A Cbristian College of Arts and Sciences

june 1, 1996

Mr. Friedrich Griess
Doppelngasse 117
A-3412 Kierling

Dear Mr. Griess:

Thank you for your patience while awaiting a response to your letter of April 16. As a result of my research and writing on the topic of cults and aberrational Christian groups, I am overwhelmed with letters and telephone calls related to that subject. It is difficult for me to keep current with my correspondence and I appreciate your understanding.

First, you need to know that I have not researched or written about "Smith's Friends." I first heard about the group when Mr. Millard Melnyk contacted me a year or two ago. Therefore, I greatly appreciate your sending me the information about this group--it will be a valuable addition to my files. There are so many of these small groups here in the USA that it seems I learn about a new one each week.

From the information you supplied, it seems clear that Smith's Friends fits all the criteria I identify as characterizing what I call an abusive church. Perhaps Mr. Melnyk told you about my last two books on this subject: Churches That Abuse (1992, Zondervan Publishing House) and Recovering From Churches That Abuse (Zondervan Publishing House, 1994). Both are available in international editions at Christian bookstores, if you are interested. I just learned that Recovering From Churches That Abuse is going to be translated into Swedish--and that pleases me because I am a Swedish American.

You ask about Dr. Lowell Streiker. Yes, I am familiar with him and I have read two of his books. I met him about 10 or 12 years ago. Most of what I know about him is not very current. I do know, however, that his views on cults (or "sects" as they are often called in Europe) have changed drastically over the years. When I first knew of him and met him, I think it is fair to say that he was in the anti-cult camp. He was actively trying to get people out of cults. But that all has changed and I don't know why. He is not very active in professional or academic circles and his name does not come up often in pro-cult circles and publications--he apparently does not associate much with other cult apologists--and Iím not sure why that is the case. In any event, he doesn't have much of a reputation and is not well known. Therefore, I think the label "expert" is misapplied.

I know something of Dr. Streikerís background and early religious orientation and it is clear to me that he has changed his religious views dramatically over the years. At the outset, he was quite conservative in his theology. Over the years he has moved away from that conservative or moderate theological/religious background towards a much more liberal orientation--as evidenced by his apparent association with the United Church of Christ--one of the most liberal of the Protestant denominations in the USA. By the way, you referred to it as a "cult" in your letter and that is incorrect. It is an established church or denomination with a traditional Christian background, although it has become very liberal theologically and ideologically--which fits Dr. Streikerís current life situation I would guess. The fact that he has changed his views so much over the years suggests to me a certain instability about the man and his thinking.

There is not much more that I can say with regard to your inquiry about Dr. Streiker because I know very little about his current situation. In fact, when Mr. Melnyk brought up his name to me, it was the first time in years that anyone had mentioned his name to me. He (Streiker) is not in the mainstream--very few know of him or what he is doing now.

Thank you again for contacting me and sharing the information with me. I wish you well in your efforts.


Ronald Enroth, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
955 La Paz Road
Santa Barbara, California 93108-1099
(805) 565 6776


A Cbristian College of Arts and Sciences


Ronald M. Enroth

Dr. Ronald Enroth, Professor of Sociology at Westmont College, is a graduate of Houghton College (N.Y.) and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Kentucky. He has also done post-doctoral study at Harvard University. An acknowledged national resource person on cults and new religious movements, Dr. Enroth has spent more than two decades researching and writing in the area of current religious movements. In addition to many journal and magazine articies, he has authored or co-authored nine books, including: The Jesus People (Eerdmans, 1972), Youth, Brainwashing and the Extremist Cults (Zondervan, 1977), A Guide to Cults & New Religions (InterVarsity Press, 1987), The Lure of Cults & New Religions (InterVarsity Press, 1987), Evangelizing the Cults (Servant Publications, 1990), and Churches That Abuse (Zondervan, 1992). (The latter was voted as one of the top ten books of 1992 in Christianity Todayís Readers' Poll). Professor Enroth's latest book entitled, Recovering From Churches That Abuse, was published in July 1994 by Zondervan Publishing House.

Dr. Enroth has conducted seminars and lectured on cults and new religious movements throughout North America and has appeared on numerous radio and TV programs in connection with his research. He was the 1982 recipient of the Leo J. Ryan Commemorative Award given annually to the individual judged to be most active in focusing public attention on the dangers of destructive cults. The award is given in memory of those who died in Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978

Enroth has contributed to The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and the Dictiorary of Christianity in America. He serves on the editorial board of the Cultic Studies Journal and was formerly social science editor of the Christian Scholar's Review. His professional memberships include: American Sociological Association, Association for the Sociology of Religion, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the American Academy of Religion.

His work has been mentioned in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, Christianity Today, and many other periodicals.

955 La Paz Road
Santa Barbara, California 93108-1099
(805) 565-6000