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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.