"Brainwash" sect seeks converts at Albert Hall

The Daily Telegraph (London)/May 30, 1994
By Damian Thompson, Religious Affairs Correspondent

A CHRISTIAN sect banned from several universities after allegations of brainwashing will stage a concert and prayer meeting in London's Albert hall today in an attempt to attract young recruits.

Members of the Fundamentalist London Church of Christ have spent the weekend traveling on Tubes and buses handing out free tickets for an event billed as a "Harvest for the World."

The American-based sect, which claims to be the only true Christian Church, is regarded by anti-cult groups as one of the fastest growing and most dangerous new religious movements in Britain.

Former members are planning a demonstration outside the Albert Hall. "This event is a very sinister development," said Mr. Ayman Akshar, spokesman for Triumphing Against London Cults, an association of ex-members. "It is intended to prepare the ground for a big summer offensive."

The Evangelical Alliance, the million-strong evangelical umbrella group, last night warned young people not to attend.

"They should be aware that this organization exercises a worrying degree of control over nearly every aspect of its members lives," said Mr. Keith Ewing, an Alliance spokesman.

"We receive dozens of calls from relatives and friends of Church members who are alarmed at the extreme methods they use. We strongly counsel people not to turn up."

But Mr. Patrick Deuchar, the Albert Hall's chief executive, said yesterday that although the hall was aware of the sect's reputation, there was no reason why it should not hire the building.

"We made one or two inquiries," he said. "They are still a legal organization, a registered charity and they pay their bills promptly."

Members of the public who ring the group's headquarters in Acton, west London, are told that the event will consist of a concert of contemporary music, a short service and a talk about the work of the Church in India.

"We've never hired the Albert Hall before. It should be great fun," a member of staff said yesterday.

The Church was not available for an official comment last night but has insisted in the past that no one has anything to fear from it. According to its spokesman, it does not hold recruitment drives, although members "reach out to people they meet and share their faith."

The London Church of Christ, which arrived in Britain from America in 1982, has attracted more criticism from university authorities than any group since the Moonies in the 1970s.

bans on its activities are in force at King's College London, Birmingham University and the London School of Economics.

Former members claim they were required to give at least 10 percent of their income to the Church, and were denounced as sinful if they did not attract recruits.

Dr. Elizabeth Tylden, a consultant psychiatrist who treats former members of the group for psychological disorders, has described the Church as "a frightfully authoritarian sect" which employs "disciplers" to supervise nearly every detail of members' lives.

'Brainwash' sect enlists Elgar for its Prom debut (May 31, 1994)

THE royal Albert Hall was filled with the sound of Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory yesterday as Britain's most controversial Christian sect staged its version of the Last Night of the Proms.

Two thousand members of the London Church of Christ, which is banned from several universities after allegations of brainwashing, sang an arrangement of Elgar's anthem, re-named Lord of Hope and Glory, in a morale-boosting exercise to prepare the groud for a recruitment campaign this summer.

Leaders of the sect were greeted with ecstatic whoops as they boasted of their success in hiring Britain's most celebrated concert hall, which seats 4,000 for their "Harvest for the World" celebration.

However yesterday's event was not an unqualified success. The audience, swelled by the odd Bank Holiday tourist persuaded to come in for a "free concert" was no bigger than that at the most poorly-attended Prom.

Outside, meanwhile, former members of the Church regaled onlookers with tales of broken families and brainwashing techniques.

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