a column from the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 5: Number 3, 1992.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
Critics of the Boston Church of Christ Call It a Cult and Accuse Its Leaders of Dictatorship.
An article in the May 18 issue of Time magazine says that exit counselors are seeking to pressure Boston church members to quit; universities across the country are seeking to curb the activities of its evangelists on their campuses; and critics are mailing out booklets and tapes denouncing the group. Some church defectors charge that "the church has done them psychological or spiritual harm. Many are crying 'cult,' although dropout Rick Bauer thinks 'authoritarian sect' is a better label."
Much of the current hostility focuses on the rigid control the church hierarchy exercises over the lives of its members. "Each baptized member is subject to a personal 'discipler,' who gives advice not only on spiritual problems but also on daily life. Dropouts complain that the advice, which members are expected to obey, may include such details as where to live, whom and when to date, what courses to take in school, even how often to have sex with a spouse. One former convert says he was led through a detailed financial inventory to ensure that he would contribute heavily," Time reports.
Church leaders have admitted that some disciplers have gone too far and say the church will "re-adjust" its discipling practice. Al Baird, a veteran Boston elder, says that "members were told to obey leaders not only on specific biblical commands but also on matters of 'opinion.' Now, he says, leaders may demand specific evangelistic efforts but not dictate 'such things as choice of food, car, clothes, [and the] exact amount of giving.' A discipler's advice may be rejected 'without sinning' if a member is convinced he is doing God's will," Time reports. Defectors predict, however, that the demands on church members will probably change little.
The article notes that the control system in the church is designed to focus the energies of members on proselytizing. "All you think about is recruiting," said Mark Trahan, a former church leader in New York. When Trahan left the church in 1990, he says he was "marked" -- meaning that former church friends were instructed not to contact him. Exit counselor Jeff Davis contends that the biggest problem is that "the group identifies itself so closely with God that people fear they must forsake God in order to leave it."
The church, founded in 1979 by Kip McKean, has grown from a single congregation to 103 congregations around the world with a total attendance of 50,000. All this is nettlesome to the conventional Churches of Christ, a conservative body of 1.6 million adherents from which the Boston Church of Christ broke away. An article on the Boston Church of Christ is planned for a forthcoming issue of the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL.
The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Is Reportedly Moving Away from Its Mormon Roots toward Protestantism.
This theological shift is documented in two side-by-side articles written by Peggy Fletcher Stack for the April 25 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune. In one of the articles -- entitled "Reorganized LDS Church Embarks on Move Away from Mormon Roots" - - Stack notes that "the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was born in 1844 at the death of prophet-founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. Most Mormons chose to follow Brigham Young to Utah and that group maintained the LDS name. However, a smaller group remained in the Midwest, led by Joseph Smith III."
Today, the article reports, the RLDS church is "officially established in nearly 40 nations, with a worldwide membership of more than 240,000 (compared to 8 million LDS members). Wallace B. Smith, great-grandson of Joseph Smith, Jr., is the prophet-president."
What kinds of doctrinal changes are being made in the church? In Stack's second article -- "RLDS Theological Changes Favor Protestant Tenets" -- we find a list of theological changes which include:
- "Removal of sections of the Doctrine and Covenants which discuss baptism for the dead.
- Removal of [Doctrine and Covenants] section 113, which said that Joseph Smith Jr., 'has done more [save Jesus only] for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.'
- Challenging the belief that the Inspired Version of the Bible written by Joseph Smith is a superior work of correcting and restoring the scriptural text....
- Rejecting the idea that the Reorganized Church is the 'only true church with authority to administer the sacraments.'
- Rejecting the belief that the Reorganization is the penultimate restoration of the New Testament church.
- Questioning the Book of Mormon as a history....
- Softening traditional teachings on the ancient apostasy and the need for a restoration....
- Ordaining women to the priesthood."
Despite this theological shift, there are certain aspects of the RLDS church that will always distinguish it from any Protestant denomination. For example, the church is led by a "prophet-president" who receives "revelations," and the church accepts the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants as scripture. Furthermore, the church is in the process of building a sacred temple.
CRI's research department will continue monitoring further developments in the RLDS church. Watch for reports in future issues of the Christian Research Newsletter.
The Church of Scientology Has Filed a $416-Million Libel Suit against Time Magazine, Its Parent Company Time-Warner Inc., and Reporter Richard Behar.
The suit charges that a Time magazine cover story last May -- entitled "The Cult of Greed" -- was "maliciously constructed from its inception to attempt to destroy the Scientology religion," the April 28 Los Angeles Times reports. According to the same day's Wall Street Journal, the suit "alleges that a biased reporter was put on the story and that the article was false and defamatory."
A Time spokesman responded by saying that the article was "a solid piece of journalism, thoroughly researched, and we stand very much behind it." The church has also filed libel suits against several sources quoted in the Time story.
End of document, CRN0046A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Headline News" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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