Mission funding discussed on tape

(London) The Independent/September 27, 1993
By Steve Boggan

The London Church of Christ, which has been described as Britain's fastest growing cult, planned to divert money from Third World missions to fund its British operations, according to a secret tape recording obtained by the Independent.

Church leaders have denied that cash from a #180,000 foreign missions appeal would be spent illegally in the UK, even though its third-in-command was taped saying some would support missions in Edinburgh, Oxford and Bristol.

If the money raised last month by the missions campaign is spent in the UK instead of the Third World and Australia, as members of the cult were promised, then it would be in breach of the 1993 Charities Act and the Charity Commission said it would act.

The Charity Commission is already investigating complaints about the church's activities, including allegations relating to funding and pyramid-selling techniques designed to draw in new members and increase income.

The Independent's recording is of a conversation in which Dr. Tommy Chan, the church's lead evangelist for northwest London, and third-in-command in Britain, tells a fellow member that some cash will be used to buy computers and office equipment for branches in Edinburgh, Bristol and Oxford.

Nine hundred church members, who must give a tenth of their income to the church, were told at the end of July that they had six weeks to raise #180,000 for a "Special Missions Contribution" which, according to a campaign leaflet, was to be spent on missionary work in 17 locations, including Bombay, Bangalore, Sydney, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

John Partington, the church's administrator in Britain, said that all the money would go abroad. Asked whether any would be spent here, he replied: "No. That is not why it was raised."

But on the tape, Dr. Chan discusses spending on foreign missions and adds: "…also, it is for churches in and around the UK like Edinburgh, Bristol and the little ones, Oxford. Because to support them, they all need a computer or something, some way to record things, so we buy them computers and support them. They need office or mail envelopes, paper, all kinds of things. We pay for them because they need help, they have only just opened…So the special contribution is purely for mission work, here, but mainly abroad."

Dr. Chan whose voice was verified by an independent source, accepted that the recording was genuine, but said he had been mistaken in what he had told his fellow member. "I was fully aware that this special contribution was purely for work abroad…so I know it would not be spent in this country al all," he said.

Mr. Partington said Dr. Chan was mistaken and stressed that he had no control over church money.

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