The Family International
The Family International is a Christian cult formerly known as the Children of God, The Family of Love, and The Family. They have operated under many additional names through various fronts and projects. This group is the primary focus of this website.
The Family International was founded by claimed prophetic leader David Berg in 1968 in Huntington Beach, California, USA. It sprang from the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s, with many of its early converts drawn from the hippie movement. Due to its unusual emphasis on total commitment, it triggered the first organized anticult group (FREECOG), and the unconventional sexual practices which soon followed within the Children of God solidified its place among the movements prompting the cult controversy of the 1970s and 1980s in the United States and Europe.
As The Family grew and expanded around the world, so did its message—salvation, apocalypticism, spiritual "revolution" against the outside world they called "the System"—and resultant controversy. During the early to mid 1970s, the group initiated several radical methods of evangelism, including Flirty Fishing—using sex to show God's love and win converts and support.
Today, The Family's leadership is headed by Berg's widow Karen Zerby, under whom the group has both bowed to several reforms and initiated additional unconventional doctrines, including the "Loving Jesus revelation" which encourages members from the age of 14 to engage in a sexual relationship with Jesus.
The group's liberal sexuality and its publication and distribution of writings, photographs and videos advocating and documenting adult-child sexual contact and the sexualization of children have led to numerous reports of child abuse. Family leadership, admitting only that that some children were abused from 1978 until 1986, created policies prohibiting excessive discipline or any sexual contact between adults and minors. From 1989 until the present, The Family has issued numerous contradictory statements regarding when it enacted these policies and what these policies were. The Family has stated at various times that it banned and made adult-child sexual contact an excommunicable offense in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989. Investigations in several countries have found The Family to currently to be a safe environment for children, but such investigations have also brought to light a troubled past. Many critics do not trust The Family to police itself today, due in part to the group's policy of not turning child abusers over to civil authorities, and only excommunicating members who abused children after July 1989. The Family requires individuals who report child abuse to a law enforcement agency or pursue legal action against an alleged abuser to leave the group's communal homes and move to a lower commitment membership status until the matter is resolved, after which they must reapply for their former membership status if they wish to return.
The Family's leadership believes these issues have been settled by its public apologies, but many former members are not satisfied, and are attempting to focus media attention and criminal investigations on the group.
- Main Page
- Name Changes: From Children of God to The Family International