Cult members refuse to see their kin at Denver airport

14 Concerned Christians return from Israel, taken to unknown location

January 10, 1999|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

DENVER -- Relatives of 14 members of a millennial cult kicked out of Israel waited for hours at Denver International Airport yesterday for a chance to see their estranged loved ones, only to be told when the group arrived that their presence was not welcome.

As their families wept and raged in disappointment, members of the Denver-based Concerned Christians group left the Air Canada airplane by a back door, and were whisked away under police escort on two buses with large signs reading "Special" to an undisclosed location. Families were told that the cultists would decide whom they wanted to see.

"Kim Miller has won," said Delbert Dyck, referring to the cult leader, a former Proctor & Gamble executive who has told his followers that the way to salvation is to die in Jerusalem on the eve of the year 2000.

An Israeli task force set up to deal with millennial fanatics detained the group in Jerusalem last week, saying they feared the Concerned Christians would provoke violence.

Miller -- who has formal religious training -- began Concerned Christians in the early 1980s to combat the New Age movement. He was not among the eight adults and six children detained in Israel, and his whereabouts and those of the other 65 members remain unknown.

Dyck's son, James; his daughter-in-law, Melanie; and 7-month-old grandson were among those flew from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Toronto and then to Denver.

Dyck, 55, of Eagle, Colo., arrived at the airport before dawn yesterday for a flight that arrived at noon, and the thought that those tense hours had been in vain angered him.

"They didn't care that we were here," he said. "Kim Miller is somewhere hurrahing."

The group of Concerned Christians was to have been the last people to leave the plane, and anxiety grew among their relatives after the other passengers deplaned and the minutes passed. Finally, Denver city police spokesman John Wyckoff emerged from the plane and notified the family members that the group had decided to accept a police escort to an undisclosed location.

"They will then contact the people they want to talk to," he said.

A woman turned away, clutching a bag of baby clothes for a grandchild she'd never seen. Another, weeping, pressed her head against the window overlooking the tarmac where the two buses -- their windows dark -- sat.

Many had not seen their relatives for years. And no one had seen the group members since all 80 disappeared from the Denver area in October, after Miller told his flock that the city would be destroyed. They were said to be making their way to Israel, in preparation for the millennium.

Some relatives heard from cult members who were in Mexico, while others were said to be in Greece. The 14 who were detained in Israel last week were living in two large homes in a Jerusalem suburb.

Miller has sought thousands of dollars in donations from his followers, money that is believed to be supporting them in their self-imposed exile.

Dyck said that, before his son left, he cleaned out his bank accounts and walked away from a heavy-equipment job that had offered him a $3,000 bonus.

David Cooper, of Boulder, Colo., whose brother, John, is in the group but was not among those deported from Israel, believes that John Cooper could have given Miller as much as $1 million from the sale of property and other assets.

Pub Date: 1/10/99

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