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Abstract

This paper focuses on The Family International – a group that since its inception in the late 1960s (when it was known as The Children of God) has provoked intense public controversy and considerable social science attention as a result. Sociologists of religion have found it to be a particularly useful case study for contributing detailed insights as to how new religious movements (NRMs) may survive (and more rarely, flourish). NRM survival and possible success are viewed as occurring through certain adaptive changes and developments by the group in response to social environments that are often hostile to the groups’ existence. We summarize portions of our own research to show how The Family International has coped with a number of problems common to most NRMs, but often in quite unique ways that expand sociological understanding of how religious adaptation processes may occur and what forms they may assume. A particular focus of our research has been on The Family's unique expansion of both personal and corporate prophecy to facilitate its functioning.