Morning Star At UNC

This entry has been expanded following helpful emails from various individuals. Many thanks!*

The North Carolina News Observer delves into Christian groups at the University of North Carolina (hyperlinks added):

CHAPEL HILL — “Slaves to Righteousness” reads the slogan on the cover of the handbook of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Alpha Iota Omega fraternity.

…The fraternity sued last year, claiming the university had violated members’ First Amendment rights. The fraternity had refused to sign UNC-CH’s anti-discrimination policy on grounds that it didn’t want to accept non-Christians or gay students.

This is all a bit odd from a British perspective – when I was an undergrad we had official societies that were subsidised, but which anyone could join, and unofficial ones that were self-supporting but made their own rules. I recall the Muslim Society took the former option, figuring that non-Muslims were unlikely to join en masse and take over; the evangelical Christian Union preferred autonomy and hired rooms on that basis. It’s not that difficult.

Back in August the fraternity incident inspired conservative UNC professor Mike Adams in one of his Townhall rants, in which he doled out the email addresses of administrators he felt had done wrong in the hope that a load of wingnut spam would make them mend their ways. But the News Observer has some extra details:

Last week, at a gathering of Victory Campus Ministries, about 50 UNC-CH students swayed, raised their arms and sang, “Sweep me away,” to guitar chords and bongo-drum beats. Two Alpha Iota Omega members were in the audience.

…Victory Campus Ministries and Alpha Iota Omega both have ties to King’s Park International Church in Durham, where many members and former members worship. One of the fraternity’s founding members is listed as a youth minister there.

King’s Park founder Ron Lewis said the church — originally called Triangle Christian Fellowship — grew out of his campus ministry at UNC-CH. Lewis, a UNC-CH graduate, says there is no formal relationship between Alpha Iota Omega and his church, and no effort to recruit students.

…Records of the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office show that Lewis incorporated the Maranatha Christian Church of the Triangle in 1986. In 1990, the documents were amended, changing the name to Triangle Christian Fellowship. In 1997, the name was changed to King’s Park International Church.

Lewis said he left Maranatha in the late 1980s because some of the church’s practices “weren’t the most healthy for Christians to live and grow by.”

Lewis is being coy. As I noted in this blog previously, Maranatha was a Charismatic campus organisation that disbanded in 1989 amidst claims of authoritarianism and “cultlike” activity. However, many of the leaders reformed into a Charismatic denomination named Morning Star International (now called Every Nation); in fact, MSI seems to be a re-branding of Maranatha, and Lewis appears to be among its leaders (I’ve been told that he’s a member of their International Apostolic Team). Also, although the News Observer refers to an NC Secretary of State document concerning his church’s name, it fails to note that in 1990 Lewis also registered another organisation, called…Maranatha Christian Ministries International. What’s more, Lewis’s church planted the Boston Morning Star Church, which in 1990 was known as the Maranatha Christian Church of Boston [SEE UPDATE 2 BELOW]

As it happens, this Boston site also tells us explicitly that Victory Campus Ministries is part of MSI, a detail not included on the VCM site. Also, a reference to Maranatha was actually removed from the MIT chapter of VCM after it came to attention (I was sent an email about this). It’s bizarre that such basic information has to be dug out and assembled like this – just why is there all this secrecy?

The Observer also notes another campus group, but fails to join the dots. We are introduced to Darrell Lucus (sic – the report spells his name wrongly), who tells us that:

“Being a part of a group that’s small and intimate makes you feel wanted,” said Darrell Lucas, a 2000 UNC-CH graduate who joined a group called Waymaker Christian Fellowship when he was a freshman. “I think that’s what sucked me in.”

…But the meetings, church services and Bible studies began to eat into his academic time. His grades dropped and he fell off the honor roll for the first time since fifth grade, Lucas said.

He left after six months, he said, because he began to feel that the group was trying to control him.

Darrell has told me by email that the UNC VCM is just Waymaker renamed, and on his site he explains the connection with King’s Park (hyperlink added):

Waymaker was one of the flagship ministries of an outfit called Campus Harvest, a national network of like-minded campus ministries run by the pastor of King’s Park. While digging for info on them, I saw King’s Park linked on a Web site of former members of Maranatha Campus Ministries, a group I’d read about in several of the spiritual abuse books I’d read over the summer.

Campus Harvest carries the VCM logo. Darrell is very upset with KPIC, Waymaker, and MSI, and writes about the group at length (see here, here, here, and here – and there’s probably more).

I also note that KPIC makes much of a “men’s ministry“, and links to the Men’s Fraternity, which is run by Robert M Lewis. One of Lewis’s books on manhood has been promoted by Doug Giles, whose Clash Church used to be affiliated with MSI through the His People denomination (see here). By happy chance, Giles has written his latest column on “The campus as a mission field“…

UPDATE 1: UNC’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, has a long article on the subject, containing interviews with all concerned.

UPDATE 2: Author Stephen Mansfield has now contacted me with more details about why Ron Lewis kept the Maranatha name for a while. See this entry.

(News Observer link snagged from Cult News Network)

12 Responses

  1. […] today, feelings run high when Maranatha is mentioned: when sz at World O’Crap referenced my previous entry on the subject, a couple of readers added comments to her site about their experiences with the […]

  2. […] were made against another Every Nation outreach, based at the University of North Carolina (see here); and it should be remembered that Broocks was formerly a leader of Maranatha Ministries, a campus […]

  3. […] and Kings Park International Church, which we’ve come across before. With an eye for dramatisation, Noble has employed Terri Schiavo’s attourney David Gibbs in his […]

  4. I have known Pastor Lewis and many of the former Maranath leaders. They did swallow a bad teaching or two that led to an authoritarian approach. Thanks to folks like you they were convinced of the errors and disbanded the denomination.. not rebranded. You would think the cult watcher would rejoice! However it seems you have nothing else to do but “warn.” As a group of Christian leaders, the former maranatha pastors are among the finest I have ever had the honor of knowing. I credit my conversion to faith in Christ to their tireless obedience to witness of his Lordship. Maranatha

  5. […] former Roman Catholic Cardinal Emmanuel Milingo; the neo-Pentecostal grouping now known as “Every Nation“; the pseudo-libertarian “Tory loony right” of the 1980s; Holocaust denial in […]

  6. […] based at King’s Park International Church in Durham, NC. I blogged on this particular church in 2005; it is part of the controverisal “Every Nation” grouping of neo-Pentecostal churches. […]

  7. […] past. Wayne Mitchell formerly pastored King’s Park International Church, which I wrote about in 2005, and which is currently pastored by Ron Lewis. A poster to a critical web forum concerning Every […]

  8. […] Nation Church called King’s Park International Church; I blogged on this particular church in 2005. Ssempa was also a prominent speaker at the Every Nation World Conference in Manila in 2007, and […]

  9. […] in particular in relation to a neo-Pentecostal grouping called Every Nation (e.g. here, here, and here). Also involved with Maranatha in the 1980s – and based in Gainesville – was Lee Grady, who […]

  10. […] Campus Ministries (I previously blogged on this controversial organisation here, here, here, and here). Nuttle has apparently been an advisor to Jim Inhofe, and, among other roles, “a senior […]

  11. […] have since re-emerged as a group of churches called Every Nation (blogged by me here, here, and here; Pastor Terry Jones was also previously associated with Maranatha). Louis P. Sheldon heads the […]

  12. […] have since re-emerged as a group of churches called Every Nation (blogged by me here, here, and here) Louis P. Sheldon heads the Traditional Values Coalition, which is known for anti-gay […]

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