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Cult or community? Questions about Fort Collins’ Faith Christian Church offshoot, Grace Christian Church

Note: Rachel and Amanda are current CSU students whose names have been changed to protect their identities. They wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of their experience with Grace Christian Church.

We’ve all heard it. “Can I ask you a few questions?” They’re on the plaza. They look like students. They’re in their early twenties. When you were first approached, you assumed they might be asking for directions, or for the time. Then you were thrown off when they asked where you think you’ll end up when you die or whether you think the devil is inside you. Many students quickly learn not to engage with them.

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You come up with a list of responses: “I’m actually late for class.” “I’m on my way to work.” “I have to get to office hours.” Some just tell them to “f*ck off.”

But Rachel didn’t. Rachel was raised in a Christian home, and when she came to college, she was looking for a church to call her own. Like many of us, she initially avoided the campus ministers from Grace Christian Church. They approached her, and she told them she was already Christian, essentially blowing them off. The organization’s campus crusaders are internally referred to as “ministers.”

These are people who have progressed far enough into the program and are committed enough to the group’s message to be trusted to recruit more students. They are responsible for the students they recruit. They carpool them to Bible study and to church, and they report their recruitment successes to the higher-ups in the organization. The second semester of her freshman year, Rachel became more invested in finding a church.

Early in spring 2011, she was approached by one of these ministers, again outside her residence hall. This time, she agreed to attend their Bible study the following week, and soon after started attending their church services. Initially, they seemed like any other church group. For her, the red flags started much later.

“People joke that they’re a cult. … They don’t know how right they are, and they don’t know why they’re right,” Rachel said.

Faith Christian Church moves to Fort Collins

Jason Kluge began his ministry in 1996 with Faith Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona. In 2001, he and eight other members moved to Fort Collins with support from Faith Christian in Tucson and founded Grace Christian Church, an offshoot of Faith Christian. The group targets underclassmen and people who haven’t yet found their campus community, or who are looking to join a church or a Bible study. Grace Christian’s organized meetings take up about five hours of a student’s time each week.

Outside of those church-related meetings, members host parties at their homes on Friday nights. These parties don’t have drugs or alcohol and, according to Rachel, were a major factor in her initial involvement.

“For students like me who weren’t really into the party scene, it was nice to have somewhere to go on Friday nights where that stuff wasn’t happening,” Rachel said. “That was one of the main reasons I stayed involved for so long.”

The group does not have a sanctuary. When she started, Rachel’s minister carpooled her to services at the Hilton on Center Avenue and Prospect Road, but now the group meets at Rocky Mountain High School. As soon as students arrive, they are welcomed. According to Rachel, they are excessively welcomed.

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“They — like many, many, many organizations — they practice something called love bombing, not that they would call it that, but it’s like an unofficial term,” Rachel said. Love bombing is a practice of overt friendliness.

According to Rachel, the moment you enter the community, you have 30 instant friends who all want to talk to you, and everyone wants to get to know you. They compliment everything — your clothes, your hair, your shoes.

The focus on campus

The Grace Christian Church ministers have become as infamous as the preachers who stand on the free-speech stump on the Plaza and yell at students, calling us Sodomites and whores. Grace Christian targets college campuses because its members don’t see universities as pillars of education and higher learning, but rather as breeding grounds for sin. Maybe they’re right. CSU was named one of the top party schools in the nation by Playboy magazine last year, and students have thrown multiple block parties-turned-vandalous riots. These are among the reasons Grace Christian Church ministers criticize us.

Founding members of GCC Pete Saucedo, Chris Tomlinson, and Matt Lewis
Founding members of GCC Pete Saucedo, Chris Tomlinson, and Matt Lewis

According to former minister Lisa Phillips, the group is very narrowly focused — everything is targeted toward the college campus ministry. She remembers the mantra being, “Change the campus, change the world.”

“When you’re a young person, you let the red flags go because you want to be part of something where you feel like you have purpose and something bigger than yourself,” she said.

  For the past 25 years, Steve Hall has served as the head pastor of the now-infamous Faith Christian community in Arizona. He writes books and Biblical commentary that each of the seven campus offshoot ministries uses in its liturgy. This commentary, while inspiring and uplifting to many, has caused concern for others, including the administration at the University of Arizona. Map not to scale, design by Annika Mueller As reported by the Arizona Daily Star, the church meets all five warning signs for “religious practices gone awry” and was placed on the University Religious Council’s list of groups students should avoid. The group hasn’t received a similar designation at Colorado State University, but CSU’s free speech and peaceful assembly policy applies to all persons on University property.

CSU upholds First Amendment protections, but has established regulations to those free-speech rights “to assure the safety of the campus community,” naming the Lory Student Center Plaza as the “primary designated public forum … for the purpose of exercising free speech and assembly.”

Grace Christian Church does not always adhere to CSU’s policies. A couple weeks into the spring semester of her freshman year, Rachel was approached by a minister outside her residence hall at Academic Village. It was nice outside, a sunny February day. She was on her way back from the gym.

“I saw her coming. I think by that point I had grown accustomed to how they are … they kind of make a beeline for you and, you know, they fixate on you,” Rachel said.

She didn’t know at the time that it was against CSU policy for this group to approach students near the dorms — they were such a fixture on campus that it didn’t surprise her.

Justin Eaker, a senior physics major, said when he first got involved in 2011, his minister was incredibly persistent in getting him to come to church. Eaker was first approached on the Plaza, but his minister would call and text him from the lobby of his residence hall. He felt extreme pressure not to socialize with anyone outside the church. His minister told him not to befriend people outside the community because they would corrupt him.

“He really started pressuring me multiple times a day, even if I didn’t respond … to where if I wouldn’t, he’d tell me I’d go to hell, which made me feel even more pressure to go,” Eaker said.

“I felt like I couldn’t really leave.”

Eaker stopped attending services after he went home for the summer following his freshman year. When Rachel started training to become a campus minister, she also became privy to the inner workings of how certain recruitment decisions are made.

“They knew at this time that the solicitation of students according to CSU’s by-laws cannot occur outside of the Plaza and the academic spine,” Rachel said. “They know that. They see it as a violation of their free speech rights so they violate that rule willingly and knowingly.”

Distancing members from family

Chris Tomlinson, at left, stands with his wife Jenna and their five children. Lois's son Jason stands at far right on his wedding day
Chris Tomlinson, at left, stands with his wife Jenna and their five children. Lois’s son Jason stands at far right on his wedding day

Lois and John Kluge’s son, Jason, was one of the founding members of Grace Christian Church. They live in Tucson, Arizona, where Jason attended college. They were happy for him because he was excited about the church.

Growing up, he had always made the right decisions, and they trusted that this was just another church fellowship group. It took them years to learn that it wasn’t. It’s subtle. It starts with Bible study and services on Sundays. Members are slowly brought in, and as they become more involved, they become more and more isolated from everyone else in their lives.

Members are told their parents made mistakes in raising them. Their flaws, their sins and their shortcomings are attributed to their parents. This leads members to believe they are saved, but their parents — and everyone around them — aren’t. Members are told to stay away from people who might lead them back to sin, even when these people are their own families.

“Students frequently lose friends,” Rachel said. “They lose the relationships with their families, so that over the course of a year or two, similar to what happened to me, they don’t know anybody outside the church. If they leave, they are very much alone and isolated, so they don’t do it because that’s terrifying.”

This only tightens the grip the church has on the students involved. When Sandy Wade’s daughter, who attended CSU and wished to remain unnamed in this article, didn’t want to come home before her father was about to deploy overseas, it began to raise red flags.

“Her dad was getting ready to leave for Afghanistan,” Wade said. “We’ve been a military family for 30 years, and this is his 10th deployment. She knows the deal.”

Wade remembers her daughter saying she couldn’t come home because she had to help with a children’s church service. The church told her she made a commitment to them and it’s important for her to keep her commitments. When she told them her father was deploying, they asked her if she really thought her dad was going to die. When she timidly told them no, they told her that there was no reason for her to go home.

“God’s not going to let anything happen to him.” Those were the words Wade remembers her daughter telling her.

“And that’s when I knew,” Wade said. “We’ve buried enough friends in the military that she knows that when it’s his time, it’s his time, and you better take advantage of every minute you have together while you can.” Wade staged an intervention for her daughter.

Dating and relationship mandates

Rachel discovered fairly quickly that dating and relationships are frowned upon in the church. The pastors never specifically said dating wasn’t allowed — it just never happens. This occurs because of the belief that when a couple is meant to be together, they will receive a message from God.

“They have to wait for (the pastor’s) permission before they can even pursue each other, and even after they pursue each other — only after the day they are married — they are not left alone together, they don’t touch. They side hug, but they don’t hold hands, they don’t kiss, nothing,” Rachel said.

The man plans out a date. He proposes on that date or within a few weeks. The couple announces their engagement to the congregation and shares their testimony about how it came to be and how they realized they were meant to be together.

“The first time I was there and heard about it, I was like, ‘You know, that is so cool. I want that. I want to not have to worry about who my husband is. I don’t want to try. I want God to tell me. I want it to be quick because it sucks waiting. And I want everything to just kind of be given to me.’ … They always seemed so happy with it,” Rachel said.

Couples are married six months after the engagement. Within a year, most couples are pregnant. If the woman does not become pregnant, there are questions about what is wrong. Rachel learned of this process from a friend of hers in the church who had just gotten engaged. When the couple has children, the wife does not work — it is her job to home-school the children. The couple is expected to raise their children the way the church dictates.

Parents are instructed in teaching obedience

Lisa and Jeff Phillips
Lisa and Jeff Phillips (Photo courtesy: Lisa Phillips)

Jeff and Lisa were ministers in the church for 15 years and finally left when they began to question the directions they were given to discipline their children. Congregants are expected to teach their children obedience.

When the child gets old enough to roll over onto its stomach and lift its head on its own, parents are instructed to start spanking the child. One method uses the cardboard dowel from pants hangers. When the baby is lying on its stomach and raises its head or tries to roll over, the child is spanked until it stops. This is to completely stifle any sign of rebellion.

Rachel said this practice is attributed to scripture, Proverbs 23:13, which states, “Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die.” Lisa said she and her husband felt uncomfortable disciplining their child this way. Their child was “rebellious,” but they had no control over his outbursts.

Lisa said because the rest of the children were so intensely disciplined, her child’s tantrums couldn’t go unnoticed. Lisa was told she was an “indulgent mom” and she needed to control her “rebellious kids.” Then she and her husband found out their son was autistic. He had difficulty expressing himself, so he was prone to crying and throwing fits.

They were too afraid to tell anyone. Shortly after they left the church, her husband started to pursue a Masters of Divinity — a field of study that is frowned upon in the church.

According to Rachel, seminaries are deemed evil in the eyes of the congregation — she surmises it is because seminaries teach the actual scripture, not a corrupt version. Lisa said her husband came home excited to share what he was learning and began to see how the church leaders twisted scripture.

“Our eyes began to be opened,” she said.

The church controls finances

Wade’s daughter received a job offer in her field before she graduated from CSU. She decided not to take it and wanted to go on staff at the church instead.

According to Wade, before her daughter could become a campus minister, the church asked for her banking information and an expense report indicating how much money she spends each month. They then required her to work unpaid throughout the summer.

She, like every other minister they employ, was expected to raise her own support. This support could come from anywhere — from family and friends to cold calls. Once the upper management at Grace Christian could be sure she could garner enough funds to help sustain herself — and have enough left over for the church — they would decide if she could go on staff. Her call asking for her financial information startled her mother, who wondered if it was some kind of scam.

“No employer would ever ask these questions,” Wade said.

According to former church minister Lisa Phillips this financial structure is the setup in each of the church’s offshoots. Ministers reach out to family, friends and strangers, asking them to become financial partners. Checks are made out to the organization, and when money comes in, it is earmarked with which minister recruited that specific donation.

Phillips said campus groups may take out 10 to 20 percent of each payment for “administrative fees,” but as she remembers, ministers get most of the money they raise. Rachel said her ministers were living off what must have been about $40,000 a year.Grace Christian Church finances INFOG

Financial records for Grace Christian Church are private and could not be obtained, but according to Larimer County property records, Chris Tomlinson, one of the founders of Grace Christian Church, owns five properties in Fort Collins and Loveland. Four are single family residences and the fifth is a barn. His wife, Jennifer, is named as the primary owner of two of the properties. Their property holdings total $1,571,900.

Leaving the cult

Rachel explained that the church got into her head and convinced her the path she was on was the wrong one. Rachel ended up changing her major because of the pressure she felt from the church.

“I changed it back once I realized what I was doing was dumb because I’m good at what I do, but I started to feel guilty for what I was doing in school,” Rachel said.

“Over time, it develops into a sense of anxiety because there’s never an offer for help when you’re stressed.” She said the hardest part was re-establishing relationships with her friends outside the church once she left. The church has a way of insulating members with their community, and only their community.

“With cults, I think one of the defining qualities is how they attempt to deter people from leaving, and what happens with all the church offshoots is they actively shun members from leaving because if they leave the church they’re no longer walking a Christian path,” Rachel said.

Lisa Phillips said after she left, the nightmares didn’t go away for more than a year. She would dream she was stuck at a church gathering and couldn’t speak to anyone. In the dream, she would cry, but no one acknowledged her tears. She would wake up angry. Every time the phone rang, she worried it was someone from the church.

Colorado State University resources

According to Colorado State University Dean of Students Jody Donovan, the University has received complaints about Grace Christian Church. Donovan also said complaints increased once media coverage in Arizona reported on the Faith Christian sect in Tucson.

“The University is considering the concerns and complaints that have come forward,” Donovan wrote in an email to the Collegian. Student Affairs Contact Information INFOG

Amanda is one of the students who came forward to report the experience she had with Grace Christian Church to CSU’s Division of Student Affairs. Amanda’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

“It was amazing,” Amanda said. “(CSU was) so nice, and they were so genuinely interested and concerned about what happened to me. I was blown away at how polite they were and how comfortable they made me feel.”

Sandy Wade was one of the parents who reached out to the administration to voice concerns but was told that the University couldn’t intervene without a complaint from a current student.

Wade’s daughter was part of the group for two years, and Wade ultimately staged an intervention for her daughter to get her out. Wade said she thinks CSU has a responsibility to protect its students, whether they’re currently enrolled or alumni.

“I know they’re walking a fine line between freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and they want current students to complain, but the fallacy in that is that this organization knows that if current students aren’t doing anything but having the time of their life and making the best friends of their life and they’re not seeing the really bad stuff, then there’s nothing CSU can do,” Wade said.

Starting a support group

One night, Lisa and Jeff Phillips were on Facebook, messaging other former members of Faith Christian. Once they left, no one else in their lives could really understand what they went through in their 15 years with the church. Other people who had also left became their community. The support group started organically. The initial group had a thread that went on for hours and hours as a private message. Then one of them finally started a formal Facebook page.

Lisa said she didn’t expect it to grow or gain much traction.

“It was a place we felt safe and could talk,” Lisa said.

Then other ex-members started joining. Now the Facebook group, “Former Members of Faith Christian Church Tucson and Its Offshoots,” has over 360 likes. They post information about how you can tell if a church is bad for you along with supportive scripture passages.

“I would think that would be a red flag at first to members that there’s a support group that exists for these churches,” Rachel said. But the group exists for family members as well as ex-members. Lois Kluge found the support group after her son cut off all contact with her.

“You can imagine, all of a sudden we weren’t alone. There were other people who had experienced the very same thing,” Lois said.

Sandy Wade said she hopes what happened to her daughter never happens to another student. She doesn’t want what her family went through to happen to someone else. A year after the intervention, her daughter told her she was grateful her mother got her out when she did.

“If I had gotten further in, you’d have never seen or heard from me again,” Wade remembers her daughter telling her.

Rachel hopes when students are approached, they’ll do some research, or even Google the church, before they become too involved.

“I think a lot of people that are there now would have never joined the church if they knew all the stuff that happens behind closed doors, but they don’t see that, and by the time they do see it, it’s almost too late because they’re completely isolated,” Rachel said.

Attempts to contact Grace Christian Church

On April 20, the Collegian emailed Grace Christian Church requesting an interview. A follow up email was sent on April 23. On April 30 the Collegian sent a third email with another request for comment, along with a list of 10 questions. On April 20 and April 30, the Collegian phoned the number listed on Grace Christian’s website and on May 1, called a minister who is still involved in recruiting students.

The Collegian received no comment from Grace Christian Church at time of publishing.

Collegian Content Managing Editor Kate Simmons can be reached at ksimmons@collegian.com and on Twitter @k8mckee.

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Comments (48)

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  • J

    Jack JohnsonApr 22, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Your credibility is lost. You won’t accept other’s facts that contradict your claims to appear here and the FCC Facebook filters out anything that isn’t anti-FCC, et al. You have convinced me that the attackers are worse than this imaginary monster you’ve created.

    Reply
  • J

    Jack JohnsonApr 22, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Wow, what a biased anti-Christian article. It conflates stories from other churches that are loosely tied (and in some cases have no ties), ascribes actions such as the public shaming, etc. to the Grace Christian Church but that is a completely separate set of whackos doing that crazy yelling. Granted, some ministers may have been over-zealous- I say this because in any group there are some that do things very well and others that are kind of poor at their jobs. This is no different and that’s unfortunate. Similar to a few bad police officers can create such a visible stain on the great majority of great officers. Christianity scares some people. Evangelical Christianity is offensive to most. Charismatic evangelical… scares the heck out of people. I pray for those that had bad experiences but I know that 95% have had great experiences and those are pretty good odds in any church or organization. If you’ve seen child abuse or losses of personal freedoms, please contact the police or a lawyer and file a suit. The drip drip of innuendo and allegations of “spiritual abuse” are growing tiresome. Walk away and choose another church- none of the doors are locked.

    Reply
  • T

    tom morrowMar 27, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    I
    really don’t see anything negative about the church or following the
    scripture in this entire article. The only thing that concerns me is the
    discipline of a child for rolling over. The way the article is written I
    am not even sure if this is true

    Reply
  • T

    tom morrowMar 27, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I
    really don’t see anything negative about the church or following the
    scripture in this entire article. The only thing that concerns me is the
    discipline of a child for rolling over; in fact, the way the article is written I
    am not even sure if this is true

    Reply
  • T

    tom morrowMar 27, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    I
    really don’t see anything negative about the church or following
    scripture in the entire article. The only thing that concerns me is the
    discipline of a child for rolling over; in fact, the way the article is written I
    am not even sure if this discipline statement is true.

    Reply
  • J

    Justis SnookFeb 22, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    As a member of Grace Christian Church, I would just like to say that this article gave my church an awful lot of grief for months. I actually discussed with some ministers the accuracy and truth of this article and the people who were interviewed, and that one girl “Rachel” didn’t actually leave or say all of these things until her parents threatened to cut her off for wanting to join the ministry. Now, I may not agree with everything my church teaches, but that doesn’t make us a cult. The people there are very welcoming and respectful to anyone, and you can go to the friends you make there if you simply need to talk to someone or are feeling down. I have been a member for over a year now and I am still very close with the friends I have outside of the church or met before I joined, and I haven’t been pressured to isolate myself from them or my family. Family is more important to me than Grace Christian, and I wouldn’t still be with GCC if they made me feel uncomfortable or made me do things I didn’t want to. The Collegian bent the truth a great deal with this article, and you should get to know what my church is like before you pass your judgements. I was once like the people who wanted to avoid them, but I became a Christian and was saved more than a month before I even joined them. They talk to you and share the Gospel and let you make your own decisions, they don’t pressure you into these things. I mean no disrespect toward the people who are against GCC, but please, try to actually get to know us before you hear or read about things like this article.

    Reply
    • S

      Sandy WadeApr 23, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Grace Ministers and the other offshoots of this group have spent a lot of time telling members and others that these are all lies. This was our experience. Hundreds of people from across these churches who don’t even jnow each other have had very similar experiences and yet Grace would have it’s members believe we all must be lying. The signs are subtle, the isolation is subtle, and in most cases discovery of what they are doing has come to late. I know several parents that are forbidden to even see or speak to their grandchildren in your church. Their families have been destroyed and Grace would have you believe we all must be lying. I have been to your church multiple times, I have met most of them, but I have also spoke to even more former members that used to feel just like you do, and parents of existing members that are grieving for their loss because either they have no relationship any more or they live in fear that they will lose their kids if they dare to share their concerns. Someday your teaching from Grace will align with the experiences that others have shared and you will see the truth. Maybe you should ask your own parents how they feeling about this article and your relationship with them instead of the ministers at Grace. Best Wishes to you and I pray your families experience never becomes the same as ours or others in this article. One other point of correction to what you were told. Rachel was not the person who left because her parents cut her off financially. Grace has been telling everybody that Rachel is an assumed name for my daughter when in fact they are 2 different people and totally different circumstances. My daughter is the one not Rachel that Grace is talking about, any everything in this article is an absolute fact! I have nothing to lose or to gain in telling truth about our experience with Grace.

      Reply
  • C

    Courtney WaylandOct 29, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    I understand that this article has been published months ago, but I appreciate that I was able to find this so quickly. Thank you, Collegian! This article is fantastic. I appreciate that someone at CSU is wrote about what I went through today. I actually had several encounters while heading back to my dorm and in the Plaza. I was so confused on why I was consistantly being asked these questions. Their campus ministers are all over campus. They are over-bearing and disrespectful. The girls seem to spot other girls down, then isolate them on their way to class or back home. I understand the whole freedom of religion and speech thing, but don’t shove it down my throat. CSU Students just want to left alone peacefully on their way to class. I wish there was more that could be done about this. I’ve never been so uncomfortable about religion.

    Reply
  • W

    WingBlaster777May 17, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I am a Conservative Christian and I oppose this ministry 100%. Even before I realized how controlling they were, I was still diametrically opposed to them on theological grounds (i.e. their belief in Lordship salvation and denial of eternal security, anyone can look up these theological issues for an explanation). I have actually argued theology with them so many times when they stopped me that they now recognize me and no longer stop me anymore.

    I was talking about why their theology was unbiblical to someone who would later become one of my best friends. At the time, I didn’t realize that my new friend actually was a student member of GCC himself. So he asked the campus ministers about the charges that I brought forth.

    I happen to have asperger’s syndrome, and one of the consequences of this is the fact that I sort of bounce as I walk. When my friend brought up what I said about the church, one of the campus ministers was actually ridiculing how I walk (but hey, at least he said “I was weird when I first came to the church too.”).

    My friend then told a different campus minister that he was offended by the mockery of my walking mannerism, and he was told that “the real problem” was his “pride” (because how dare he question church authority!).

    This is a great article and I hope students who are part of GCC will read it and consider it. I wonder if GCC’s staff have even seen this article.

    Reply
  • A

    AnnonymousMay 8, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    This is a very well written description of what I experienced as a member of FCC for 6 years. Thank you Kate for writing it so eloquently.

    Reply
  • V

    Vincent TaylorMay 7, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Here is a thought… study science and physics instead of studying 2000 year old books about some magical creator floating around in the sky. none of this is new. This type of thing has been going on since humans have been humans. Religion in general is a disease on the human race. Socially accepted mental illness.

    Reply
  • D

    DavidMay 6, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    One could argue all of Christianity is a cult, led by “Jesus.” It’s incredible so many give their money to this delusion club.
    Real journalism in the Collegian!

    Reply
  • K

    Kevin Hunter WinchesterMay 6, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Wow, just wow, I got kicked out of the church years ago because I started noticing the red flags. So I was looked down apon lol . I glad I got out though

    Reply
  • A

    Ashley MorrisMay 6, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    As a member of another campus ministry at CSU, I would just like to say that Rachel, Amanda and any other students or alumni are always welcome to meet with us or come to our weekly meetings. This breaks my heart what Grace Christian church continues to do and continues to teach this corrupt version of the Bible. Please do not hesitate to contact or research the CRU at CSU page online and I pray for all of those who have been contacted by Grace Church at one point and for those who have been sucked in too far. Just know that what they are teaching you is not the truth and there’s always a way out even when it seems like you’re too isolated. God Bless.

    Reply
    • A

      AnnonymousMay 8, 2015 at 5:22 pm

      This is an awesome comment and response. I wish I had somebody like you post this in the FCC article released in Tucson, I am still having a hard time finding and trusting the church from this experience.

      Reply
    • A

      Aaron WallMay 17, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      Excellent point. While there are predatory and cult-like churches and campus-ministries out there, there are also good ones. I’ve never heard anything negative about CRU and enjoyed the few times I went and the friendships I had with them. My main membership outside the Rock was with the Navigators, and I never had or heard of any such problems there either. I even became a student leader with the Navigators and saw firsthand how they fostered student independence and growth while encouraging connections with other Christians outside the group.

      Reply
  • R

    Rick Alan RossMay 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    This is not a unique story, but rather the continuation of an well-established history, which is that groups called “cults” often target college students. This has been going on for decades.

    See http://culteducation.com/group/983-international-church-of-christ.html

    An organization known as the “International Church of Christ” (ICC)led by Kip McKean was called a “cult” and targeted college campuses across the US and around the world. The group reached 200,000 members before it began to shrink in the late 1990s. The ICC claimed that they were simply teaching the bible and were “true Christians.”

    The best defense against groups called “cults” is education. And that means very specific education that details how such groups can potentially trick and manipulate people through deceptive recruitment tactics, coercive persuasion and influence techniques.

    In my new book “Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out” (shameless plug) this is discussed in great detail. The book includes a modern history of cults, explanation of so-called “cult brainwashing” and one chapter devoted to identifying the nucleus for a definition of a destructive cult.

    See http://www.amazon.com/Cults-Inside-Out-How-People/dp/149731660X

    It’s not what groups believe it’s about how they behave.

    The book includes a chapter detailing a successful family intervention to get a young mother out of a destructive supposedly “bible-based” group.

    Education is the key to unlocking the undue influence of groups called “cults.”

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    mattMay 6, 2015 at 10:29 am

    similar reports from U of Arizona, just Google for it. This is just the tip of the iceberg. All churches who are currently supporting these faux “campus evangelists” should be forwarded this article and take appropriate actions. Kate, I hope you do a follow-up on this.

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    MattokatamariMay 6, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Really great article! It’s surprising to see such a great piece of investigative journalism in the university newspaper.

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    JanetteMay 6, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Free resources about Red Flags of Cults and Cult recruiting are available by this organization to any and all University staff, students, parents etc. Please share with others and request your free printed materials for your school by e-mailing them or messaging via their facebook page. Thank you., http://www.familiesagainstcultteachings.org/Cult-Education/Fact-sheets/

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    Marie DudreyMay 5, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Do you know if there are any articles written about the Resurrection Church in Boulder?

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      Sandy WadeMay 6, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      Not yet, but reporters and university have been contacted.

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        Marie DudreyMay 6, 2015 at 10:01 pm

        Were they just contacted recently? I was wondering because I have a student on C.U.’s Campus.

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          Sandy WadeMay 7, 2015 at 12:02 pm

          CU is very aware of this group. I’m not sure we’re the story is at with their local reporters.

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    Trenton TullossMay 5, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I went to Grace for the majority of my Freshman year. I would meet with one of their ministers once a week. Every week he asked if i would join the church and stressed how important it was to be “part of the community.” He tried to alienate me from my friends outside the church and asked me why i even hung out with them. I felt so much pressure from him and some of the other ministers to join the church that I eventually caved and said I was ready, even though i really wasn’t. When I met with on of the lead ministers he said I couldn’t join because I was going to be living with two girls next semester because “it would be too much of a temptation.” In retrospect I am glad they didn’t let me join, in fact I was relieved because I didn’t have to deal with the stress they put me under.

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    January BugMay 5, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I think this is the best article I have ever read in the Collegian….in-depth reporting that one rarely sees in a college newspaper. And what an eye-opener!
    How disgusting that these predators prey on vulnerable college students who may know very few people when they first begin college and then get sucked in by the “friendliness” of the “church” people. And, the way they “discipline” children should be considered child abuse! Freedom of speech in one thing, but these lunatics take it to an entirely new level. Again, excellent article…this is on par with articles in the Denver Post, etc. I’m sure you will easily find a job after graduation!

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    Forget UsnotMay 5, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Fantastic article! So well written and truly an accurate portrayal of how manipulation and coercion exits and lures the unsuspecting. Predatory behaviors on college campuses is something that needs to be eradicated. Let’s not forget… predatory individuals also exist for the sheer purpose of influencing the vulnerable to larger groups or splinter groups outside of the college campus, as well. College is a time when a young adult is away from home and their new found independence is fully taken advantage of. Campuses need to do more, be more aware and not rely strictly on someone who has been “indoctrinated” to come forward…that simply will not occur. If someone’s personality has begun to alter, if they are distancing themselves from family along with a myriad of other signs (check out Robert Lifton signs of totalitarian indoctrination)…you will know what to look for. I will also say that Elizabeth Nicole (Forget Us Not) is another platform on FB to support parents and provide resources…as is our community page called Gone. Again….thank you so much for this fantastic article.

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    milesMay 5, 2015 at 1:46 am

    Extremely well-written and great reporting, this is really great to see from the collegian!

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    Aaron WallMay 5, 2015 at 1:19 am

    I wish someone had done an article like this on Summitview Community Church or their campus ministry arm, the Rock. Of course, odds are I wouldn’t have read it while I was there. Virtually identical setup in many ways. While their recruitment isn’t as confrontational, it is very aggressive and members are quickly progressed into leader/recruiters if they show promise. The church is part of the Great Commission Movement which publicly acknowledged and pledged to change cult-like tendencies in their ministry in 1991. They confessed to turning members against their families and other Christians, and taking control of their personal lives especially in dating. Nearly 25 years later, former members of the Rock/Summitview can tell you that at least one church in the association is still doing all of those things. The section in this article on dating is pretty much an exact description of how it’s done in the Rock, only there leaders also like to segregate the interested parties (boy and girl) beforehand and punish them for liking and knowing each other, as that is the “sin” of “emotional impurity.” Even couples who are later given the green light to do the first-date-to-marriage-in-six-months thing by the leaders must endure this. I basically got kicked out because I wouldn’t go along with this and refused to break off a platonic relationship with a girl, which my leaders considered emotionally impure. Like Grace Christian, this group is sweet and friendly on the inside, but crazy and controlling if you get further in. All conflicts, “council” (by which we mean controlling instruction), and “discipline” (of “rebellious” members) is handled behind closed doors and not discussed or even lied about to anyone not directly involved (after booting me, my leaders told my friends in the group that I’d willingly left for other reasons). To even question the leaders actions or discuss them publicly is considered the sins of gossip and slander, and a form of “rebelliousness” of course. The movement’s ex-member support group (the “Decommissioned Forum”) has over 1,000 members registered and at least three who left the Rock in the last 5 years.

    Come to think of it, I’d still love to see an article like this on them, for the sake of others who might still be hurt there.

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      JanetteMay 6, 2015 at 7:04 am

      Free resources for all teachers, counselors, students, parents, clergy etc er: red flags of cults. Please pass on to others and request free copies by e-mailing them via their website or facebook page.
      http://www.familiesagainstcultteachings.org/Cult-Education/Fact-sheets/

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      WingBlaster777May 17, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      That’s interesting. I had never heard such things about the Rock but I am very glad you shared this information. I’ll have to do some research on them as well. I hate cult-like behavior in churches with a passion.

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        Aaron WallMay 17, 2015 at 9:40 pm

        It’s not surprising that you haven’t heard this about them. The information is publicly available (it’s on the Great Commission Movement’s Wikipedia page), but is never even mentioned inside the Rock, even in membership classes purporting to teach the church’s history. In the Rock, they take the view that any mention of the church or it’s leaders’ mistakes, flaws, or criticism is a form of slander that will cripple the church’s ability to share the gospel. It is not permitted, and I’ve twice had members come onto my personal blog and attack me for criticizing the church.

        Sadly if they just acknowledged their mistakes and actually repented from them, it would demonstrate and prove the gospel their members want so badly to share.

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      Aaron WallMay 17, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      I should say, much of the movement itself has changed, if their national leader is any indication. I had personal contact with him after I left and he went above and beyond to try to help me restore lost relationships and address my grievances with the Rock, but the churches of the movement are largely autonomous at this point so there was little he could do to create permanent changes locally. The local leadership stonewalled my attempts to reconnect with lost friends, and as soon as the national leader’s back was turned it seemed they went back to doing exactly as they pleased.

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    Ben CialoneMay 5, 2015 at 12:20 am

    You’re a damn good reporter.

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    JasonMay 5, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Might want to research where Flagstaff, Tempe, and Tuscon are in relation to one another, because the guess couldn’t have been more wrong.

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      LPHMay 5, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Also, the location of New Zealand as somewhere off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean is problematic. These factual errors on that map detract from the otherwise stellar quality of this article.

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        mattMay 6, 2015 at 12:01 pm

        irrelevant point about NZ location. It was for the sake of space on the page.

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      Kate SimmonsMay 6, 2015 at 9:57 am

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention! The map is still not perfectly to scale, but has been corrected.

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      Sandy WadeMay 6, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      Sad if that’s all you got out of this article and the work that was put into it.

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        JasonMay 6, 2015 at 11:09 pm

        Nope, thought it was great. Actually really great. But I think it’s sad that all you got out of the article-and the comment section-was that I didn’t express how appreciative I was of all the work that was put into the article. Lots of work goes into a lot of stuff, but I bet you still complain about the heater in your car not warming up fast enough.

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          Sandy WadeMay 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm

          Hmmmm, interesting leap.

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        Jack JohnsonApr 22, 2017 at 10:02 pm

        Sandy, you’ve attacked an entire church because of your daughter’s challenges in life-coping skills. What caused this fragility of psyche in the first place?

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          Sandy WadeApr 24, 2017 at 11:00 pm

          No attack, just our experience which has been the same for many others. My daughter’s fragility of psyche did not happen until spending 2 years in this church being guilted and shamed into believing the things that they twisted in her mind. Grace is what caused this in the first place. Like many other parents can tell you our children where changed into people we didn’t even recognize any more and not in a good way. I am so greatful to others who shared their experiences so that we were able to rescue her. Today she has recovered from this experience, she is involved in a healthy church family, and happily married. People from other churchs have surrounded her with love and biblical truth, and she has even been blessed to participate in misson work around the world. My only goal is to warn others and spare them what we went through. So many parents have lost their children to their twisted teachings. I have nothing to gain by telling the truth about Grace. We are luckier than most.

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    Adam JohnsonMay 4, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    I remember avoiding people like the plague but I didn’t know it was this bad. Kate Simmons, excellently done.

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    MeaganMay 4, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    As a Christian, I have to say that these are some of the people that have ruined church or the religion for others. Intimidating people with mean questions is not something I find okay, ever. I have been stopped several times and I’ve spoken with them a few, out of curiosity and out of hopes they wouldn’t stop me again. But they still do. I want to say that churches aren’t like that at all and neither Is the group I’ve been a part of. It seems alarming to me as to why CSU isn’t doing something more, especially when they keep showing up at our residence halls, wandering the hallways.

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    Dental PlanMay 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Excellent article. I love seeing in-depth reporting through the Collegian, and as an alumnus, you’re holding up the reputation quite well. You guys are doing an amazing job.

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      mattMay 6, 2015 at 12:56 am

      Take videos and pictures of these campus ministers – take down their names and report them to the CSU campus authorities

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    Steven BMay 4, 2015 at 11:55 am

    I had to stop reading about this trash, becoming too angry. It’s a good thing I am an alum and not an undergrad. I would have made it my mission to inform my fellow students about these whacks and harass them at every opportunity. It was bad enough to have the rest of the lunatic fringe yelling at us on the plaza, when we had a break between classes. But this? I am a strong proponent of Freedom of Speech but maybe CSU could do something about this group being on campus?

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