The University of York Christian Union (UYCU) have said they are taking “active measures” to counter the influence of the ‘cult’ reportedly operating on campus. They believe the group, known as ‘The Church with No Name’ or ‘The Wandering Church’, has converted at least one student already.
A third year electronics student and former member of UYCU allegedly joined the group after being approached over the summer at the Christian festival Soul Survivor. Mike Salmon, a member of the York church, Calvary Chapel, who knows the individual, said that “he was persuaded to go along with their activities, and just drifted in.” The process of recruiting new members into the group is known as ‘heavy shepherding’.
Since joining the group, the student has severed all connections with UYCU. “He says he doesn’t want to speak to us again. It’s as if he has lost his joy. It’s heartbreaking,” said a friend.
When contacted by Nouse, the member refused to comment and ignored all attempts to establish a dialogue. “The group will not allow him to make contact with anyone,” said Salmon.
UYCU President Maria Leach described the group as having “worrying teachings” and stated that the UYCU had commissioned a member of Calvary Chapel to “explain to the members what was going on”.
The group has been involved in a number of incidents involving UYCU members. Phil Walker, a post-graduate student, met a member of the group and described him as “out to cause difficulties for the church. He was a recruiting agent.” One student who was approached at St. Michael le Belfry church said they found the experience “intimidating” and that “it felt like they were recruiting”.
Leach suggested that it might be possible for people to believe that they represent a Christian viewpoint. “Their most worrying teaching is that they believe that their group are the only true Christians, and that all other denominations are false. I can understand how this could be very confusing, and what I would really encourage is just to look into the beliefs of mainstream Christianity for yourself.”
Lizzy Moorhouse, a first year student, was approached by members of the group following a church service. “They said [Christians] shouldn’t be going to the pub, we shouldn’t be going clubbing, we shouldn’t be going to the cinema or even hanging out with non-Christians in their environment,” remarked Moorhouse. Another student, who was approached twice, was told that “Christians should not have any hobbies.”
The group is believed to have a permanent member based in the North East of England who has made a number of visits to campus to meet with the recently converted York student. The permanent member is believed to be a woman in her mid-50s and the two have approached people following services.
The University Chaplaincy has warned that the group is a “dangerous fundamentalist group that take over a person’s life in a cloak of authoritarian teachings, and encourage separation from all who do not agree, family included.”
The group have been known to infiltrate church group meetings. Robin Constance, a member of Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in London, said: “We have had a lot of problems with this group. Their tactics are dishonest and alarming; they aim to pick off members on the periphery and refuse to engage with the leadership.”
According to Constance, the group were once part of the International Church of Christ, but broke away. George Critchley, a third year student who has previously preached at Elim Pentecostal church, said that they were “so extreme that the International Church of Christ would regard them as a fundamentalist splinter. The group is known to have large followings in Slovakia and Germany.