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Sect Commissioner

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In Germany, a church official whose task it is to investigate cults, sects, and worldviews.

After the Second World War, Germany's Lutheran churches were faced with an influx of refugees from Eastern Europe and the lost eastern provinces. Many of these refugees were members of various Christian denominations, splinter groups or minority churches. Thus the Lutheran church appointed individuals - or set up committees - whose task it was to check whether the newcomers could be integrated into the Lutheran church, could be married or buried by a Lutheran minister, or could at least use a church room or graveyard in a Lutheran church for their own services and burials.

There was one main criterium: do they baptize using the historical, trinitarian formula.

The committees had names like ''Committee on sects and ideologies (Weltanschauungen = worldviews).'' Over time, the office of ''Commissioner on sects and ideologies'' became an official position in the church. Usually it is held by an ordained minister.

Keep in mind that in Germany, as in many other countries, the term sect often is used where Americans would use the term cult.

Once movements like the Children of God, the Moonies, Transcendental Meditation, Scientology and the Hare Krishnas came along, the task of Sect Commissioners shifted from integration (into the Lutheran church) to educating the public regarding the teachings and practices of the new movements.

Since the early '80s, the Catholic Church has also employed Sect Commissioners - usually not ordained priests, but rather lay-theologians.

Later, various German states appointed their own sect experts, usually independent of the churches. They are referred to with names like ''Information point on New Religious Movements and Psychogroups,'' or ''Workgroup on Scientology.'' Sometimes, though, the title of ''Sect Commissioner'' is also used.
The above information is provided by Thomas Gandow, Sect Commissioner of the Evangelical Church in Berlin- Brandenburg, Germany

The Council of Europe has suggested that European countries should establish consumer protection agencies much like those already found in Germany (see these reports).

The French government has established the Mission interminisérielle de lutte contre les sectes (MILS) - the ''Inter-Ministerial Mission Against Sects.'' It is headed by former Member of Parliament, Alain Vivien. In the German press, he sometimes is referred to as a ''Sect Commissioner.''

Not surprisingly, Sect Commissioners are looked down upon - and are much maligned - by various cults, sects, and cult defenders such as CESNUR.
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