Sydney church rejects cult claims

National9News/March 20, 2005

A western Sydney church has hit back at claims by some former members that it is a cult.

A group that last year quit Parramatta's Redeemer Baptist Church, some of whom were teachers at the church's school, are now claiming $6 million in lost wages, the Nine Network reported.

Grahame Glossop, an accountant and parent of a former student, told the network one teacher had been paid as little as $11,000-a-year while working at the school.

The ex-members claim the church is a cult - allegations backed by Baptist Minister Reverend Tim Costello.

"They've (former members) been hurt by what really is an authoritarian leader in what amounts to, in my view in its practice, a cult," Rev Costello told the Nine Network.

Redeemer elder Russel Bailey rejected the claims.

"No, we are not a cult, we're a Christian ministry," Mr Bailey told the network.

"The control and manipulation stories are all about this $6 million."

Former member Alan Nutt said the church's actions had damaged many people.

"I think the control has resulted over the years in very serious damage to many many lives, both young people and old people ... ," Alan Nutt said.

Mr Bailey would not comment further but a statement released by the church said the allegations "are ridiculous".

"Key religious figures including the Reverend Fred Nile and the Reverend Gordon Moyes, both of whom have been connected with the church over many years, have also rejected this unproven allegation," the statement said.

"A small group of ex-members of the church are using what's been described in parliament as 'naive media' to further their claim for $6 million by making these silly statements.

"That financial claim is also ridiculous and without foundation."

The church said 16 of its members, including seven who were teachers at the church's school, left last year "without giving reasons."

Nine former members had claimed a total of $6 million in back-pay, it said.

The church, which was founded in 1974, claimed the members had signed ministry orders "accepting the lifestyle and conditions of the church" and were paid a small amount and given housing and transport in return.

The Nine Network's Sunday program will air a full report on the claims.

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