Inside the kidney cult

Ashwyn Falkingham flew to Cyprus to donate his kidney to a stranger, despite his mother’s protests he was being unduly influenced by a religious sect. Lisa Carty reports.

The Jesus Christians, otherwise known as the Kidney Cult, have a golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Ashwyn Falkingham, 23, is now recovering after proving his merit to the sect’s leaders by donating one of his kidneys to a Canadian woman he met online.

Jesus Christians
Cult push for ‘living sacrifices’, Herald Sun, Australia, July 6, 2004
Cult investigated over kidney donations, AAP, Australia, July 6, 2004
Cult leader admits kidney scam, AAP, Australia, July 6, 2004
The ‘Jesus Christians’ movement also calls itself “Followers of the Lamb,” “Rappville Christians,” or simply “Christians.” However, theologically this high-demand group is a cult of Christianity. The manipulative group also displays sociological cultic characteristics.
Among other things, the group insists members reject their families, friends, and jobs. Based in Australia, but is active elsewhere as well (notably, England and India). The movement makes extra-Biblical demands, has a theology based on unsound Bible interpretations.
The group’s leader, David McKay, is believed to be a former member of the Children of God.
While the group militates – often in extreme ways – against established churches, denominations, and Christians who do not share the group’s theology, ‘’Jesus Christians’’ itself appears to have somewhat of a persecution complex.

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Mr Falkingham, of Sydney, flew to Cyprus to give a kidney to Sandi Sabloff almost a year after a Toronto hospital refused to get involved.

The devoted member of the Jesus Christians said he and Ms Sabloff, a 65-year-old retiree who battled kidney failure for 18 years, were a near perfect match, with their organ compatibility rated at greater than mother and son.

“That’s a really good indicator that the kidney will function really well,” he said from the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

“It seems a bit unreal at the moment. It’ll take a while to sink in that it’s finally happened. I feel really good that it went so well. It’s really touching to see the difference it’s making already.”

Ms Sabloff’s partner, Jane Murray, praised Mr Falkingham, saying he had given the gift of life. “She used to be cold all the time; now she’s warm. She used to be yellow; now she’s pink,” Ms Murray said.

“I am absolutely excited to think of her having a healthy future.”

Mr Falkingham and Ms Sabloff were devastated when their first attempt at the transplant was cancelled after objections from Mr Falkingham’s mother, Cate Croft.

Ms Croft, of Enfield, told the Toronto hospital her son had not made the decision of his own free will but had been unduly influenced by the cult and its leader, David McKay, of Waterloo.

She went to Cyprus after a surgeon contacted her to tell her of the pending operation, but was uncontactable yesterday.

Yesterday Mr McKay said kidney donation was not compulsory for Jesus Christians but it was a great way to put the “golden rule” into action.

“Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. If you were sick wouldn’t you like someone to donate a kidney?”

Mr McKay said he had donated a kidney to an American man in 2002 and 19 of the world’s 25 Jesus Christians had also donated.

More people should consider donating a kidney because it was a relatively simple way to change someone else’s life, he said.

The Jesus Christians shun worldly possessions and paid work, instead surviving on donations and scavenged food.

Mr McKay said the group, criticised by former members for cutting them off from their families and taking their money and assets, was misunderstood. The rules had changed since Mr Falkingham had joined so members’ money was deposited into smaller “team” accounts rather than a joint account for the whole group.

He said he and his wife, Cherry, were among just seven Jesus Christians in Australia. They survived on her pension and lived below their means so they had cash left over to fund the group’s education activities in Kenya.

A NSW Health spokeswoman said altruistic kidney donations were allowed in the state as long as they were genuine and not for profit.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday March 29, 2008.
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