Daughter in Sect, Family in Tears

The Vancouver Sun/December 27, 1997
By Ward Perrin

A Coquitlam family spent a tearful Boxing Day trying to re-establish contact with a daughter who joined a Vancouver religious sect known for its aggressive recruitment tactics.

"Please try to help us," Chao Min Chung said Friday, choking back tears after another failed attempt to meet with his daughter Ti Chung, a former Simon Fraser University student who joined the Vancouver Church of Christ more than two years ago.

The Vancouver group is associated with a Boston-based offshoot of the Church of Christ. The larger, more conservative Church of Christ has decried any association with the Vancouver sect.

Some groups associated with the more radical Boston-based church have been kicked off campuses in Canada and Britain, a University of B.C. chaplain familiar with the Chung family's difficulties said.

The family hired Rick Ross, an Arizona-based cult interventionist, to help contact their daughter and re-establish communication. But Ross said that attempt failed after [a meeting that lasted for a few hours] on Christmas Day. "They have been trying to talk to her about her two-year involvement in this group for over a year," Ross said. "I met with her for seven minutes before she ran into her room and locked the door." [Subsequently, within hours Ti Chung returned to the group--rather than discuss her families concerns or spend more time with them on Christmas.]

The family went to the church headquarters at a west side Vancouver home Friday in an attempt to convince church leaders to arrange another meeting. People answering the door said their leaders were away until Sunday and promised they would attempt to contact Ti Chung. Ross said isolating church members from their families is a common Vancouver Church of Christ tactic.

The church is said to have more than 350 members and is affiliated with [the once] Boston-based Church of Christ [now known as the "International Church of Christ], founded by evangelist Kip McKean in 1979. Reports of aggressive recruitment methods and isolationist policies have prompted many complaints about the church.

There are more than 100 parishes of the more traditional Church of Christ across Canada that are not affiliated with the Vancouver Church of Christ.

Ross said the Vancouver group preaches all those outside its church will go to Hell. He said McKean is considered the sole religious authority and that there is a "[discipling] process" in which [one]…church member [is placed over another in a pyramid scheme of accountability--with McKean at the top. This system encourages one "disciple" to "seek advice" from another "discipling partner" in virtually every aspect of their life. This process often includes]…a recruit [discussing, even listing], all their "sins." He said this information is sometimes used to pressure people to prevent them leaving the church.

University of B.C. Chaplain Darwin Dewar said he has heard of the Chung family's difficulties with the church and is also familiar with the church's aggressive recruitment methods.

Dewar said groups associated with McKean's movement have been kicked off campuses in Canada and in Britain. "They were kicked off campus in York University in Ontario," Dewar said. He said the group approaches students on campus with innocent requests that they join Bible study groups.

Then the prospective members are barraged with up to 50 telephone calls a week, attempting to draw them into the organization.

Universities have become a popular recruiting ground because many students are already being challenged by living in an unfamiliar environment for the first time in their lives. "We all have different points in our lives when we are more vulnerable than others," he said. "For many students, it is their first time away from home."

Ti Chung dropped all her classes at SFU after joining the group. Neither church officials nor Ti Chung could be reached for comment Friday.

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