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GODS ARMY ON THE MARCH


A WORRYING CULT OR A CRUSADING BAND OF MISSIONARIES?


Source : 15/06/1989 Kettering Evening Telegraph

The Archdeacon of Northampton tonight accuses the county-based Jesus Army of being 'more like a snatch squad' than a church on a rescue mission.

In a new documentary, the Venerable Bazil March says he sees the militant Christian movement as 'an enclosed cult, which does not do any of the good things it says it does.'

He adds: 'The Rambo jacket uniforms they have chosen is not a uniform of service - it is a uniform of force.'

But Noel Stanton, self-styled founder of the organisation, insists his members are just Bible-believing Christians.

'There are people who want to dub us as a cult but we are very othodox.'

Interviewed for the programme Jesus Army - Church or Cult? (Anglia, 10.35), Mr Stanton says the Army's combat jacket uniform is somewhat identical to its aim of showing that God's people are a true army, headed by Jesus Christ.

His movement, originally formed in Bugbrooke, now has houses throughout the country, two farms, half-a-dozen shops, and a warehouse producing an annual turnover of 15 million for its 'House of Goodness Group.'

Four members of the group, including a family doctor and a former drug user, talk tonight about the benefits the church has brought to their lives. But different stories are told by former members.

A former member says he was very vulnerable when he joined in 1982 and it took him nine months to leave because he believed he would go to Hell if he left.

Another former member, who spent six months in the community with her daughter, says the church encouraged her to discipline her child. 'They decided I should start rodding her if she was naughty - with a long piece of bamboo. But I didn't do that.'

She says it was a big mistake to join and she was glad to be out. 'I would never ever recommend anyone else doing it. It is so difficult to get out once you are in. You are just sort of sucked in, deeper and deeper.'

Mr Stanton admits the church recommends corporal punishment. A smack on the arm or the legs is suggested for children between the ages of two and five and the slipper can be added from time to time for older children, he says.

But he urges: 'Do it with care and don't do it unless you have to and make sure everything is done in love and not anger.'

Of the Army's rapid growth, he says: 'I believe that God is on the march. I believe that many, many groups are being renewed, and revitalised in the Holy Spirit and we are just one of them.'