Who we are?

We are an independent educational charity providing information about minority religions and sects which is as accurate, up-to-date and as evidence-based as possible.

We exist to prevent harm based on misinformation about minority religions and sects by bringing the insights and methods of academic research into the public domain.

What we do and how we do it

Our work spans every level of society; from the personal; responding directly to enquiries about minority religions and sects from individuals, through to the institutional/societal; advising key Government Bodies.

The primary roles we fulfil sit in 4 key areas:

1

Expert information

in the form of a dedicated enquiry service, responding to the specific context and needs of each enquirer.

2

Research

undertaken collaboratively with other organisations and groups.

See Partnerships

3

Academic publications

See Publications

4

Public Engagement

via seminars/events and training for organisations like the Police and Social Workers.

Our Offer

Inform acts as a unique bridge between academic expertise and practical application.

We provide impartial, accurate and up to date information specifically tailored to meet the needs of a wide-range of audiences (from individuals through to Government Bodies); all with a focus on providing this information in the service of tackling real world challenges and empowering people to make informed decisions.

Our work is supported by our expertise in the social sciences, our publications and collaborative research secure our reputation as thought-leaders in this area; uniquely able to offer expert and contextualised knowledge through our thorough understanding of this subject-matter and the legacy of our work with minority religions and sects spanning thirty years’ experience.

We are equally at home running training for social workers as we are producing new research in this field.

People

Inform's Management Committee

The Management Committee is responsible for monitoring progress and making day-to-day decisions, including the appointment of staff.

Professor Eileen Barker

PhD, OBE, FBA

Founder of Inform and Honorary Acting Director; Professor Emeritus at the London School of Economics. Sociologist of Religion, she has been researching minority religions and the responses to which they give rise since the early 1970s. Her study of conversion to the Unification Church for her PhD, led to an interest in a wide variety of movements, and she has personally studied, to greater or lesser degree, over 150 different groups. As the first-generation movements aged, she became interested in the changes, particularly the arrival of second-generation members and those who leave the movements. For the past twelve years, she’s been interested in differences between ‘cult-watching’ groups and the dynamics within and between these groups and the religions. She has over 300 publications, translated into 27 languages. She travels extensively for research purposes, particularly in North America, Europe and Japan, and, since collapse of the Berlin Wall, in Eastern Europe and, more recently, China. She was the first non-American to be elected President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Click here for information on some of her publications.

George D. Chryssides

MA, BD, D.Phil

George Chryssides studied philosophy and theology at the University of Glasgow and gained his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He was Head of Religious Studies at the University of Wolverhampton until he retired in 2008.

He is currently Honorary Research Fellow at York St John University and the University of Birmingham. His interest in new religious movements began in the early 1980s. He served as Consultant on New Religious Movements to the United Reformed Church and joined the Advisory Board of CENERM (Centre for New Religious Movements) at Selly Oak Colleges, which subsequently became part of the University of Birmingham, becoming its convenor from 1991 to 1996.

He has published extensively on new religions, and his books include Exploring New Religions (1999), Historical Dictionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses (2008), Historical Dictionary of New Religious Movements (2012), The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements (2014), and Jehovah’s Witnesses: Continuity and Change (2016). He has authored numerous journal articles and is a regular presenter at national and international conferences. He became president of the International Society for the Study of New Religions in 2018. George has been involved with Inform since its inception, and joined the Board of Governors in 2014, of which he is co-vice chair.

The Reverend Andrew Maguire

MA, BD

Inform Treasurer and ordained Minister in the Methodist Church. Andrew was ordained in 1983 and served in circuits/churches in East Norfolk, South London, Bristol and North Hertfordshire.

Since September 2012, he has been the Superintendent Minister of the West Norfolk Methodist Circuit. Andrew became a Governor of Inform in 1990, after he was approached by the Free Church Federal Council (now the Free Churches Group) to attend an Inform seminar and was subsequently asked to be the Free Churches nominee on the Board of Governors. Andrew’s first degree was in Classics and he taught New Testament Greek at Wesley College in Bristol during his time as minister in Westbury-on-Trym.

He has retained an interest in the study of original language Greek and Latin texts from the first five centuries of the Christian Church and runs a website that gives several early Christian texts and translations with links to a lot of background information - www.earlychurchtexts.com.

Marat Shterin

PhD

Chair of the Board of Governors of Inform and Head of the Department of Religious Studies, King's College London, Marat received his PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he was awarded the Robert McKenzie Prize for outstanding performance. Marat's research is concerned with various aspects of religion and society, New Religious Movements (NRMs) and new Islamic groups; religion, conflict, and violence; religion, state, and law. He has also undertaken a number of policy assessment studies, such as "Potential for Ethnic and Religious Conflict in the Volga Federal District of the Russian Federation" (2002) for the American International Development Agency (USAID). Click here for information on some of his publications.

Inform's Staff

Sarah Harvey, MSc

Senior Research Officer

Researcher at Inform since 2001, Sarah responds to many of the enquiries that Inform receives, helps maintain the database of religious movements and manages Inform commissioned projects. She has written several profiles for the Inform-CenSAMM collaborative project. She is particularly interested in Pagan religions, new Christian movements, and millennial movements. She has co-edited two volumes in the Routledge-Inform book series, including a volume on prophecy and another on counselling. Sarah is currently writing her PhD thesis, entitled ‘A Nicer Birth: Negotiating the Ideal and the Practical in Natural Birth’, in the School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Manchester in Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology and a Masters degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Social Research Methods (Sociology). Click here for information on her publications.

Warwick Hawkins

Office Manager

Warwick Hawkins joined Inform as part-time office manager in December 2017. He is the only non-academic member of the team, having been a career civil servant for 28 years. As head of the faith communities engagement team in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, he used to manage the department’s relationship with Inform. As well as bringing valuable experience of the working of government, Warwick leads on financial management, correspondence and event organising. After taking early retirement from the civil service he started his own social enterprise, Faith in Society, which aims to build the capacity of faith groups to be involved in civil society. This work continues to bring him into contact with representative bodies, places of worship and charities from a wide variety of faith traditions – contacts and expertise which he is pleased to bring to his work with Inform.

Silke Steidinger, MSc, UKCP reg.

Assistant Research Officer

Silke has been Assistant Research Officer at Inform since 2006. At Inform, the primary focus of her work is researching religious groups for the Inform database and cataloguing the Inform library and has written several profiles for the CenSAMM-Inform collaboration. She also responds to enquiries and recently co-edited the Inform-Routledge volume on New Religious Movements and Counselling (2017). In 2004, she received an MSc in Religion in Contemporary Society (Sociology) from the London School of Economics, the focus of her dissertation being on death in New Religious Movements. In 1999, she received a BA (Hons) in Religious Studies from King’s College London. She is also a UKCP registered attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Click here for information on her publications.

Suzanne Newcombe, PhD

Research Fellow

Suzanne was a Research Officer at Inform from 2002-2016. While at Inform she has responded to complex enquiries, given media interviews on print, radio and televisions, updated the database, co-authored commissioned reports, gave training to government departments and talks to schools. Her particular areas of expertise include movements with origins or inspirations from Asian and Indian traditions and contemporary groups which are interested in prophecy and the end of the world. Her current position at Inform is as a post-doctoral research fellow on AYURYOG, a European Research Council Horizon 2020 grant looking at the entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South Asia. She is also a Lecturer in Religious Studies at the Open University and on the Educational Sub-Committee for the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millennial Movements (CenSAMM). Click here for information on her publications.

Honorary Research Fellows

Professor Jean La Fontaine

PhD

Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science. Jean carried out anthropological fieldwork in eastern Uganda, later in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) and finally in England, where she has studied the sexual abuse of children and the effects of beliefs in spirit possession and in witchcraft. Jean has long been interested in ritual and has publications on initiation and on witchcraft. From 1992-94, as an Honorary Research Fellow of Inform, who managed the project, she undertook research for the Dept. of Health into the allegations of satanic ritual abuse in England. Her report in 1994 was expanded into the book, Speak of the Devil. She then turned to a study of children in the African diaspora who were accused of witchcraft. She edited the Inform publication entitled The Devil’s Children: From Spirit Possession to Witchcraft, New Allegations That Affect Children. Her most recent publication, Witches and Demons, is a collection of essays on witchcraft and beliefs that incite to abuse and murder. Click here for information on some of her publications.

Bernard Doherty

PhD

Doctor Bernard Doherty has been an honorary research fellow with Inform since 2015. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University and a sessional lecturer in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University. He has previously taught at the Australian Catholic University. Bernard is currently course director in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Bernard is also a researcher in the Centre for Public and Contextual Theology (PaCT) and an adjunct lecturer in the School of Law at the University of Notre Dame (Sydney). His research interests are wide ranging and include early Christian and Australian religious history, New Religions and the media, New Religions and public policy, religion and politics, religious sectarianism, and the study of the development of religious pluralism in post-WWII Australia. Bernard has published in a number of journals including the Journal of Religious History, Nova Religio, the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, the Alternative Spirituality and Religions Review, Phronema, and the Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society.