC meeting.

Students from the Evangelical Union (EU), with support from Campus Crusade, Pacific Students for Christ, and the Overseas Students Christian Fellowship, say the newly affiliated club 'Ministry' is a cult which is a front for the Central Auckland Church of Christ (CACC).

Ministry on campus does not promote itself as part of CACC, instead it calls itself a "non-denominational group of radical Christians on campus."

Ministry, which only has sixteen members, was affiliated to AUSA at a June SRC meeting.

CACC is a branch of The Boston Church of Christ, founded by Kip McKean in the late '70s. CACC is led by John Hancell and currently has 250 members who used to meet in the Auckland Town Hall and now meet in the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall or the Mt Eden War Memorial Hall.

The church have been kicked off many universities in the United States, Canada, and Britain.

Evangelical Union President Martin Roberts, who talks further about the reasons to disaffiliate Ministry in Craccum's Second Thoughts column in this issue, said EU wishes to disaffiliate Ministry because the group is dangerous to people who get involved and does not present itself honestly as being involved with the CACC.

Steve Clearwater, a leader of Ministry and a trainee Minister who has been a member of CACC for three years, confirmed that Ministry is involved in the CACC. He said EU are entitled to their point of view, and does not care about the moves to disaffiliate them. Ministry, he said, is just a name so they can get a room on campus.

Mr Clearwater said he wants to change the name of Ministry to the International Church of Christ.

When asked if Ministry was a 'dangerous cult,' Mr Clearwater said, "Don't take me as stupid, I was fully aware about CACC before I joined."

Cultwatch, a non-denominational Christian group based in Auckland which moniters the activities of cults, says CACC has all the markings of a cult - charismatic leader, deceptive recruiting, and mind control tactics such as making a member think everyone else is evil.

Cultwatch say tertiary students are prime targets for recruitment into CACC.

Mark Vrankovich, spokesperson for Cultwatch, said students from out of town attending Auckland University, who have no friends, are targets.

Once recruited, he said, these people will be 'love-bombed' by church members. They will have instant friends who will hug them and always be happy to see them. Mr Vrankovich said this goes on for two or three months, then the 'love-bombing' "slowly degenerates into mind control. If you don't do what the group says, love will be turned off. If you leave, you won't have any friends."

Apparently CACC makes its members regularly hand in 'sin lists' to their disciples, who are particularly interested in sexual sins. Members of the group are taught their church is the only true one, and they are not allowed to question or criticise disciples' interpretations of the Bible.

Mr Vrankovich believes EU are entirely justified in disaffiliating Ministry, and says Auckland University should ban the CACC group from campus.

"I'm extremely concerned at a time when unis are banning this cult specifically - the group is so insidious and does so much damage - it's very worrying that the University of Auckland has allowed it to be affiliated, and even allowed it to be on campus. The action of EU is completely normal...unis are a place for ideas, but this group actually does damage to people, they [Auckland University] have to make a decision to protect people from this."

Erin Davis, a twenty-year-old BA student at Auckland University and member of Ministry, said not everyone who belongs to CACC makes sin lists, but she makes sin lists occasionally, but, "It's not like someone's got a gun to my head making me do it."

She agreed that Ministry's recruitment tactics were aggressive: "If you mean aggressive in that we proatively ask people if they're interested, we are, but I'm not going to make anyone join."

When asked if CACC thought people who did not follow their beliefs were evil, Ms Davis said, "The Bible says everyone is evil, and only God is good."

When asked the same question, Mr Clearwater said to me, "I don't think you're a particularly evil person, I don't know what you do in your secret life."

Mr Clearwater said he wishes to sit down and talk to the President of EU about the Bible. So far he has approached ex-EU President Simon Manning and the current EU Vice-President to talk about the bible, but both declined.

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