The roots of Hope Christian Church ASU can be traced back three generations to a Christian church and two Christian organizations which have been widely acknowledged by evangelical leaders and scholars as religious cults. On the first level, Faith Christian Church (Tucson, AZ) is Hope's direct mother church.
NOTE: It is important to note that none of the behaviors epitomized by Faith Christian which are listed here (many of which are present in Hope Christian Church) are considered “normal” for Christian ministries or faith-based groups to engage in. Any ideas such as “that is just how Church-groups operate” would be egregiously in error.
1: Both the lead pastor (Brian Smith), his wife (Wendy Smith), and perhaps other leaders at Hope Christian Church ASU (we do not know for sure), are former elders at Faith Christian Church in Tucson, which last year fell under scrutiny by the University of Arizona for engaging in cult practices, under the guidance of their leader, Steve Hall. Brian Smith, and other members of FCC were sent to ASU to plant an offshoot of FCC.
● Former members and staff members of FCC attest that Brian and Wendy Smith studied directly under the guidance of Steve Hall while leaders at FCC.
● Per his testimony, Brian Smith was also led to become a Christian by Ian Laks, the executive pastor at FCC.
2: There is a Facebook group and website dedicated to supporting former members of FCC and its offshoot churches. This organization lists Hope Christian Church as an offshoot of FCC.
3: Hope Christian Church’s “Statement of Faith” on their website is (still) word for word, exactly the same as Faith Christian Church’s. It should be noted that it is abnormal to find this amongst churches. While the same themes are often present in statements of faith, a word for word rendering is unheard of unless the churches are directly affiliated. The statement reads as follows:
● “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. We believe there is one eternal, almighty and perfect God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory. We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.” ○ An article on the Religion News Blog entitled “Is Faith Christian Church, in Tucson AZ a Cult of Christianity?” points out that this statement of faith does not say anything about salvation by grace through faith (an essential Christian doctrine) but instead stresses “regeneration by the Holy Spirit”. The article’s author says: More often than not, that kind of declaration… is a warning sign , indicating that the church in question emphasizes works (e.g. actions, lifestyle, obedience to leaders, etcetera) over faith.” The point here being that this view of Christianity lends itself readily to authoritarian and controlling practices by a church “Cults of Christianity” nearly always embrace this kind of distorted view of what Christianity is. See Part IV for a comprehensive breakdown of Hope’s cult-tendencies.
4: Many of the practices of Hope Christian Church found in this document closely parallel those of Faith Christian Church
5: Faith Christian Church has been under investigation by the University of Arizona for being a religious cult based on reports from over 20 former members/staff/families
● Likewise, FCC had its membership revoked by the University of Arizona religious council.
6: The “questionable” reported activities of Faith Christian Church include, but are not limited to, the following:
● Attempting to micromanage and control the lives of members
● Implicitly or explicitly encouraging members’ alienation from their families
● Public shaming of members
● Shunning, and perpetuating harmful rumors about former members, or those who question church leadership
● Striking infants with cardboard dowels in order to ingrain submission to authority
● Aggressively pursuing vulnerable students and implicitly or explicitly pressuring students to drop their career goals in favor of working for the church.
● Arranging marriages between members
● Expressly forbidding romantic contact outside of the church (disobedience results in forced sessions to “cast out demons”), and strongly discouraging contact with outside friends or family, if they do not express interest in FCC.
7: A number of former members of FCC have experienced symptoms indicative of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
What Former Members are Saying
"...It is important for us to humble ourselves through this process, pray for God to move, and pray for God to reveal to Brian and Wendy the destruction they have sown through Hope. Pray for their eyes to be opened and for God to break them down to the point of true repentance."