Hundreds of British churches, including some of the UK’s largest congregations, have been warned against possible infiltration by a group called Parachristo, reported to be a cult which has links to a controversial South Korean group called Shinchonji.
The warnings, reported in The Telegraph, revealed that the Church of England (CofE) has issued a formal alert to almost 500 parishes in London about Parachristo, a registered charity that runs Bible study courses at an anonymous industrial unit in London Docklands.
However, it is understood to be linked the South Korean group also known as the ‘New Heaven and New Earth’ (NHNE) church, whose founder Man-Hee Lee is referred to as God’s ‘advocate’.
The CofE has claimed some of those who become involved with the cult gradually withdraw from friends and family and actively lie about their real lives. Some are said to have given up their jobs or university courses. Members of the group are alleged to have visited large evangelical congregations in London inviting worshippers to special study groups.
One British man is said to have gone to work with the group full time, sleeping in bunks while telling family and friends he was busy pursuing a high-flying career in the City.
London church Holy Trinity Brompton, where the Alpha Course was born, has warned its congregation about Parachristo, after it was formally registered with the Charity Commission in summer 2016, as a religious organisation operating ‘throughout England’ for the benefit of ‘mankind’. Its official aims are stated as advancing Christianity by running Bible classes to ‘strengthen the commitment of members of the religion’ and ‘enlighten’ others.
According to The Telegraph, in a message to all clergy in London last year, the diocese of London’s safeguarding team said there had been complaints about the group. Rev. John Peters, rector of St Mary’s London, also posted a warning on his church’s website referring to Parachristo as a ‘cult’.
In a response to The Sunday Telegraph, the directors of Parachristo confirmed that Parachristo shared the same teaching as the South Korean church, saying: ‘Parachristo was set up by members of NHNE church to teach God’s revealed Word through the Bible to people’.
It also claimed that the group does not ‘instruct’ students to attend other churches, to invite people on courses and are ‘free to attend any church they wish … and invite their friends to a Bible study if they wish’.