Re: Good work, Newsnoop!
Peterf: My thought about the Melton article is that the 600 figure is a typo. I read in one of the other journal articles about the RNR that the group was reduced to about half its size from 8,000 to about 4,000 during the late 70s and early 80s. 4,000-6,000 members in 1980 might be a reasonable estimate. But then, it all depends on how one defines "member" at that point in time.
Well perhaps the reporter, rather than Melton, got it wrong but it's definitely more than a typo:
"But the latest surge of religiosity now has passed, he said, and most of the new groups stopped growing about a year ago, with many of them declining. For example he said the Children of God has dropped from nearly 5,000 down to about 600 and now resorts to so-called "flirty fishing" by which its women use sex to recruit new members.
If what Melton said was accurately reported, then it seems this is a clear example of how little regard some of these cult apologists have for accuracy and a possible indicator of how reliable and thorough their research is. Tha Family claims they had 5062 members at the end of 1978, 5937 for 1979 and 7865 for 1980 and that membership steadily increased until 1984 when it dropped. I don't know if these numbers are accurate but Melton's estimate is apparently not even close.
There is an old chart at http://www.frouman.net/membership-levels.jpg
covering yearly membership numbers from 1968 until 2000 (except for a gap of 1995-1998). It was a modified version of a chart from Bainbridge, Wiliam Sims. The Sociology of New Religious Movements.
. (New York: Routledge, 1997), 225 (based on data provided by the Family to Bainbridge) and the last page of http://media.xfamily.org/docs/fam/gv/gv_90.pdf
Note the chart does apparently not include non-DO members (IRFers/TSers or whatever they were called) until 1989. This might explain why although the Family has claimed over 13000+ members for some years, the highest number is 11541 for 1988.