Eden International Productions

Church that bankrupted members was 'cult-like' before the musical disaster

Sat 19 Jan 2019
By Cara Bentley

Churchgoers in Nottingham who were collectively left £500,000 out of pocket have spoken out about the 'cult-like' experience. 

An extravagant musical, called 'Heaven on Earth', planned by the International Church in Mansfield Woodhouse near Nottingham was never actually put on. 

This week, former members revealed that the musical was the final straw for making them realise they needed to get out. 

Churchgoers at International Church were asked to contribute large amounts of money to tell the Biblical story of Adam and Eve with the costumes alone due to cost £300,000. 

According to the Times, the congregation were told if they were really Christians, they would donate the money.

One member said: "They said if we didn't, God would be displeased and none of us wanted to displease God because we loved him". 

Their family lost £100,000.

Many members remortgaged their homes or maxed out their credit cards. 

Details of the musical's dodgy funding was unveiled in BBC's Inside Out East Midlands show, with three other families speaking since of the 'cult-like' atmosphere initiated by the leadership of John Hibbert and Christine Jeffs, daughter of the original founder Jean Spademan. 

They had their holidays and bills paid for by the church and also insisted every member attended every Sunday service and dare not miss a cell group. 

The play was for many the final straw. 

The leaders from the village's International Church created Eden International Productions Limited to make a promotional video and then a lavish stage production, supposedly involving Kerry Ellis and Hugh Maynard - actors in London's West End. 

The plan was to take the musical on a six month tour of UK arenas, including Nottingham, Leeds and Sheffield.

However, the musical ran out of money after accumulating debts of £2.6 million and it was cancelled just three weeks before the first performance was due to take place.

Thirty people from International Church were owed money from the production - adding up to £500,000 collectively. 

Yessika Oakley, 34, said her family contributed thousands of pounds towards the project.

She told the BBC's Inside Out East Midlands show: "They weren't asking for £5, they were asking for large amounts of money from people that didn't have much.

"But because they did it in the name of God, they were put under the pressure that if you didn't give, you're not being faithful and God isn't going to be very happy with you."

The leaders are now being investigated by the Charity Commission and could be banned from every running a church again. 

The International Church has since closed and their website no longer exists. 

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