Xenos is a Cult.
Ask yourself why Xenos has hundreds of complaints per year of manipulation since the early 1970s. I wasn’t burned, just stunned by what I learned.
— Ex-Xenos Member, 7 Years

Disclaimer: This section was taken from a forum thread with 1,460 replies around the topic of "Xenos is a Cult" This user claims they were an inside member, having spent 7 years at Xenos, lived in ministry house for 3 years, Home Group Leader for 3 years. Half-dozen friends that were elders at one time at Xenos from 1980- current. These are their thoughts, ideas, and words. 


The first time I ever heard the how to address the cult accusation was at a larger leaders meeting taking place at bldg4 in a warehouse off of Sinclair rd in the early 1980s. Martha Mccallum was leading the meeting and she encouraged us to:

  1.  ask for the details of who was being manipulated and how (they won't know the details unless they attended the home group leaders meeting which were always held behind closed doors)
  2.  Claim that you were unaware of any such behavior (this was known by a few of us as the Big Lie because these claims were common and 6-8 per year per home group or 250-400 complaints per year across Xenos)
  3. On the rare occasion someone knows the details and knows you were aware of the behavior suggest that you needed to be involved due to sin in people's lives.(This was a red herring due to the fact that sin problems could have been handled by home group leaders without involving sphere leaders let alone sr pastors and more importantly most of the claims were of ungodly manipulation and gossip by leaders SINNING against members)
  4. When 1-3 fail,(lead people away from actual cause ...sr leadership) claim that the problem comes from young leaders in college ministry houses due to rapid growth. And repeat steps 1-3.
  5. Admit to abuses in the past but suggest an analogy ... as Christians mature in Christ so too can Christian ministries mature in Christ and abuses occurred when we were immature ( albeit 10-20 years old in Christ) Also in the 1980s Dennis and Gary were very clear that there had been abuses in the Fishhouse days. But their point was they knew how they had arisen and had fixed the problem. The fact that they have now come back and openly admitted to abuses in the 1980s seems like more of a methodology.

I remember one elder who claimed to have been gossiped about by Martha. When he confronted her she lashed out with all sorts of false accusations. I was stunned by the exchange. Moments later while I was talking to this elder and trying to calm him down. Dennis came up got in his face and threatened his life if he ever talked to his mother(Martha) again. Dennis was in his 30s at the time and had been leading Christian Ministry for over 12 yrs by then. These sorts of temper tantrums were common place back then and demonstrated the hireling aspect of spiritual leadership that remains at Xenos.

In the 1980s the leaders were held in high-regard by those who didnt know them and low-regard by those who knew them well and had matured in Christ outside of Fishhouse (Xenos). When I would raise any character feedback to any of my other leaders one-on-one I would be met with extreme derision "You are legalistic" was the common reply. Whether it be addiction to porn, addiction to alcohol, filthy coarse descriptions of the women in the homegroup, or gossip and slander, "You are being legalistic," was the refrain. Dennis on down through the elders and homegroup leaders would all say this like some mantra. 

Xenos leaders didn't seem to recognizing the difference between salvation and sanctification. Sanctification was about attendance in meetings, conformity and growth of homegroup numbers at Xenos. I was openly mocked by Dennis for stating that I wanted to work my unwholesome speech and coarse jesting called out in Ephesians 4:29, 5:4! When I turned off a soft core porn movie that had been playing at a Xenos recruting party for non-believers an elder threatened me if I didn't turn it back on immediately. When I refused he took a swing at me and we had to be pulled apart. To be fare to him he had had 6 beers by then and was a mean drunk, so it wasn't surprising to me that he attacked me.

I encourage posters to look for the 5-step approach above when looking at posts defending Xenos manipulation of members. Also remember that I have recently had two friends leave Xenos in the last 3 months both due to manipulation. Also remember if you aren't a Xenos leader you will be unaware of these tactics.

Another Reply from the same member:

"It was common to find out that Dennis knew who I was dating before some of my roommates knew! How scary is that? Each leader was encouraged to keep a dossier on those under his or her leadership. Once I got to know Dennis he was constantly fishing for gossip. His mom and brother's operated the same way. It was beyond weird and immature. Especially for a pastor who had been a pastor for over 12 years at the time.

One of things Xenos members can do is ask their home group leader what info they share to sphere leaders and Dennis about you? Watch them squirm. My most recent friend left after 31 years due to rampant gossip that was unfounded and went on for years after leadership determined it was unfounded. It is one big romper-room over there."


Another Ex-Xenos Member:

Not sure what's going on with the side track, so I'll just throw in another curious thing I remember...

Xenos itself did a study (in the 80's or 90's?) to investigate why they had such a bad rep / reputation as a cult. They were asking random people what they had heard about Xenos and compiling stats (you know how they have that database full of stats on everything. I was always slightly creeped at this seeming attempt to control and measure). 

I remember looking over an old comb bound report they published with their data and conclusions.(Do any old leaders remembers seeing or reading this?! I think the copy I saw was blue.) And I don't remember the conclusions drawn being much more insightful than "haters gonna hate"

It just struck me as so entirely obtuse, that the memory of that study/report really stuck with me. And so representative of the Xenos approach.(Like they don't know why this reputation prevails). "Out of 100 people on the street, how many think Xenos is a cult? What action, if any, should we take? Database says... inconclusive. As you were."




Disclaimer: This was an submission by an ex-member, and their words, thoughts and ideas about Xenos:

Hopefully something here is new / helpful. God used the church powerfully in my own life, but the issues I either personally witnessed or uncovered with some studying are too great to justify staying silent about them. 

1. Spiritual abuse books happened to be making the rounds through the church during the exact same time that there was "open division" in the church which eventually led to 1,000+ members leaving the church during 1992-1994

I am not aware of the true reasons for the split in the 1990's, but it seems likely that it would have occurred at least partially due to ongoing abuse problems in the church that were finally being called out. I attached several pictures from the topix thread that speak on this possibility.

At a servant team meeting maybe a year or two ago that I attended (servant team is a group of 700 or so established, long-term church workers who have been invited to attend), I remember hearing 1992-1994 referred to as a "time for pruning in the church", but a careful reading of Xenos' annual reports and a couple essays written around the time reveal that the spiritual abuse problem was around then just as it is now, and that those 1,000+ defectors perhaps didn't leave because they decided they didn't want to follow the Lord anymore, but instead because they recognized the abuse for what it was. And, they were probably helped in their decision to leave by the following books, both of which had response papers written by Xenos elders:

Toxic Faith 

I have not read this book, but I certainly relate to all of the quotes from it in the Xenos response. The "vague or general features in the morphology of religious addiction" section should be enough for a discerning (i.e. "woke" to the church culture?) reader to realize that there are deeply concerning issues with the response. Please note how the response is uncompromising, and note how similar it is to the process in the picture I attached about how to systematically respond to the Xenos cult accusation (topix4). 

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

I've personally read the book above and found that it spoke directly to my growing concerns about the culture of the church, especially the college group. I'd highly recommend it, assuming that it is read as a tool to understand what is happening. Here's a link to the Xenos response paper. As noted in the intro, this book was floating around during 1993 and was apparently well-known in the church at the time. 

Below I'll make note of a few papers from the Xenos website that are suspicious.

Xenos 1994 Annual Report actively rejects the notion of Xenos being a "healing church"

See the final page, Summary & Vision section. I am concerned that this document displays Xenos leadership not only taking claims of abuse lightly, but lowering the status of those who would be bold enough to speak out. Instead of openly admitting fault for protecting a culture that provoked abusive situations, the author writes statements such as "we are not here to please either our own members or those outside the church" ... "we have never viewed our group as a nice place to hang out and raise a family" (duh, nor did I or the numerous others who worked inconceivably hard but have left and are speaking out) ... "we have consciously turned away from [a healing church as the] definition of a church" ... "God has brought you here so that you may take one of the oars and begin to pull" (is the reader supposed to ignore the ongoing deprivation of their own emotional and spiritual health while pulling? I know that I did and paid for it desperately)

- Also, it is worth reading A Vision of Christian Servanthood in which the vision for the servant team is given

Notice how the vision of the church is entirely focused on working harder (and not necessarily in the way that scripture defines work, but instead as Xenos defines work), during a time when abuse concerns are rising, as the church leadership consciously turns away from defining itself as a healing place. This all seems like a recipe for continual disaster. A quick CTRL+F on the document above yields 38 different instances of the word "work", and literally ZERO for "grace", "rest", "joy", and "love". Imagine the danger of a church taking this kind of direction in ~1993, given how much of the "work" we were doing in Xenos was dubious at best, and manipulating and damaging at worst! No surprise that people continue to leave in a state of profound hurt and anger at the Lord. 

2. Other documents

-  Gossip vs. Conferral

Check pages 5 and 6 for a thorough analysis on how, when, and why to share other people's personal matters regardless of whether or not they were told to you on confidence, along with a scriptural arguments for how "discussing others' sins may be necessary for the healthy working of the local church". I find myself disagreeing with a lot of these points now! These kinds of papers are given to college kids in LTC courses, 80% of which were previously unchurched and have no other notion of what good fellowship should be! Young people, who often are just learning about grace and their own capacity for spiritual work, are encouraged to be leaders... told that it is okay for leaders to "confer" with one another as defined in such papers... and effectively given free reign to make gigantic interpersonal mistakes that cause innocent people incredible grief. 

Propositions on Christ, Career, and Culture

I'm super pissed about this one. I remember sitting in LTC listening to a church elder read it point by point, and being too young to understand that I was being subtly led to think that Xenos is the only place for a self-respecting Christian to follow the Lord. From this paper, I developed not only a sense of personal anxiety but also a sense of mistrust for my own parents and their decisions about money and career. Point #26 is especially unbelievable. In #26 the author mindreads highschoolers and assumes that spiritual ones will want to go to Xenos, and tries to qualify the blatant shiestyness of such a claim with weak qualifiers like the phrase "in some cases". And then, follows it up by declaring that any kid who leaves is following two defined patterns! If a teenager isn't able to compose an enlightening and robust plan for ministry at a distant college, but wants to leave Columbus, they are labeled as "never having served God in the first place" and then mocked about their research credibility. 

This paper is lowkey sickening, but it is aligned with even worse claims that are made to groups of impressionable and likely confused high schoolers every year during College Connection weekends. The thing that a 19 year old is going to retain subconsciously from this document is: that anyone who would consider leaving Xenos is "in some cases" unspiritual, not a servant, lazy, materialistic, a selfish parent, perhaps even a disgruntled ex-fratboy who misses getting ass and blazin' up in college, and so forth. Who is left to make the decision as to how to respond to the "case" that might arise with a person? Probably an inexperienced, young, misinformed discipler partially motivated by an inner desire to derive significance from making sure their personal ministry has a good social standing among the other church members and is likely to use such material as justification for spiritual abuse? ... (if you'll allow me to mindread and negatively attribute in the way that the paper does)

Young students are often not emotionally or spiritually prepared to make a decision for themselves regarding whether or not an organization making these kinds of claims is being honest with them. Especially given that they are probably unaware about how quickly a decision against the church might lose them the social and spiritual structure they have been living under for their formative years. This is wrong. Encouraging young people to sacrifice mightily to lead under this kind of culture is wrong, and I don't give a shit about how old Timothy was in the New Testament. I also don't give a shit about how you decide to apply the one-another passages. Writing this kind of document and protecting the behavior it develops in the young people in the church is wrong.

Point #31 attempts to step things back a little bit, but the lay leaders we were working to raise up were people who have been absorbing the culture of points #1-30 for years and have no other experience with Christianity or the church at large. Again ... recipe for continual disaster.

- LTC 3 lay counseling document

Wish I had this one, but I deleted my LTC material recently in an effort to distance myself from it all. This document contained statements about the importance of pastoral or professional counseling being more of a last resort, and that lay counseling should be tried first. This was also read out loud to students during an LTC 3 course. What is unfortunate here is that the paper was addressed to Xenos kids instead of psychologists. This kind of paper is what led me, as a 21 year old trying to start a career and lead a ministry house, to not recognize or question the great danger of living with roommates struggling with suicidal depression, spectrum disorder, sleep disorders, dyslexia, and a number of others that we as a leadership team were in no way qualified to handle. My roommates & I all desperately needed professional therapy, but are implicitly discouraged from seeking it out by the church culture.  

[Mentioned Images]

 

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Roadmap


  1. Video explaining Xenos  

  2. Why This Site Was Made

  3. Xenos as an abusive relationship 

  4. Independent Documentary explaining Xenos

  5. Public List of Names claiming that Xenos is a Cult 

  6. Xenos and Sexual Misconduct/Abuse

  7. Press Kit for Journalists/You Tubers/Documentary Makers

  8. Mental/Spiritual/Emotional/Relational Recovery

  9. Cult Expert Certification 

  10. Images Section Expanded

  11. Expand Documents


Changelog:

7/23/2018:

8/1/2018:

8/6/2018:

8/17/2018:

8/18/2018:

8/30/2018

9/2/2018

11/29/2018

11/30/2018

12/5/2018

2/27/2019

3/6/2019

3/20/2019

3/29/2019

4/3/2019

5/22/2019

  • Created another stories section, posted one story

6/5/2019

6/8/2019

6/12/2019

7/15/2019

7/25/2019

8/14/2019

8/21/2019





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The Leaders and “Elders” of Xenos have paid the ultimate price by bringing upon themselves a tidal wave of criticism for their controlling, manipulative, and dishonest way of using Christianity as vehicle for control and power.

After 121 stories, several blog articles, thousands of comments, and even having an article on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch - the leadership releases two of the most willfully blind and heartless responses I have ever seen. The issue clearly is within the leadership of Xenos itself, and the complete lack of willingness to actually change a clearly broken system that has resulted in several suicides and intense emotionally trauma is disturbing. You would think it would be the time for personal responsibility and reflection, not bragging about how your church is “serving Christ and our community together.”

Even after having dozens of members leave recently, Xenos leaders refuse to admit the intense pain that is being caused by this groups doctrine. I hope that any leaders who have any respect for the people have been hurt, confront the elders and start to change the group. I doubt this will happen though, silence is common within Xenos.

Elitism and the inability to own up individual to actions has resulted in the mess that Xenos has become. Passive Aggression and corruption reign. This quote summarizes one of the key issues perfectly:


Passive Aggression is a hallmark in this church. Cruel things will be said to you, to put you down or keep you in line, but they will be so smoothly said you will wonder if it was said at all
— Ex-Member

 

Part One: “A Response to the Dispatch Article”

On Monday, November 26 the Dispatch ran a front-page article about our church. The article reported testimonials from several former members who were very critical of their experiences in Xenos. It also consulted three cult or church experts about their view of Xenos. 

There was a consistent theme that people have been hurt by our church in some way and we are grieved that these individuals are suffering. Finding a church that best fits you or serves your needs is very difficult but worth the effort in the end. 

We wish to be very clear. We do not want our members to withdraw from family —in fact, exactly the opposite. We do offer times of fellowship throughout the week and teach people to dedicate time to growing their relationship with God, deepening their friendships and helping others in need. Everything is voluntary at Xenos. People come and go as they please. As a community, it is true that we are not interested in low-commitment versions of Christianity. Xenos is for people who really want to make friends and learn how to grow spiritually together while serving God.

We take very seriously the mental health struggles that many in our society face and often refer members to seek outside counseling and intervention with a medical professional if they feel they have a mental health issue that needs addressed. If Xenos is not a church for you, we understand and hope that you would find another church where you can grow with God and find a deep sense of peace and happiness. 

Regarding the Dispatch article itself, we were also surprised to see how the experts represented our church. Consequently, we contacted these experts. Dr. Scott Thumma responded and said: “I would never disparage a church unless I had direct knowledge of the dynamic.  I did not reference your church in any of my comments to [The Dispatch reporter]; she used my words to make the reference to your church.”

Other scholars, who have spoken at our annual Xenos Summer Institute offer the following comments:

  • Renowned African-American church scholar, Dr. John M. Perkins (who actually has studied Xenos) says, “As one who has visited Xenos a number of times, I know they actually practice the principles in Acts. As an outsider, I see Xenos as biblically and theologically correct, and they have struggled to live that out.”

  • Internationally renowned scholar, John Lennox said of Xenos, “I was most impressed by the passion for Scripture that I saw among the young people that attended Xenos.”

  • Best selling author and scholar, William Lane Craig says, “Xenos is a highly unusual megachurch… People were so enthusiastic, and it was a privilege to be involved in their training.”

In our correspondence with the Dispatch, we suggested interviewing area pastors for a more neutral view of Xenos. A senior pastor of a large area church was interviewed and sent Xenos leaders the positive observations he had shared with the Dispatch. None of his comments appeared in the Dispatch nor the several hundred positive stories that our members shared with the Dispatch before the article went to print.

The article said nothing about the extensive and highly respected work Xenos does with the poor and disadvantaged in our community or our award-winning inner city Harambee school.

Assessing the quality of any large church is a serious undertaking, normally requiring collection of information from many sources, including outside professionals who know the group. This article did not seem to do that serious data collection. 

In closing, we wish to express our sincerity that we want all people to know and grow in Christ. We see this as the most fulfilling way of life. We also want to express how thankful we are for all the people who have come through our doors. We view each and every person as important and we pray they see their value in Christ.   

Both of responses are so far disconnected from the reality of what is happening that is hard to even begin. There is so much broken logic. First of all, if your church is being featured in an article including cult experts, maybe you should reconsider how your group operates.

I am disappointed that no one within Xenos leadership seems interested in change. Instead, they act like the article was unfair. Where are the people in Xenos who want to see real positive change?

They even go as far as to use 5 year old quotes from John Lennox and William Lane Craig, who only briefly taught for an event and then left a generally friendly comment! What does that have to do with anything? This complete misdirection is ridiculous, why does mentioning your summer institute have anything to do with what is happening?

Who else gets a newspaper full of criticism, and then tries to focus on their “award-winning inner city school.” I am blown away how blind this leadership is to how much suffering is being caused by their actions.

Then they go on to suggest that article that was worked on for nearly 4 months didn’t do “serious data collection”? The Columbus Dispatch wasn’t serious? The Dispatch should have reported the article the way Xenos wanted it to be reported- positive, so you can slap it on your website to bring in more recruits? When press is critical you condemn it for not being serious.

The article “said nothing” about the other elements of Xenos, because the article was about the critics of Xenos.

Does anyone in Xenos care about suffering they cause? I hope that the growing faction of people who are questioning leadership starts to stand up to the hypocrisy and bullying and blindness.


 

Consider this quote from an ex-member:

As I said below, the church is VERY careful to present one face to newcomers and people who haven't explicitly "joined", but once you're a regular and a believer you begin to find out how many bizarre things they encourage or demand from members. It varies slightly by group but the overall strategy is the same: to newcomers they project overwhelming acceptance and love, hiding the aspects of their belief they know are unpopular, strange, or downright invasive. They will try to get you to return at all costs, and will pursue you indefinitely (and sometimes even without your permission, in the case of one friend, when xenoids "coincidentally" showed up to an event they saw my friend listed as attending on facebook).

Much of the welcoming love in my experience was genuine, but as I learned later it was more conditional than even they themselves would like to believe. My time in the church was overall very positive, but once I witnessed true abuse I walked away immediately and was immediately forgotten by my "friends" in the church.”

 

Part Two: “Questions people ask about Xenos”

I have left the Xenos response for this section on their site, you can see the headers of the question down below.

This response is written by a Xenos Leader: James Rochford, who makes a salary from the church, and sells his books to the members to read through the groups book stores.

He has written an article about “What is a Cult?” something frequently used to defend Xenos. Defensive articles are common among Xenos leaders. He also opens the statement mentioning “misinformation” which is classical Xenos gaslighting. The group frequently tries to express that they know the correct viewpoint (As illustrated with their critique of the Columbus Dispatch above)

Does the church isolate or alienate people from family or friends?

The will isolate people from friends and family, and will often spread gossip about why members leave. When people are “discipled” by College Students when they are in Highschool, the “discipler” may drive a wedge between the family and the “disciple” subtlety influencing them where to go to college, and to evenutally move into a ministry house.

Why does Xenos have such a weird name?

The group was called the “Fish House” and ran a magazine called “Xenos Magazine.”

The intention of the word is to emphasize the “counter-culture” approach that Xenos presents to the public. (Smoking! No Singing! Flannel! Open Financial Reporting!) even though the group draws heavily from Baptist teachings as Dennis McCallums Father was a Baptist Minister, combined with other influences. This “We are different” attitude is prevalent in Xenos, having their own unique culture, clothing, and style of speech. Xenos views society as worldly, and have created an insular counter-culture - but that counter-culture is corrupt and harmful to peoples psyches.

What are ministry houses? Does Xenos own these houses? Are people required to live there?

Ministry houses are overcrowded houses on campus. “Xenos Christian Fellowship Inc” - does not own them, but Xenos landlords will pay heavy tithes to Xenos. There is an unspoken expectation that you live in the ministry house. The houses are often dirty, dangerous and have leaders who are emotionally abusive, demanding, and invasive.

Why does Xenos practice church discipline?

It is an efficient way to use the bible to control people, and allows the leaders to expel people they don’t want part of the group. It is a method of fear and control and that keeps the ministry house college students in line, out of fear of losing all of their friends, and being expelled into literally homelessness in the middle of a college semester. This also an issue as many High-schoolers do not want to potentially loose their entire friend group by being kicked out.

What is Xenos’ stance toward those who have left fellowship?

The unspoken rule is that they have “Walked away from God.” Members treat people who leave poorly. Xenos members are notorious gossips, and betray personal information once people leave. This is a unhealthy dynamic, and is not respectful of peoples right to privacy and being treated humanely.

What are the limits to authority in discipleship or leadership relationships?

What often happens in Xenos is extremely controlling relationships. The leaders become invasive, gossipy, and more concerned with climbing the ranks with very little regard to others. The discipleship relationships are unhealthy and the numerous stories of parents losing their children are because of a “discipler” taking control over the impressionable minor and causing a fracture in the child’s relationship with the family.

Does Xenos dictate dating relationships or arranged marriages?

“Boys and girls were coerced into dating by disciples and leaders" - There is a date night on the Holden beach trip as well. Members who have relationships with none Christians are harassed and questioned. There is a date night limit, and a 1 am curfew in most ministry houses.

What is Xenos’ stance toward personal finance and spending?

There is expectation of a 5% annual commitment of income to the church. Many purchases revolve around serving the church (SUV’s for driving people, Homes that can accommodate meetings, etc) Again, the unhealthy relationships throughout Xenos result in people having undue weight in suggesting how people should spend money.

Does Xenos discourage higher education?

When students start to apply for college, Xenos holds “College Connection” to convince them to stay. They only want students to go to OSU, Columbus State, or Capital. They imply that God has placed them here in Columbus, and that leaving requires “justification.” This results in students turning down scholarships at other schools. Higher Education is often avoided because of the impossible time commitment of Xenos and College. Xenos stating that they don’t discourage higher education while hosting a event that revolves around recruiting people into OSU “because God sovereignly placed them there” which may cut them off from higher and better quality education elsewhere, is ridiculous.

What is the church’s stance toward psychological disorders or clinical counseling?

Publicly Xenos spreads a “positive” message about mental health, but beyond public eyes members may mock people with issues with mental health who leave, stating that is is because “they have walked away from God’s plan for their life.” Xenos counselors are unlicensed, which is extremely dangerous. It means the church can ask the counselors to share peoples stories, resulting in more gossip and harm.

Does Xenos use spyware on phones?

“The extra rules section is designed to avoid proliferation of rules and of legalism while providing for addition of situational rules. For instance, recently, many houses have added an expectation that those moving in agree to have accountability software installed on their personal computers to avoid temptation to view pornography.” - Dennis McCallum and James Rochford

Does Xenos have an $8 million dollar budget?

Xenos does give to charities, but this doesn’t change the abuse. The leaders all make salaries off this budget, as well as selling books to the congregation. Many disciplers read Dennis McCallums books with their disciples.

Does Xenos teach anti-Semitism?

This is misdirection. They are using a 7 year old accusation as the last statement as a psychological trick to try to cast the other very provable claims as false. They may also be referencing to this forum thread. Again, this is shady psychological trick, because people remember the endings to stories/articles better, and the attempt is to reinforce into peoples mind “That this claim was false so the other claims were false.” The leaders have studied psychology, and have been described as “master manipulators” by the people I have interviewed.

This response is another attempt to undermine the hundreds of people who have spoken up.

I have talked many people out of Xenos the last few weeks, and it warms my heart to see so many people come to their senses after being entrenched within such a painful group for so long.

This group has called massive harm to Columbus, and almost everyone now knows it - Xenos is a Cult.