Cult luring Chrstians

2010-02-06 00:00

CONCERNED parents have rallied against a cult, which lures young adults with the promise of salvation, and then encourages them to abandon their studies and jobs, shun their families and leave their homes to live with cult leaders.

The cult operates as the Grace Gospel Church, an affiliate member of Church Team Ministries International (CTMI), which is based in Curepipe in Mauritius.

Experts say that the methods the church adopts and the promises it makes are typical of cult behaviour.

They “prey on young people” who are already committed Christians and convince them to leave their church and join CTMI.

“They emphasise the need to embrace the church as their new family and to reject their biological families.

“Their next move is to subtly manipulate the convert to marry somebody selected for them by the elders.”

Some minors are sent to other churches where they are kept in seclusion so that their families or the authorities can’t find them.

The group’s leaders have even fought court battles to keep these children away from their parents or guardians.

CTMI was started by Miki Hardy and his wife Audrey in 1980. After completing their Bible studies in South Africa, the couple returned to their birthplace, Mauritius, and started the church.

Nowadays it has branches in India, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, the UK and South Africa.

The church is well-known in Mauritius for its derogatory statements about other religious groups.

Riots broke out in 1989 when the church was targeted by Mauritian Muslims, after the it made inflammatory statements about Islam.

Former members of the cult told the Weekend Witness that cult leaders have set their sights on a Pietermaritzburg church, where they have started to recruit members.

They have also allegedly attended sports days at St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, in Kloof, and at Kearsney College in Botha’s Hill, in the hope of recruiting new members.

The group of concerned parents was formed when churches in the upper Highway area raised concerns about the teachings and practices of the Grace Gospel Church.

They have ascertained that the cult’s main agenda is to recruit young people from other churches. The cult preaches that Hardy should be the accepted apostle.

The cult’s leaders change the original meaning of the Bible so that it justifies their actions.

“Their strategy involves the criticism and denigration of all other churches, ministries and ministers — stating that other churches are teaching a ‘false gospel’. They hold ‘leadership’ meetings, designed to encourage pastors to cut any previous associations and to affiliate their churches to CTMI,” said the organisation’s website.

In Durban, the Grace Gospel Church is led by Basil O’Connell-Jones, who has openly defended his church’s teachings.

Sources told the Weekend Witness that some people were sent to help build Hardy’s church in Mauritius, where young girls are often married to older men in the cult.

It is also believed that the elders choose partners for the followers, encouraging them to marry within the cult.

Sean Semple, a pastoral therapist in Hillcrest, met with some of the members of the cult. After conducting interviews with them, he was concerned.

He found that they displayed a loss of independent and critical reasoning, robotic emotional responses and were heavily dependent on church jargon during conversations.

Semple circulated a letter to local churches and schools, in which he shared his concerns that “at best CTMI could be described as a sectarian group, and at worst a cult”.

“There is justification in using the term ‘cult’ as the young people I have worked with exhibit symptoms of extreme and unhealthy indoctrination,” he said in a letter to the community.

O’Connell-Jones refused to speak to the Weekend Witness, saying that the reporter should attend their church if she wanted to do proper research on their teachings.

“I do not want to be involved in this. I have no comment,” he said.

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