NIU plays role in church history

By Kevin Lyons

Editor’s note: This is a second in a two-part series on a church in DeKalb accused of cult-like tactics. A follow-up on Monday will include conversations with Mike Kwasniewski, church leader, and several members.

“Some college administrators have become concerned about cult activities on campus and have taken action to address the situation, but many others have failed to recognize the threat, have refused to deal with the problem.”

The above statement is from a September resolution by the Illinois State Senate to hold public hearings on cult activities on Illinois college and university campuses.

The Senate held hearings on Tuesday of last week in Springfield and will continue Nov. 4.

According to the former lead evangelist for the Boston Church of Christ in DeKalb, Kyle Egge, NIU is one university that dropped the ball on the cult issue which indirectly led to a movement now taking the world by storm.

The Chicago Church of Christ was planted in about 1982. This was the second major urban hub for the group, the first being Boston. It was thanks in large part to the several hundred converted NIU students that the Chicago Church of Christ was founded.

The Boston movement has since spread to New York City, Paris, London, Johannesburg, Stockholm, Dallas and Kingston, Jamaica.

A Boston Church of Christ leader who came to NIU in 1978 is credited with the massive church growth. Marty Fuqua, the former leader, sent 30 NIU students to Oak Park, Ill., which blossomed into the Chicago Church of Christ.

Egge, former lead evangelist for the Boston Church of Christ at NIU, said he placed at least three calls to university officials in the NIU Student Affairs office between 1988 and 1990 in hopes of setting up meetings with NIU officials to discuss the dangers of the Boston movement.

“Nobody would even meet with me. They basically just said thanks, but we’re not interested,” Degge said.

Degge is hoping for a better response from Illinois legislators this time around.

“Now elected officials are finally catching on after 15 years,” Degge said in response to the Senate resolution to solicit testimony from former cult members, college administrators, campus security, families of cult members and others.

College campuses have always been the primary stomping grounds for the Boston Church. The initial movement was known as Crossroads. Very early roots can be traced to the University of Florida in Gainesville, NIU and Eastern Illinois University in the 1970s.

One of the primary causes of concern from church critics is in the area of discipleship where members are instructed to obey the authority of their disciplers.

“The only time he (the discipler) is not to be obeyed is when he calls you to disobey Scripture or disobey your conscience, and even if he calls you to disobey your conscience, you still have an obligation to study it out and prayerfully change your opinion so you can be totally unified,”—Boston Church of Christ Leader Kip McKean speaking at the 1987 Boston Seminar.

Degge noted other problems. He said potential members get sucked into a whirlpool motion from tactics including a rigorous indoctrination regimen where baptismal candidates are asked to count the costs which may include forsaking their families, friends, etc.

They also must acknowledge they were never Christians until they became baptized members of the Boston Church.

He said many strategies are used to pressure recruits into writing a “sin study” detailing every sin they’ve ever committed. Several other sources mentioned the sin studies or “sin lists.”

Prior to baptism, church leaders are instructed to “break” (Church of Christ language) recruits until the candidate is virtually reduced to tears.

Degge stressed the importance of distinguishing the Boston Church of Christ from the mainstream Churches of Christ and the United Church of Christ.

“They’ve been hiding behind the mainstream churches for decades,” he said.

Degge said the church now refers to itself as the International Church of Christ. “They’re great chameleons. They love to change so you can’t put your finger on them.”

Kwasnieski told The DeKalb Chronicle that Boston Church of Christ Leader McKean was fired for practicing unsound doctrines. He also said his church is now known as the International Church of Christ. However, Kwasnieski told The Northern Star that McKean is still a leader in the movement.