Is Faith Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona, a Cult of Christianity?

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Faith Christian Church

This cult-like church has a number of affiliates with different names.

  • The University of Arizona is investigating Faith Christian Church (Tucson, AZ) a religious group that more than 20 former members and staffers describe as a cult. The church, which is led by a “self-proclaimed former criminal,” has operated on the UA campus for 25 years. It is initially welcoming, then slowly imposes control over most facets of members’ lives, an Arizona Daily Star investigation found.
  • Faith Christian Church was originally an off-shoot of Florida-based umbrella group Maranatha Christian Ministries. Maranatha’s authoritarianism and lack of financial accountability was sharply criticized in a 1984 report by a committee of Christian scholars. See this article from the Cultic Studies Journal1. The Daily Star says that many of the report’s criticisms echo the stories from ex-members of Faith Christian in Tucson. The paper also lists a number of the church’s offshoots/affiliates.
  • Sociologist Dr. Ronald Enroth addressed Maranatha Christian Ministries in his book, Churches That Abuse (full text online, with permission). See chapter 5, Abusive Churches Use Fear, Guilt, and Threats, and chapter 7: Abusive Churches Foster Rigidity
  • Cults can be defined theologically and/or sociologically2. The Daily Star‘s investigation does not delve into the church’s theology, but as Jan Karel van Baalen said, “Bad doctrine produces bad fruit behaviorally … which is as true for Christians as it is for cultists.”
  • In many cases an abusive church will have a more-or-less standard Statement of Faith to which lip service is paid in public, while in private the ministry’s doctrines and practices turn out to be different.

    The official website of Faith Christian Church in Tucson includes a Statement of Faith that is fairly common, except that most such statements normally include a reference to the fact that Christians have been saved by grace through faith:

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” — Ephesians 2:8

    This is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, and should not be missing in such a public profession of beliefs.

    Instead, Faith Christian Church includes this statement:

    We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.

    More often than not, that kind of declaration — especially when it is not balanced by a reference to the doctrine referenced in the Scripture quoted above — is a warning sign, indicating that the church in question emphasizes works (e.g. actions, lifestyle, obedience to leaders, etcetera) over faith.

    The Bible teaches that faith and works go hand in hand.

    Churches that reject the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith are, theologically, cults of Christianity.3

  • Theology has to do with the doctrinal reasons why a particular group’s beliefs and/or practices are considered unorthodox.

    Sociology takes into consideration the actions of a group or movement (e.g. deceptive recruiting, undue pressure on members, forced separation from family and friends).

    A church that is theologically a cult does not necessarily behave like a cult as defined sociologically. However, many churches whose core doctrines define them as, theologically cults of Christianity also have cult-liked tendencies as defined sociologically.

  • The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) defends the church, but that doesn’t necessarily count for much.
  • Faith Christian Church‘s official website; Former Members of Faith Christian Church and its Offshoots (Facebook); Related: Former Members website, last updated in October, 2012.

Faith Christian’s affiliates

Faith Christian lists six affiliate branches, including one at Northern Arizona University, and ranging from Colorado to Florida to New Zealand.

The affiliates all recruit members at nearby universities. In response to inquiries from the Star, most of those universities say they either have had no formal complaints about the campus ministries, or only anonymous complaints.

Here are the names of the affiliates founded by Faith Christian members and the universities where they recruit:

New Life Christian Church in Flagstaff (Northern Arizona University)

Grace Christian Church in Fort Collins (Colorado State University)

New Covenant Christian Church in Albuquerque (University of New Mexico)

Cornerstone Christian Church in Tampa (University of South Florida)

Resurrection Church in Boulder (University of Colorado)

Palmerston North Victory Christian Church, in Palmerston North, New Zealand (Massey University)

Two other branches — Hope Christian Church in Tempe, which recruits at Arizona State University, and Living Hope Christian Church in Las Cruces, which recruits at New Mexico State University — are run by former Faith Christian pastors but are not listed on its website.

Hope Christian Pastor Brian Smith, who was formerly with Faith Christian, says his church is “built on a different philosophy” than Faith Christian and that the two are not affiliated.
– Source: Carol Ann Alaimo, Emily Bregel, Arizona Daily Star, Mar. 7, 2015

Islam-inspired Terrorism

  • Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott says that his government must work effectively with community leaders to prevent young Australians from becoming radicalised through online channels and foreshadowed the launch of an important campaign to tackle the brainwashing.
  • Attorney-General George Brandis in December announced a $17.9 million plan for a suite of measures to monitor online extremist campaigns. The measures include monitoring of social media, taking down of terrorist websites and postings, and funding for civil society groups to publicly contest extremist messages.
  • Meanwhile, the terrorist group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the so-called ‘Islamic State.’ Birds of a feather: savages and barbarians joined by an extremist interpretation of islam. In an audio message the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, says Boko Haram would obey IS “in times of difficulties and prosperity.”
  • But will ISIS/ISIL/’Islamic State’/Daesh want to partner with Boko Haram? One blogger provides 5 reasons why that is not likely.
  • Despite efforts by women’s groups, thousands of Nigerian widows struggle to survive because of Boko Haram’s insurgency.
  • Speaking of barbarians and savages: Saudi Arabia has rejected strong criticism from a German ambassador over the treatment of a liberal blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison for insulting Islam in his blog. The kingdom “expresses its intense surprise and dismay” over international criticism of the sentence, and says it “does not accept any interference in its internal affairs” and said its judiciary is impartial and independent. The statement added that the kingdom’s constitution, based in Islamic law, ensures human rights. Clearly, Islamic law (Sharia) and human rights often are incompatible.
  • On our Twitter stream we often use the hashtag #DarkAges when referring to Islam-inspired evil. For instance, when pointing to an article titled, “Taliban Assassins Target Pakistan’s Polio Vaccinators.” Most Muslims reject the Taliban as a cult of Islam.
  • The vast majority of Muslims — from whichever sect of Islamdo not support terrorism. But those who do are clearly motivated by their interpretation of fundamentalist Islam.
  • A snarky website at keeps track of the evil committed in the name of Islam: 25286 deadly terror attacks since 9/11.
  • Incidentally, from September through December 2014, it is estimated that at least 46,000 Twitter accounts were used by ISIS supporters, although not all of them were active at the same time. Download the Brookings Institution report, The ISIS Twitter Census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter

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  1. Published by the cult experts at the International Cultic Studies Society (ICSA)
  2. Note the difference between theological and sociological definitions of the term ‘cult.’
  3. It should be noted that we have not performed an in-depth examination of the teachings of Faith Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona. We are here merely providing an opinion based on the information stated. We encourage readers to examine the church’s teachings and actions, as well as the research resources we link to.
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 9, 2015.
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