Aug 22, 2016

Three Local Pastors Speak at National Conference
Debra Ryan
July 31, 2016

After attending a conference of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) in Dallas, Texas in June, Rev. Dr. Neil Damgaard shared its effects on how he ministers in his role as Protestant Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and as senior pastor of Dartmouth Bible Church.

“It was an incredible conference,” Damgaard said. "There is a conference every year, alternating between North America and Europe.

According to Damgaard, the ICSA has sponsored an annual conference for the past 20 years, meeting last year in Stockholm, Sweden and next year in Bordeaux, France. It attracts researchers, therapists and cult survivors from all over the world. "This year, a presentation was made about rapid cult growth in Japan where they are heavily recruiting and the collaboration of a growing number of Japanese universities cooperating on support for providing cult awareness to incoming students in their schools.

"Also, four Chinese researchers presented a seminar on research methods used in studying cult growth in China. This conference also included attendees from Poland, France, Sweden and Germany as well as many from the United States.

“There are an increasing number of groups having a huge effect on society,” he said. “Cults, or as we call them — destructive groups — are very troublesome. It is our goal to help people recover from the hard experiences they have had, some lasting over decades. Many times there is abuse and trauma.

“These groups have a distinct effect with mind control,” he said. "There is always a very authoritative structure with usually one or two people in charge. They are also the ones who control the finances.

“Many of the groups practice polygamy," Damgaard said. "One man had 17 wives and 169 children. There is a sociological effect when someone has 168 siblings, 16 mothers and one father.”

According to the pastor, many of the groups claim to be “Bible-based.” They quote the bible but twist its meaning to be very destructive.

“I am the gatekeeper,” he said, speaking of his roles at the college and the church. I have to be on alert. The conferences and education equip me to recognize the signs."

Rev. Robert Pardon and his wife, July Pardon, directors of MeadowHaven in Lakeville, accompanied Damgaard and presented the keynote lecture to 200 conferees on “Forgiveness and Healing as Trauma Recovery.”

They also presented two seminars with Rev. Damgaard on the “safe haven” church concept and on the “therapy/spiritual” model of recovery.

Damgaard has a master’s degree in Theological studies and a doctorate in ministry from Dallas Theological Seminary. Rev. Pardon, has master’s degree of divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a masters in theological studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, and Judy Pardon, has a master’s degree in education from Boston University.

They operate MeadowHaven, a facility where former members of high control, destructive groups — also known as cults — can experience healing and restoration. According to Damgaard, healing is found through healthy relationships with former members who have experienced the same type of mind-altering control. Supportive staff assists with situations including thought reform, identity confusion and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Rev. Pardon and Rev. Damgaard are collaborating with ICSA in development of a new support network of “safe haven” churches and are available to present their seminar in our area. Rev. Pardon can be contacted at and Rev. Damgaard at

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