THE diocese of London has issued a “call for vigilance” over concerns that a South Korean cult is seeking to infiltrate churches and recruit members. The warning, sent to all churches in the diocese, is in response to the activities of Parachristo, a new charitable organisation established by members of the Shinchonji (SCJ) — the New Heaven and New Earth Church.
Parachristo supporters have been attending existing churches and inviting members to join them for Bible studies. The group’s links with SCJ are not explained; but lawyers for the group told The Sunday Telegraph, which broke the story, that this was because they did not want to “direct students to . . . false allegations” about SCJ. The link was confirmed if students asked.
The Sunday Telegraph report suggests that people who have attended Parachristo’s Bible studies have become increasingly isolated from their families; it says that one man told his family and friends that he was pursuing a high-flying career in the City, when in reality he was working for the group and living in bunks.
The founder of SCJ, Man-Hee Lee, describes himself as God’s “advocate”. Numerous reports of the SCJ say that he has described the Bible as a “parable” that needs to be interpreted by him as God’s “advocate”.
The Christian website gotquestions.org says that “those involved in SJC are also taught that counter-evidence or other forms of discussion are tests of their faith. This causes them to ignore facts, reasons, and evidence that contradict Lee Man-Hee’s teaching. In some cases, Shincheonji disciples are discouraged from reading the news or using the internet, as these media can contain potentially damning challenges to their faith.”
In addition to his work with the SCJ, Mr Lee leads a number of other organisations, including the peace movement Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light movement (HWPL). This organises international peace summits in South Korea. In 2014, the movement gained notoriety when a HWPL secular peace conference took place at the same time and venue as a SCJ gathering — leaving participants confused about which events were part of which conference.
The HWPL says that “to live according to a Heavenly culture is to live according to the principles and values of heaven, a place that gives light, rain and air without boundaries. It is also to live according to the Creator, who is the foundation of all creation.”
It also says that it “transcends culture, religion, ideology, and boundaries to achieve peaceful harmony in the global society” and is working to achieve “religious harmony — the basis of world peace.”
In a statement, the diocese of London said that Parachristo “has no connection whatsoever with the Diocese of London and has no authority to promote itself among our churches. However, a number of concerns have been raised by parishes about the group’s activities and so a call for vigilance has been issued to all churches in the diocese.”
The Church Times was unable to contact Parachristo for comment. The telephone number listed by the Charity Commission is inoperative and the group’s internet domain has been suspended by its South African-based hosting company.