Source : Distributed by The Prayerforce Fellowship 1985
In much of the propaganda the Bugbrooke Community claims to be 'within the mainstream of Orthodox Christianity.' In terms of written statement of faith and belief and of public statements before the watching world and Church there is no doubt that there is little evidence of deviancy or heresy with regard to the Christian faith. One may disagree with their theology but cannot challenge it as 'unorthodox'. Their credibility is further enhanced by their affiliation to the Baptist Union and the Evangelical Alliance of Great Britain.
For centuries, however, there has been the danger within 'Christian' churches of an authoritarianism which enslaves the conscience of the individual to the dictates of the Church. Right at the heart of the protestant tradition is the struggle to liberate individuals from the tyranny of a church regime which denies a free conscience before God.
This tradition first began with Wycliffe in the 14th century who in the words of Winston Churchill 'was indignant at the corruption of the Church, and saw in its proud hierarchy and absolute claims a distortion of the true principles of Christianity. He declared that dominion over men's souls had never been delegated to mortals.'
It is a similar indignation that fuels the publication of this pamphlet. How relevant the words of Wycliffe are in respect of the 'proud hierarchy and absolute claims' of the Community at Bugbrooke. How much these words challenge the orthodoxy of the Community within the Protestant tradition.
We live in a country which upholds freedom of religious belief. We cherish the right of the individual to think and preach exactly what he wants! If tomorrow I stood up on a soap box and declared myself to be a forerunner of a new religion I would be entitled to do so and no-one ought to stop me. If, however, I began to compel people to lead a lifestyle which was cruel then every effort should be taken by society to warn against me and restrain me.
In the same vein it is our claim that Bugbrooke is a cult which needs to be opposed NOT because of what they profess publicly to believe but because of the influence exerted over the members' lives.
As a result of extensive research Stoner and Parke (1978), journalists in the USA, listed the main characteristics common to cults. Some of the characteristics, they said, were found in traditional religious groups. However the differences between the cults and traditional groups are more pronounced than the similarities. Conventionally orientated religious groups typically do not isolate people from the outside world. Nor do they demand total loyalty to their group or absolute obedience to the religious leaders. In other words traditional groups accept society's social standards. They do not expose members to rigorous resocialising processes. Nor do they ask their followers to accept doctrines that reject society in order to build a utopia.
1 Cults often have a founder who is still alive and the cult's religious doctrine is largely based upon his revelations and ideology.
2 A cult's religious leader has absolute authority over his members. He will claim his authority is from God.
3 A cult has a body of teaching or 'truth' which is kept secret from the world outside and is only taught to group members.
4 The cult feels itself to be at a higher level of religious experience than other groups or churches.
5 Cults promise salvation for faithful followers.
6 The general treatment of women is restrictive and degrading.
7 Members who leave the group, and cannot be persuaded to return are regarded as rebels and/or traitors. They are blacklisted.
8 All criticism from outside the group is interpreted as being 'persecution'. Within the group cults discourage critical thinking and suppress alternative views of social reality.
9 Members are taught that their first and most important allegiance is to the group. 9Allegiance to natural families is secondary. Often there is a break-down in the relationships between group members and their outside families and friends.
10 Cults create strong feelings of dependency on the group and demand absolute obedience to cult norms or standards of behaviour.
Since these characteristics are largely true of the Bugbrooke Community it is our assertion that this organisation must be regarded as a cult.
J.EVERETT AND P.EVELEIGH