Church sect targets student freshers

The Daily Telegraph/July 11, 1993
by Joe Saumarex Smith

Student leaders have issued warnings about the activities of a religious organisation aiming to target freshers at universities and colleges this autumn in an effort to attract members.

More than 1200 members of the Church of Christ will meet this week at Keele University to discuss recruitment.

But last week the National Union of Students advised student unions to refuse recognition to the Church and associated groups.

Kevin Sexton, NUS welfare officer, said: "Several of our members have already banned the Church from meeting on their premises, and following a year of monitoring we feel we are justified in issuing such a warning."

Students in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield were all targeted during the last academic year. The Church's recruitment guide, "Shining like Stars", tells members: "If the Garden of Eden was the paradise for mankind, then halls of residence are the Christian's evangelistic paradise".

Richard (not his real name), who left the Church six months ago, said: "They control your time, your money, your whole life. 'Disciples' are expected to donate a minimum 10 per cent tithe of their income."

He described how the recruiters' initially soft approach becomes more insistent. "Initially they tend to befriend you by asking you to a picnic or barbecue or something similar. Then they slowly introduce the religious aspect.

"They suggest you come along to a Bible meeting and if you refuse, pressure is constantly applied by ringing you three or four times a day and dropping in for a chat. You are slowly persuaded to become baptised into the Church, at which point you are given a 'discipler' who dictates how you should behave".

He alleged that students had been persuaded to drop out of courses to devote more time to Bible studies.

John Partington, an elder at the London Church of Christ, said: "Nobody has anything to fear from us. We have 130 members who are students at various institutions in London plus many more across Britain and their academic performance is well above the national average. We do not have active recruitment drives but naturally they will reach out to people they meet and share their faith. It is unfortunate that this has been misrepresented so negatively by many people."

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