"School's Out for Sinsiter London Cult" -- The Mirror 24 June 1997 (U.K.)
YOU are loved, nurtured and offered a first-class ticket to heaven. All the London Church of Christ asks in return is that you cut off all family ties, recruit a quota of new members and give at least 10 per cent of your earnings to the "church''.
Decide you want to leave and you'll be shamed, bombarded with phone calls and, according to devotees, suffer eternal damnation for the rest of your life. It's no wonder the LCC has been labelled a cult and former members are lining up to warn others against joining. But despite this, Hampstead School in North London, which has 1,300 pupils, allows the LCC to hold meetings in its classrooms. Each Sunday members of the LCC gather at the school which also lets them use tennis courts in the grounds.
Anti-LCC campaigner Brian Chamberlain has taken a keen interest in the American-born cult for years. He says: "Everyone knows the LCC is keen to recruit - school children are ideal. I have tried to put a stop to it but no-one will listen.''
Headteacher Tasmin Imison told Sorted: "We knew they were some sort of evangelical church. "They haven't caused us any problems but we will now be talking to the Governors and our legal department about what we should do." Later a spokesman for Camden Council said: "A Governors' meeting is planned to review our letting arrangements for the LCC."
"Cult Friction" from The Daily Mirror, 12 May 1997
The Wimbledon (soccer team) striker is a big fish. But to the evil, mind-bending cult that has snared his soul - and 10 per cent of his colossal income - Marcus Gayle is just a beginning. The sinister London Church of Christ wants the rest of the Premier League team. And Gayle is its bait. Bosses of the American-based religious cult are already bragging that by the end of next season they believed every player and executive of Wimbledon would be baptised into its church.
"Wimbledon will be known as the Church of Christ team," one of its leaders boasted to a former member of the church, Ayman Akshar. And with Wimbledon players leading its brain-washed flock the church will switch its attack to other teams and other soccer aces. Church leaders believe that by enrolling soccer stars it will boost its membership - and funds - as fans follow their idols into the cult that uses sex to control its disciples.
Mr Akshar, who was thrown out of the church when he dared criticise them, has been called in by Gayle's anxious family. "The leaders are not happy with just one soccer star," he says. "Now they have hooked him they are using him to get to others because they know the influence footballers have in Britain. "Marcus is vitally important to their plans to expand the church. Through him they are trying to get to other stars."
Gayle's mother, Sonia Downes, revealed: "Marcus has told us he is looking forward to the day when he can convert the rest of the team." Our investigations revealed their next target is hardman Vinnie Jones.
The London Church of Christ already has 50,000 members world-wide, and is one of the fastest growing sects in Britain. It is also one of the most dangerous. Members believe they are the only true Christians. Converts are taught to hate their families, friends and jobs because they are "evil".
Unmarried couples are chaperoned and only allowed to kiss on the cheek, but married couples are set sex targets every week. At the end of the week they are interrogated on the positions they used and number of orgasms they had had. If couples don't meet their targets they have to explain themselves to leaders.
The church, which preaches that all converts must be ready to die for the faith, has been banned from university campuses following claims of brainwashing. The leaders have already persuaded the £5-million striker, who was baptised by being dunked in a water tank, to give his complimentary match tickets to them instead of his family. As Gayle's guests they are then able to infiltrate the Wimbledon players' lounge after games and mingle freely with stars from every Premier League club. The club's manager Joe Kinnear and team captain Vinnie Jones were sweet talked into starring in a video promoting the church - unaware of the sinister plot. On the tape, called Radical Discipleship, Gayle promotes the cult's message while he and his fiance Andrea George, who introduced him to the church, are baptised. Gayle, 26, explains why he and Andrea had stopped living together, and claims his soccer skills are down to being a Christian. He says: "I knew I needed to make a radical change in my life. That's why I became a Christian. "It wasn't righteous to be living together out of wedlock. "I had to make a decision to separate and put our lives with God first. "I've been more confident in my game, scoring more goals, just feeling more at peace with myself."
Last night Vinnie Jones said: "I was asked to do the tape by Marcus's friends. If anyone asked me what I thought of him, I would tell them he is a great player. I know nothing about cults or religion. I'm only interested in shooting and fishing. "Marcus is a workmate. I don't know what is going on in his mind." But The Mirror can reveal how the cult's American leader Mark Templar flew over especially to attend last month's FA cup semi-final against Chelsea to meet the team. Gayle introduced him and the second-in-command of the Church's UK operation, ex-boxer Chris McGrath, to Wimbledon club owner Sam Hammam and chief executive David Barnard. And last week Barnard was concerned enough to ask Ayman Akshar for help too. Gayle's anxious mother says the cult has changed her son. Now instead of socialising, he spends his time between matches and training walking the streets, looking for converts.
"We are desperately worried," Sonia Downes told a friend. "He is totally alien to us. He used to give us tickets for a box. But now he tells us he can't get them. Instead, he gives his tickets to the cult leaders so they can have access to the other players after the games. "They played on his emotions to persuade him they should be going to the games. They never leave him alone. It gives the leaders chance to tell people about themselves. "Marcus told us they want to recruit more top players. But the cult is not interested in their souls, just their pockets. "Marcus is being used to lure other players and fans. He is under their system of mind control. He can't see he is part of a cult." His team mates have been equally shocked by the change in him. "He used to be one the lads. He used to swear, drink, go to night clubs once a week like the rest of the players. He doesn't even swear on the field when he gets kicked," said a club source. "Now he prays before matches, at half time, and afterwards. "Marcus has even talked about giving up football altogether to devote himself full-time to the church."
PALS.. AT A PRICE
FOR a second I wondered if they had been misjudged. There were babies in slings, toddlers crawling under chairs, adults chatting. But I'd been warned by cult expects to expect the smiling, friendly faces of the members in the community hall. I was being "love-bombed" - the technique used by the London Church of Christ to recruit people. I had been invited to the meeting at South Camden Community School by Pat, a 27-year-old student I met on the Tube. She told how, if I was feeling lonely in the big city, it was a great place to meet people. She wanted my work and home phone numbers. Instead, I took hers and we arranged to go along. At the hall, preacher Alex asked the brothers and sisters - as they call each other - to attend a wedding service for Matt and Sarah on Saturday. Pat whispered that many found partners in the church. What she didn't tell me was how the church is against its members marrying those outside the cult, and how it will set out to split them up. And how courtship and marriage is so controlled that you are even told how and when to have sex.
Disciples were collecting green Inland Revenue forms from new converts. I wasn't informed that they had just agreed to sign over a tenth of their gross wage to the church. Cult experts told me that the church raises £70 million a year from its members - most of which is divided between no more than 20 people.
I was starting to feel enormous pressure. They kept asking when I was coming again - it was hard to get out. At the station, I made my excuses to Pat and left. She wanted to visit my home and if I was vulnerable, lonely or unhappy, I might have been tempted to let her.
I know what is going on and I can stop. For those that don't, the brainwashing continues.