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Popular London church labelled 'cult' in parliamentary debate

by Cara Bentley

A church accused of safeguarding and financial concerns has been discussed by politicians in the House of Commons. 

SPAC Nation, based in Croydon, is a large church that attracts mainly young, black people in the area. It is being investigated by the Charities Commission and the Metropolitan Police for safeguarding concerns and financial concerns. 

The church says it offers people hope and an alternative lifestyle and encourages people to hand in drugs and weapons, with its website saying it is committed to "seeing the lives of young people being transformed" by mentoring schemes and lifestyle evangelism. 

 

 

However, local MP Steve Reed has given a damning statement against the church in parliament, calling it a cult, accusing the pastors of having sex with young members of the church, coercing teenagers to give them their student loans and encouraging members to commit benefit fraud. 

SPAC Nation denies all these allegations. 

The Charity Commission says it is investigating the church because: it has a substantial amount of wealth in cash, it suspects people had been encouraged to give money to the charity by taking on personal debt and because of "the apparent lack of clarity between the personal, business and charity roles of leaders within the charity."

An inquiry opened on 5th December 2019 and a report will be published when they findings are announced. 

SPAC Nation has been invited to comment. 

Labour's Mr Reed said one of the church's leaders had stood to be a Conservative councilor and that young people from the church shouted abuse at other party canvassers and intimidated voters. 

He explained that when he tweeted about their "unchurch-like behaviour" he was inundated with messages and phone calls from young people and their parents making allegations about the charity. 

"One of the organisation's leaders will start phoning them, sometimes several times a day, they're then given lifts by that individual to meetings, then what appears to be brainwashing starts. They're told that if their life is unsuccessful, if their family is poor, that's because they're not giving enough money to God. They call it 'seed'. If you give 'seed' to God, as much as you can lay your hands on, you will become rich. This is the message they try to pump into these young people's heads."

In the debate, also attended by MPs Florence Eshalomi, Jim Shannon, Siobhan McDonnagh and Marsha De Cordova, Mr Reed also detailed the apparent disparity between the church's members and its pastors.

"The organisation's leaders display extraordinary wealth, they drive cars worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. They wear Rolex watches and expensive designer suits and they live in multi-million pound properties."

He went on to say that he had heard of members being encouraged to break ties with their families and move into properties rented by the organisation, called trap houses, one of which he said is run by a woman with 27 convictions for serious fraud and which houses young girls. 

On Wednesday, Dapo Adegboyega, one of the leaders at the church told the BBC that Mr Reed had spoken to 12 people, not thousands, and that if individuals were found guilty of anything, they would cooperate with the police. 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Helen Whately, revealed her concerns at the MP's testimony. She confirmed that the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into SPAC Nation on 5 December 2019, and that the Commission had also launched a regulatory compliance case in April 2018 and then issued an action plan to SPAC Nation's trustees in June 2019.

The statutory inquiry responded to a failure of SPAC Nation to undertake produce a thorough action plan, she confirmed.

Watch the discussion in the House of Commons.

 

Father, 

We pray for churches to represent you and your goodness, fairness, love and mercy. 

Please may all our leaders uphold your Word and have Godly characteristics. 

May we remember to pray for our leaders. 

We pray for friends of ours who are in churches that are not growing them or are being taking advantage of

Please provide all of us with good teachers and loving pastors who shepherd the flock in a way that honours Jesus. 

Amen.

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