After attending a conference of the International Cultic StudiesAssociation (ICSA) in Dallas, Texas in June, Rev. Dr. Neil Damgaard shared itseffects on how he ministers in his role as Protestant Chaplain at UMassDartmouth and as senior pastor of Dartmouth Bible Church.
“It was an incredible conference,” Damgaard said. “There is aconference every year, alternating between North America and Europe.
According to Damgaard, the ICSA has sponsored an annual conferencefor the past 20 years, meeting last year in Stockholm, Sweden and next year inBordeaux, France. It attracts researchers, therapists and cult survivors fromall over the world. “This year, a presentation was made about rapid cultgrowth in Japan where they are heavily recruiting and the collaboration of agrowing number of Japanese universities cooperating on support for providingcult awareness to incoming students in their schools.
“Also, four Chinese researchers presented a seminar on researchmethods used in studying cult growth in China. This conference also includedattendees from Poland, France, Sweden and Germany as well as many from theUnited States.
“There are an increasing number of groups having a huge effect onsociety,” he said. “Cults, or as we call them — destructive groups — are verytroublesome. It is our goal to help people recover from the hard experiencesthey have had, some lasting over decades. Many times there is abuse and trauma.
“These groups have a distinct effect with mind control,” he said.”There is always a very authoritative structure with usually one or twopeople in charge. They are also the ones who control the finances.
“Many of the groups practice polygamy,” Damgaard said.”One man had 17 wives and 169 children. There is a sociological effectwhen someone has 168 siblings, 16 mothers and one father.”
According to the pastor, many of the groups claim to be“Bible-based.” They quote the bible but twist its meaning to be verydestructive.
“I am the gatekeeper,” he said, speaking of his roles at the collegeand the church. I have to be on alert. The conferences and education equip meto recognize the signs.”
Rev. Robert Pardon and his wife, July Pardon, directors ofMeadowHaven in Lakeville, accompanied Damgaard and presented the keynotelecture to 200 conferees on “Forgiveness and Healing as Trauma Recovery.”
They also presented two seminars with Rev. Damgaard on the “safehaven” church concept and on the “therapy/spiritual” model of recovery.
Damgaard has a master’s degree in Theological studies and adoctorate in ministry from Dallas Theological Seminary. Rev. Pardon, hasmaster’s degree of divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and amasters in theological studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, and JudyPardon, has a master’s degree in education from Boston University.
They operate MeadowHaven, a facility where former members of highcontrol, destructive groups — also known as cults — can experience healing andrestoration. According to Damgaard, healing is found through healthyrelationships with former members who have experienced the same type ofmind-altering control. Supportive staff assists with situations includingthought reform, identity confusion and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Rev. Pardon and Rev. Damgaard are collaborating with ICSA indevelopment of a new support network of “safe haven” churches and are availableto present their seminar in our area. Rev. Pardon can be contacted email@example.com Rev. Damgaard atNeilDamgaard@DartmouthBible.org.
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