MILLENNIUM RENEWS CONCERNS ABOUT CULT
Jan. 1, 2001 - Denver Post - Kevin Simpson - The millennial madness of 1999 passed without incident, but as
2000 drew to a close, observers of the reclusive religious group Concerned Christians wondered if the violent, apocalyptic prophesy of Monte Kim Miller, the group's Colorado-born leader, was merely postponed, according to an avid cult watcher.
They were all asking, "Is it going to happen now?" according to Mark Roggeman, a Denver police officer who stays in touch with relatives of those in the group. "It's like the anniversary of everything that was supposed to happen but didn't happen last year."
Miller, spiritual leader of the Concerned Christians, disappeared from Denver with about 70 followers in September 1998 on the heels of his prediction that the city would be destroyed by an earthquake the following month.
People literally walked away from jobs, houses, financial obligations and relationships to follow the now 46-year-old, self-professed prophet, who grew up in the farm community of Burlington and later left a marketing career to speak out against the New Age movement and cult activity.
Eventually, he developed his own brand of Christianity. Miller had no formal religious training and claimed his knowledge to be divinely inspired. He ran Denver area Bible study groups, squeezed worried relatives of his followers for money, showed a fascination with numerology and claimed that he spoke with the voice of God - even asking one woman to pray for his investments.
Part of Miller's prophesy was that he would die on the streets of Jerusalem in December 1999 and then be raised from the dead three days later. That pronouncement ultimately fizzled, but it worried Israeli authorities - and relatives of Miller's followers - as the millennium approached.
In January 1999, Israelis rounded up 14 members of the group who'd settled in Jerusalem - Miller was not among them - and deported them to Denver. The group dodged waiting family members at Denver International Airport, holed up in a downtown hotel for more than three weeks, then left for Greece.
The following October, Israel turned back members of the group - again, no Miller - who were trying to enter the country. Sixteen others were rounded up last December by Greek authorities and sent back to the United States, where they met only briefly with some family members who traveled to New York to meet their plane.
But since then, the only news of what is now believed to be about 100 Concerned Christians has been a mixture of rumor, hearsay and occasional e-mails as members of the group have been reported to be anywhere from south New Jersey to Pittsburgh to Mexico to England to Greece.
"You'd think, with all the people looking for Kim Miller, somebody would have come up with him by now," says David Cooper, whose brother remains with the group. "But for all intents and purposes, nobody's found him. It appears Kim is never really with this group. Every time they're captured or deported, there's no Kim Miller."
As 2001 approached, relatives of the members of Concerned Christians wondered whether Miller had altered his take on the apocalypse by simply altering the calendar.
"I was hoping this would have been resolved in 1999, at the end of the year," says Sherry Clark, whose daughter and her family disappeared with the group. "But on some calendars, this is the beginning. Kim Miller likes to change things."
Clark recently returned from a trip to Israel, where hostilities have escalated in recent months. "If Kim Miller is, in fact, in Jerusalem, he could easily be killed, and very noticeably so," Clark says, referring to the prophesy. "If he is there, that could surely happen easier than it could a year ago."
The combination of whole family units within the group, and the fact that most members are believed to be more or less isolated outside the United States, could help Miller withstand any challenges to his unfulfilled prophesy,
"Usually, when things haven't happened, people start walking away," he says. "I'd give a million dollars just to know how he corrected the false doctrine he made. He had to do something."
Bill Honsberger, the Conservative Baptist missionary who has tracked the group for years, hesitates to put himself in Miller's shoes and venture a guess at how he might continue to hold sway over his followers. But he allows that the millennium controversy could offer an explanation.
"How best to explain what didn't happen last year except to say it will happen this year?" he says. "He has the benefit of blind trust, so he doesn't have to rationally explain things. But if I were in his shoes, that would be something to say. Even some secular Y2K fanat ics say the same thing." Although concerns about the group have centered on the possibility of some kind of suicide pact playing off Miller's prophesy, not all family members believe that threat is real.
David Cooper, whose brother, John Cooper, is believed to be helping to finance the group, says he has listened to Miller's audiotapes and studied his doctrine. And while he allows that Miller's prophesy foretells a violent end
for the leader himself, Cooper doesn't necessarily see that as foreshadowing death for the rest of the group.
"Initially, I was convinced he was a dangerous guy," says Cooper. "But from ongoing e-mails with my brother, I was much less inclined to think so. It was pretty clear that the prime objective there was not a suicidal end. It
might've been martyrdom for Kim Miller, but suicide and ending the cult in that manner was not to be found anywhere in anything I read, and my brother basically confirmed that, saying suicide is not a Christian virtue.
"For Kim Miller to live that prophesy, that's fine. I have some real questions whether he has that type of commitment, but I don't know him. Maybe the guy is just far enough down the road that, as far as he's concerned, whatever he has to do to make that happen he will do. That's always a possibility." Thirteen
months ago, Cooper was briefly reunited with his brother, now 66, in New York after some of the Concerned Christians were expelled from Greece. He realized it might be their last meeting.
"I considered it my resolution," says Cooper. "I saw him one more time. I got to talk to him for a minute, express my feelings for him. But in a way, I felt this was what I had to do, put a certain level of closure on things. I think
about my brother, but realize I may never see him again alive." Norm Smith traded e-mails with his adult son, Terry Smith, several times before the tone of the responses simply became too harsh to bear. Still, Smith sent his son a Christmas message a week before the holiday.
"I pray for them almost every day," Smith says. "I'd like to see him again, but if I don't, I don't. He's in God's hands." [Source: http://www.denverpost.com/news/news0101b.htm ]