Note: Many Christian ministries use the name ‘Agape Ministries.’ This entry concerns a religious group with properties in and around Adelaide, South Australia, and led by Rocco Leo.
- Names of the group as reported in news media: Agape Ministries of God, Agape Ministries International, Agape Ministries
- Leader: Rocco Leo, ‘known to converts as the benevolent “Brother Rock”.’ Some media outlets: ‘Brother Roc.’
- In a May 20, 2010 raid on 12 of the group’s properties police seized an arsenal of weapons, high-powered ammunition and explosives
- Media refer to the group as a Doomsday Cult, but one report notes “Police say there is no evidence the group is a Doomsday cult but allege the group was amassing weapons and planning to move to a Pacific island.”
- The group reportedly believes the apocalypse will occur in 2012.
- A women who says she is the mother of one of the cult members has told the media that “her granddaughters, aged eight and six, were promised in marriage to members of the Agape Ministries cult.”
- Former members of the group allege leader Rocco Leo and two of his associates were “behind a scheme involving millions of dollars donated by sect members.”
Cult of Christianity
A former member, quoted in the article below, says Rocco Leo preaches that “there is no Jesus, there is no God, there are no Saints and there are no Angels”.
“There is just the Lord and Brother Rock, who is the anointed Man of God.”
If that report is correct, such teachings make Agape Ministries theologically a cult of Christianity.
Sociologically the group appears to have cult-like characteristics as well.
Beliefs and Practices
A report on the group in Adelaide Now provides some insight into the group’s beliefs:
The leaders, who believe the Apocalypse is coming in 2012, espouse a puritanical life which forbids swearing and sex before marriage.
But, like all the best cults, the rules are different for the chosen few.
Leo and his inner sanctum of disciples have free rein to choose congregation members’ daughters as their “little brides” once they reach legal age, according to an Adelaide couple who say they were lucky to escape the cult’s clutches.
John and Julie – not their real names – have told The Advertiser of the bizarre belief system which has been hardwired into the minds of followers by Leo, known to converts as the benevolent “Brother Rock”.
Former cult member John said Brother Rock preaches that “there is no Jesus, there is no God, there are no Saints and there are no Angels”.
“There is just the Lord and Brother Rock, who is the anointed Man of God,” John explained.
Aligned with similar 2012 Doomsday theories, convicted criminal Leo has convinced his flock that the Earth’s population will be unwittingly implanted with mind-controlling microchips.
“They truly believe in this Armageddon, you know, the end of the world in 2012. That’s what he kept saying, `we are going to run out of time because all the people in the world are going to have these chips’,” John said.
Brother Rock also preached that once these mircochips were inside each of us, we could be monitored by omnipotent powers who could “flick a switch” and have anyone killed at a moment’s notice.
“And I said to them, why out of the cajillion people in the world is the Lord only going to save a couple of hundred people from Oakden in little old Adelaide?” said John.
“And the answer was ‘because He is’ and that’s when it got to the point when I started to disbelieve.”
Julie chimes in: “That’s what they are running away from – being chipped.”
Brother Rock’s solution? Move his entire church and congregation to a remote island in Vanuatu.
Julie said disciples are forbidden to have sex before marriage and lovemaking even between couples is dirty and should be reserved for procreation.
Julie and John also said they felt chills when another senior elder earmarked an eight-year-old girl as one of his “little brides” at a barbecue for cult members.
“There is a lady whose son has gone there and her granddaughter is eight or whatever and (the elder) said `I’ll take that one’,” Julie said.
“They stake claims on little children, she would be eight that little girl and he would be close to 50 and says that when she is of legal age she will be one of my wives.”
Brother Rock conducts these illegitimate weddings inside the heavily fortified Oakden church, patrolled by snarling German Shepherd guard dogs trained to attack on command.
Neighbours say sect members have become increasingly detached in recent times as they prepare for impending doom.
Shipping containers have raised suspicions the group was swinging into action a plan to relocate to a Pacific island, with members recently liquidating assets and selling homes.
Sitting at their kitchen table sipping cappuccino, it seems incongruous that John and Julie could find themselves entangled in the net of a Doomsday cult.
But desperation is a powerful emotion.
Stricken by a debilitating illness that confounded John’s doctors and specialists, Julie sought help from one of the Agape Ministries’ elders who claimed to have healing powers.
“We were at our worst, we were vulnerable, we were desperate . . . she rang up (the elder) and said can you please help – at that point I would have cut my legs off for this to go away, I had been to doctors, specialists,” John recalled.
Ten days later – after stopping medication and repeating phrases from the cult’s Bible – John said the illness was completely gone.
Despite the “miracle” cure, it was less than a year before John and Julie suspected there was something very wrong inside Brother Rock’s Oakden church, which had been transformed from a rundown former mental hospital into a salubrious Versace-like palace.
John – a successful small businessman in his own right – said Brother Rock is selective about who he will allow into the fold.
“There would be no one in that congregation who would be from Davoren Park or Salisbury or Elizabeth, not unless you were a wealthy business owner,” he said.
Those who do file into the Oakden compound for weekly prayer sessions fork out 10 per cent of all their income for the enlightenment which Brother Rock affords them.
Brother Rock has also convinced his followers that he received Divine powers when he came back from the dead when he was four years old.
After drowning and being dead for four hours, his mother held his corpse up to God and he was miraculously revived, they believe.
Whole families of converts also have no cause to doubt their leader when he tells them he and other elders are immortal, and that he has visited a Tongan man who is 189 years old.
While Leo remains on the run and with the sect seemingly in tatters, John and Julie said they feel genuinely sorry for its followers, who they described as mainly “lovely people”.
Reporter Frank Pangallo, of Channel 7’s Today Tonight program, exposed the sect this week after an investigation which began in March.
Worried church members contacted the program with stories of missing money, bullying and intimidation by the cult leaders, he said.
– Source: Police raid Agape Ministries of God doomsday cult properties Andrew Dowdell and Kate Kyriacou, Adelaide Now, May 22, 2010