By Sheila Nykwist
Second-year engineering student Chris Pang made the switch about six months ago. His mother is not happy that he no longer joins his family for Sunday morning service at their Anglican Church. Instead, he gathers in an auditorium at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Educationwith other Toronto Church of Christ members in what he feels is a more loving, and accepting atmosphere.
“Our church is not a regimented cult like [last week’s article] made it sound,” says Pang, referring to a feature piece in last week’s Eyeopener.
He claims practices such as aggressive recruiting, pressure to make donations of time and money and an over-zealous devotion to the church are no longer issues.
“I suppose there may have been a few who had a fundamental streak,” says Pang. “Those few people gave us a bad name.”
According to Pang, the Toronto Church of Christ has gone through a change since last March. Members have more privacy and are merely “recommended” to marry within the church so as to not risk diminishing their faith in God. Weekly donations are not enforced although named envelopes are prepared for members to make contributions. Members are no longer expected to attend three weekly services on top of bible studies. They are merely encouraged.
In terms of a recruitment, Pang sees nothing wrong with the group’s tactics.
“We are definitely less invasive than telemarkers,” saysPang who has experience in the telemarketing business.
He doesn’t think it’s a big deal that recruiters approach students on campus to invite them to bible study sessions.
“I can’t see that as offensive,” saysPang who was approached during his second week of studies by two of the roughly 15 Ryerson group members.
But according to RyeSAC President Ken Marciniec, the group’s tactics are a problem.
“There are concerns with such groups coming on campus, into an academic environment and targetting some of our most vulnerable students.”
For those who claim it is this lifestyle that has ruined their sense of identity, independence and well-being, there is consolation.
“Maybe some things did go badly….,”says Pang. “Let me be the first to apologize if anyone was offended. Everyone in the church feels really bad about it. I hope they can forgive us.”