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Poll
Question:
Is GCx a Cult?
Yes - 12 (36.4%)
No, but cult-like - 11 (33.3%)
Seems to vary by location - 4 (12.1%)
No - 6 (18.2%)
Total Voters: 33

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Author Topic: Is GCx a Cult?  (Read 38443 times)
Peace
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« on: June 10, 2018, 09:41:25 am »

Defining a Cult
What makes them different from genuine Christians?

by Don Veinot

"While the specifics vary from group to group, here are some general characteristics of religious cults that distinguish them from genuine Christian beliefs:

All-knowing leadership. An individual or group of people claims to be sent by God to "rule" the one true religion—which only includes members of that particular cult.

No room for differences. Cult members must believe exactly the same way and in exactly the same things; there is no room for disagreeing with the cult's rules or doctrines.

A new and better way. Cults often claim they've been given a "special revelation" from God that's superior to the Bible, or explains what the Bible is really trying to say.

Down on Christian doctrine. Cults often depict basic Christian doctrines and beliefs (like the Trinity, deity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith) as "full of holes" and completely illogical.

Scriptures get an added twist. Bible verses are often taken out of context or twisted to mean something very different than what was originally intended.

"Christians are wrong." Cult members believe God has given their group the job of pointing out "heretical and evil" teachings of Christianity.

Works prove faith. Cult members often claim their good works are superior to those performed by Christians, and they say their works prove their religion is the one-and-only truth.

Salvation is a big unknown. Since cults often teach that salvation is based on performance, cult members can never know if they've done everything necessary to get to heaven.

No exit. Leaving the cult is not an option, and intimidation is often used to keep cult members from even thinking about getting out."
« Last Edit: June 10, 2018, 09:43:49 am by Peace » Logged
Rebel in a Good Way
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2018, 12:43:37 pm »

When it comes to Christian churches, they can be orthodox in doctrine but abusive or cult-like in practice. So there are some points of this definition that I don't think apply, such as being down on Christian doctrine.
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Boggs
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2018, 12:58:51 pm »

Rebel, I completely agree. I think it's entirely possible for a church to be doctrinally sound and still cult-like in other ways. And healthy in some ways but not in others.

For what it's worth I answered "no, but cult-like" based on my experiences with WI churches and some time spent with the national org at pastors conferences and faithwalkers. I would put it right on the line between cult and cult-like. And I also have seen that many members participate earnestly in the church without catching a whiff of the unhealthy practices.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2018, 02:41:38 pm by Boggs » Logged
Peace
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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2018, 02:10:40 pm »

In your opinion, do all GCx churches fall into this "cult-like" category or would you say it appears to vary among locations? I believe it has been stated before that there appear to be healthier GCx churches within the movement. If GCx is truly a cult as a few people have now voted (which is totally fine, I appreciate the honest votes!), all GCx churches should be toxic and practice the same cult-like practices. But these things simply are not present at my local church (no excommunications, no hyper-authoritative teachings, no commitment for life, no demanding of where to go to school or who to marry, I mean I could continue... but I think you get my point?). I am truly curious at how this can be.

Added note: My poll, comments, discussion are not meant to negate any of your experiences. I believe the vast majority of you! My mind cannot even fathom going through what some of you have experienced. I specifically have sought out additional information about what happened in WI and MN and I believe the leaders were wrong, very very wrong. But I also still hold tightly onto the hope that change can be made, repentance can be sought and reconciliation can happen! I am a peacemaker by God's design I believe and so all of this conflict creates quite a bit of angst within me. Please please please do not take my questions or comments as not believing you or being critical of you. I just wish I could change it, fix it or make it better. That's my heart's desire. Probably not realistic, I know, but I want to witness God do miraculous good through many of these awful situations.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2018, 02:37:40 pm by Peace » Logged
Boggs
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2018, 02:49:17 pm »

Peace - I appreciate your tone and heart! I believe you and trust you and your intentions.

I don't think I can really say if it's just WI/MN churches or more widespread. Even though I've met plenty of people from GCC churches all around the country, I've never been an active member in their churches. For example, I spent a week in Fort Collins CO with Summitview and their college church. It seemed fine to me when I was there, then I read stories from people like araignee19 and she had some negative experiences that seem similar to experiences I've had. I'm not sure how to balance the anecdotal accounts we read here - is it "some, maybe most GCC churches have these problems" or "a few GCC churches have these problems"? I don't know.
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OneOfMany
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2018, 04:05:18 pm »

I cannot vote here. The list presented does not include qualities that are cult like at GCM churches. GCM is definitely using cult control techniques. They definitely take scripture out of context to control people. I think what is required if you want a poll is a list that is presented differently, with different words. Not being allowed to leave can be with guns...or with the belief that you have left the true church. Both are cult phenomena. I do not see that in the list above.
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Peace
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2018, 04:15:46 pm »

Boggs -  Thank you for the kind words and honest response to yet another one of my questions. I am just having an extremely hard time reconciling the church I know and love with the church you know and detest (maybe you don't detest it, but certainly you had a negative experience). It's not like people have never had critical things to say about my local church, they have, but I also know and keenly understand both sides of most of those situations and usually it's been resolved over time or through lengthy conversations/processes. I guess I just don't know either.

OneOfMany - I am sorry that you feel you cannot participate in my poll. I am thankful you explained your reasons above though. I understand there are many different ways of defining what a cult is. After reading several articles, I just tried to pick a simplified list of what most theologians and psychologists would consider a cult.
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« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2018, 07:53:49 pm »

Peace, has your church always been a GCC church?  Is it involved with national or regional leadership much?  How long have the pastors been around GCC?  Just curious because if it stays more independent it might not manifest the toxicity. 

To be clear, I'm not trying to figure out where you attend or who you are. I don't expect that I would be able to guess your church.  But I understand if you are not comfortable answering.

I'm still thinking about my poll answer  Wink
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Peace
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« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2018, 07:56:34 pm »

Yes. Barely. Depends on the pastor.
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Badger
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« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2018, 11:15:46 pm »

A few thoughts:

Defining whether a church is a cult, a cult-like church, an abusive cult-like church, an abusive church, etc. is difficult as there is not widely agreed upon terminology that I have found.  There are several references that I have come across that discuss this very terminology and explain the options that are available.

It doesn't matter to me which one of the four above choices is used to describe a church or an organization; if it truly is an abusive cult-like church (or variation) I wouldn't want to be a part of it.  Furthermore, such abusive structures are extremely difficult to make meaningful change so as they are no longer abusive in nature.  This is especially difficult without an almost complete rearrangement of the leadership involved.  In other words, an eradication of abusive leadership and leaderships structure is more likely to result in meaningful change to a non-abusive culture than an eradication of abusive tendencies in the laity.

GCX top leadership likes to point out that abuse in their organization is in only in select churches.  Since each church is autonomous and only associated with GCX they make the claim that GCX as a whole cannot be judged by unhealthy associated churches.  I find this to be problematic in many ways that I won't go into in this post.  If GCX top leadership cannot be held responsible for abuse in individual churches, why did they formulate the 1991 statement of errors?  I'm sure that not every church in their association perpetuated every abuse acknowledged in the 1991 statement; yet they took responsibility for leaders within the entire association back in 1991.  Why then do they no longer take responsibility for the abuses that continue to happen in their associated churches?  It's seems the familiar cry is don't blame me, it's not in our church.

It seems the national GCC board is taking a lassez faire approach to abuse in their organization.  I find it troubling that supposedly healthy GCX associated churches are happy to sit idle after hearing of abuses occurring in other locations.  I therefore think that it is disingenuous to suggest that GCX is not abusive if one can find healthy churches within its association.  Would one ever consider a body to be healthy with only a little malignant cancer?  As long as cancer hadn't invaded the brain and mouth yet, there were some remaining healthy parts, we would say the body was healthy?

Finally, I think many associated churches in GCC are plagued by the same errors - abuses of leadership and scripture - that were admitted in 1991.  I say this as someone who has read and heard many testimonies of individuals (both recent and in the past) regarding their experiences in a variety of GCX churches throughout the country.  John Hopler's narrative on GCCweb has attempted to frame valid concerns as a thing of the past or originating from individuals who have since recounted their original concerns or stories.  John Hopler seems to be very proud of his statement, A Christian Perspective of Internet Criticisms, and the fact that it was accepted by the NAE as a resource.  It is my opinion that Hopler's article shows a lack of understanding of dynamics of abuse in the church.  It is a treatise on how to silence and ignore dissenting voices when victims refuse to play by the rules churches have set up - concerns only in private, only in person, perhaps to your abuser, etc.  I don't think rules like Mr. Hopler's are currently working for the church to address systematic abuses in the church.  Such rules aren't protecting the weak.  They aren't protecting Jesus.  They are protecting leadership and their power. 
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Peace
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« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2018, 06:00:53 am »

Hi Badger -

Thank you for your post. I appreciate the time you took to explain your thoughts. I have yet another question:

(Added disclaimer: this is not a slam on the Catholic Church. I have many wonderful friends and family who are part of various Catholic churches and ministries. I use this example only because of the well-documented and reported abuses that occurred within their organization.)

I know I have used this comparison before in another thread, but what would you say about the Catholic Church? Clearly there was abuse that occurred, but also clearly not every Catholic Church across the country or world is inherently abusive. I truly want to know someone's thoughts about this because it is the closest thing I can see to what has happened in GCx based on my experiences (or lack of experiences) at my local church. Is every Catholic Church or Catholic follower "happy to sit idle?"... I don't think so.

I don't see my local church happy to sit idle either, I see my pastors focusing on their own congregation, ministries and are mostly blissfully unaware of all of this... Except when I send over some questions or thoughts for them.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 06:06:05 am by Peace » Logged
OneOfMany
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« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2018, 06:50:37 am »

Peace I am a former Catholic.

There is a profound difference between a group study as the Catholic Church in which some members abuse others in private, and groups such as GCM whose belief system, world view, theology and their recognized pattern of how people are treated in the group are manipulative and abusive. Explaining this to someone who has not experienced it is a long conversation. It might be helpful to read testimonies posted here over the years. I will think on how the difference can more easily be explained.
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Peace
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« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2018, 10:25:55 am »

Peace I am a former Catholic.

There is a profound difference between a group study as the Catholic Church in which some members abuse others in private, and groups such as GCM whose belief system, world view, theology and their recognized pattern of how people are treated in the group are manipulative and abusive. Explaining this to someone who has not experienced it is a long conversation. It might be helpful to read testimonies posted here over the years. I will think on how the difference can more easily be explained.

This belief system, world view, theology and patterns you speak about are not at my local church. They just aren't. I would not be a part of my local church if the things you write about were true. You can choose to not believe me or suspect that I am brainwashed, but I know these things are are not present because this is the church I attend every week, the friends and families who I have precious relationships with (yes, I have many healthy and vibrant relationships outside of my church circle too), the ministries I'm involved in, the leaders who I meet with on a regular basis... the list could go on, but I am writing about my local church, not ECC, not Stonebrook and not GCx as a whole. If GCx is a cult, based on the logic of many on this forum, my church should not/could not exist.

Summary: Yes, I believe my church is a healthy church that just happens to be affiliated with GCx.
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OneOfMany
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« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2018, 10:38:45 am »



Quote

Summary: Yes, I believe my church is a healthy church that just happens to be affiliated with GCx.



I did not understand your question. If you are looking for confirmation from me that the group of Christians you meet with are not a cult or are a cult I cannot do that. I can only tell you what my personal experience is where I attended a GCX church. It is quite possible that your church is associated with GCX but does not follow what they preach. That is your pastors teach something other than what GCX says is true. If that is the case then why are they associated with GCX? That is a rhetorical question. No need to try and answer that.

I would also say that if you are in a GCX church that is not using control techniques on members, taking scripture out of context nor asking for members to live with unhealthy boundaries. then you very likely are not in a cult. But many if not most GCX churches do these things as a matter of practice. To look at your individual location as a means to discount those of us who are reporting abuse is not logical. We are not at your location and you are not at ours.

I was deceived into being a part of a group using mind control techniques, taking scripture out of context and accepting unhealthy boundaries because  I had no idea that was what was going on. An example would be the worship service. Google how current Christian worship does not worship God but is using eastern religious techniques to give people a good experience. It is very eye opening.
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Badger
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« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2018, 10:39:31 am »

Peace I am a former Catholic.

There is a profound difference between a group study as the Catholic Church in which some members abuse others in private, and groups such as GCM whose belief system, world view, theology and their recognized pattern of how people are treated in the group are manipulative and abusive. Explaining this to someone who has not experienced it is a long conversation. It might be helpful to read testimonies posted here over the years. I will think on how the difference can more easily be explained.

This belief system, world view, theology and patterns you speak about are not at my local church. They just aren't. I would not be a part of my local church if the things you write about were true. You can choose to not believe me or suspect that I am brainwashed, but I know these things are are not present because this is the church I attend every week, the friends and families who I have precious relationships with (yes, I have many healthy and vibrant relationships outside of my church circle too), the ministries I'm involved in, the leaders who I meet with on a regular basis... the list could go on, but I am writing about my local church, not ECC, not Stonebrook and not GCx as a whole. If GCx is a cult, based on the logic of many on this forum, my church should not/could not exist.

Summary: Yes, I believe my church is a healthy church that just happens to be affiliated with GCx.


I am open to believing your individual church is as healthy as you are stating Peace.  I'm just wondering how you feel about many of your sister churches in GCC and GCC head leadership being abusive?
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Peace
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« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2018, 11:36:22 am »


Quote

Summary: Yes, I believe my church is a healthy church that just happens to be affiliated with GCx.


I did not understand your question. If you are looking for confirmation from me that the group of Christians you meet with are not a cult or are a cult I cannot do that. I can only tell you what my personal experience is where I attended a GCX church. It is quite possible that your church is associated with GCX but does not follow what they preach. That is your pastors teach something other than what GCX says is true. If that is the case then why are they associated with GCX? That is a rhetorical question. No need to try and answer that.

I would also say that if you are in a GCX church that is not using control techniques on members, taking scripture out of context nor asking for members to live with unhealthy boundaries. then you very likely are not in a cult. But many if not most GCX churches do these things as a matter of practice. To look at your individual location as a means to discount those of us who are reporting abuse is not logical. We are not at your location and you are not at ours.

I was deceived into being a part of a group using mind control techniques, taking scripture out of context and accepting unhealthy boundaries because  I had no idea that was what was going on. An example would be the worship service. Google how current Christian worship does not worship God but is using eastern religious techniques to give people a good experience. It is very eye opening.

OneOfMany,
I know you said it was a rhetorical question, but I think I know the answer: My local church has a lot of relational ties to GCx. I think many in leadership actually disagree quite a bit with some of the GCx teachings/other pastors in GCx, but we stay because of the benefits of being in an association and the relationships with other people. Part of me would love for my church to leave GCx, but I still question whether it would really matter or not. We've got enough old school GCx people in our community that I'm sure we would continue to be lumped right in with all of this. Please correct me if this assumption is wrong! But I do believe my church has distanced themselves from GCx national quite a bit.  

Many/most of GCx churches are preaching these things? Really? How do you know that when one sentence later you state "We are not at your location and you are not at ours." This is precisely why I have continued posting on this forum. I just do not think this is happening at ALL (or even most) GCx churches. I am really involved and I have never attended or even heard a peep about most of the GCx churches listed on their website.

"To look at your individual location as a means to discount those of us who are reporting abuse is not logical." I apologize fully if I am coming across this way. I have been very clear in my other postings that my communication here is not to discount any of you. I believe the vast majority of postings on this site. My heart is so torn and broken when I've read many of your testimonies. And I have been familiar with this site for more than a decade so I have read quite a few.

I do not believe I am deceived. Like I said, I am really involved. I know the ins and outs of my local church. I have free access to our pastors, staff and several old time GCx families. I've had many long conversations about many of these things. These teachings, abuses and other things just are not part of my local church. That's all I can say.

Peace I am a former Catholic.

There is a profound difference between a group study as the Catholic Church in which some members abuse others in private, and groups such as GCM whose belief system, world view, theology and their recognized pattern of how people are treated in the group are manipulative and abusive. Explaining this to someone who has not experienced it is a long conversation. It might be helpful to read testimonies posted here over the years. I will think on how the difference can more easily be explained.

This belief system, world view, theology and patterns you speak about are not at my local church. They just aren't. I would not be a part of my local church if the things you write about were true. You can choose to not believe me or suspect that I am brainwashed, but I know these things are are not present because this is the church I attend every week, the friends and families who I have precious relationships with (yes, I have many healthy and vibrant relationships outside of my church circle too), the ministries I'm involved in, the leaders who I meet with on a regular basis... the list could go on, but I am writing about my local church, not ECC, not Stonebrook and not GCx as a whole. If GCx is a cult, based on the logic of many on this forum, my church should not/could not exist.

Summary: Yes, I believe my church is a healthy church that just happens to be affiliated with GCx.


I am open to believing your individual church is as healthy as you are stating Peace.  I'm just wondering how you feel about many of your sister churches in GCC and GCC head leadership being abusive?

Badger,
My heart is broken for the people who have been hurt by any believer, church, movement, etc. I just don't feel the connection to my "sister" churches as you might be assuming I have. I am far closer with the people at churches within my local community than I am to other GCx churches in the region. There are several GCx churches that I would not attend because of my preferences in teaching, music, cultural differences, etc.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 11:39:30 am by Peace » Logged
DarthVader
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« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2018, 11:38:51 am »

Peace I am a former Catholic.

There is a profound difference between a group study as the Catholic Church in which some members abuse others in private, and groups such as GCM whose belief system, world view, theology and their recognized pattern of how people are treated in the group are manipulative and abusive. Explaining this to someone who has not experienced it is a long conversation. It might be helpful to read testimonies posted here over the years. I will think on how the difference can more easily be explained.

This belief system, world view, theology and patterns you speak about are not at my local church. They just aren't. I would not be a part of my local church if the things you write about were true. You can choose to not believe me or suspect that I am brainwashed, but I know these things are are not present because this is the church I attend every week, the friends and families who I have precious relationships with (yes, I have many healthy and vibrant relationships outside of my church circle too), the ministries I'm involved in, the leaders who I meet with on a regular basis... the list could go on, but I am writing about my local church, not ECC, not Stonebrook and not GCx as a whole. If GCx is a cult, based on the logic of many on this forum, my church should not/could not exist.

Summary: Yes, I believe my church is a healthy church that just happens to be affiliated with GCx.


I believe you Peace and feel the same about my GCx ECC location (I understand you aren't at an ECC church). That being said, I can observe that if you don't want to homeschool and don't want to spank your kids, there are ECC churches in town (e.g., The Rock) where you will never be considered for a leadership role because of taking a different point of view on these (very non essential) issues. At my GCx location, even within the same city as another GCx church, that is very much not the case.

I'm guessing your GCx location is structurally identical to all the others - e.g., there is no congregational "check or balance" on the pastor's authority in the local church (e.g. no board of elders who can hold him accountable for anything). If your pastor is a humble, kind, servant-hearted man, your church, like mine, can feel (and be) very good and very normal...But if your pastor is of a different mold, it can feel, in the extreme, cult-like and controlling.  Have attended Baptist, EV Free and GCx churches in my past, the same is much less true of those other denominations because being accountable to a broad local leadership inside the church team can curb excesses and pushes pastors towards moderation even if they are inclined otherwise.  The variability between GCx churches is, I believe, MUCH higher than those other denominations because GCx is so pastor-centric, which explains why your experience is very different than many others on this site. If you're willing to share which GCx location you attend (no worries if not), I'd be curious to see if there are any negative stories about your church- it would not surprise me if there aren't or if there are, they are from a previous pastor if your church experienced a leadership transition. Does that make sense?
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Peace
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« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2018, 12:16:04 pm »

Peace I am a former Catholic.

There is a profound difference between a group study as the Catholic Church in which some members abuse others in private, and groups such as GCM whose belief system, world view, theology and their recognized pattern of how people are treated in the group are manipulative and abusive. Explaining this to someone who has not experienced it is a long conversation. It might be helpful to read testimonies posted here over the years. I will think on how the difference can more easily be explained.

This belief system, world view, theology and patterns you speak about are not at my local church. They just aren't. I would not be a part of my local church if the things you write about were true. You can choose to not believe me or suspect that I am brainwashed, but I know these things are are not present because this is the church I attend every week, the friends and families who I have precious relationships with (yes, I have many healthy and vibrant relationships outside of my church circle too), the ministries I'm involved in, the leaders who I meet with on a regular basis... the list could go on, but I am writing about my local church, not ECC, not Stonebrook and not GCx as a whole. If GCx is a cult, based on the logic of many on this forum, my church should not/could not exist.

Summary: Yes, I believe my church is a healthy church that just happens to be affiliated with GCx.


I believe you Peace and feel the same about my GCx ECC location (I understand you aren't at an ECC church). That being said, I can observe that if you don't want to homeschool and don't want to spank your kids, there are ECC churches in town (e.g., The Rock) where you will never be considered for a leadership role because of taking a different point of view on these (very non essential) issues. At my GCx location, even within the same city as another GCx church, that is very much not the case.

I'm guessing your GCx location is structurally identical to all the others - e.g., there is no congregational "check or balance" on the pastor's authority in the local church (e.g. no board of elders who can hold him accountable for anything). If your pastor is a humble, kind, servant-hearted man, your church, like mine, can feel (and be) very good and very normal...But if your pastor is of a different mold, it can feel, in the extreme, cult-like and controlling.  Have attended Baptist, EV Free and GCx churches in my past, the same is much less true of those other denominations because being accountable to a broad local leadership inside the church team can curb excesses and pushes pastors towards moderation even if they are inclined otherwise.  The variability between GCx churches is, I believe, MUCH higher than those other denominations because GCx is so pastor-centric, which explains why your experience is very different than many others on this site. If you're willing to share which GCx location you attend (no worries if not), I'd be curious to see if there are any negative stories about your church- it would not surprise me if there aren't or if there are, they are from a previous pastor if your church experienced a leadership transition. Does that make sense?

DarthVader,
Everything you stated makes a lot of sense to me and aligns with how I view my local church compared to the testimonies found here. I see how the ECC churches seem to vary from location to location and I do view some as healthier than others based on very limited knowledge and experience with any of them.

I sent you a PM with some additional details, but I am just not comfortable sharing my location at the current time.

« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 12:19:39 pm by Peace » Logged
OneOfMany
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« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2018, 12:26:16 pm »

Peace - if I understand your pain it is that of any member of a church group that would find out that other locations of their church group are abusing members.

You asked about the impression on this forum that most of the churches in this group are abusive. How can we know that if we are not there in person. I think that becomes clear when one reads testimonies on this forum that come from locations all over the country, all saying the same or similar things are happening in their church location.
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Peace
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« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2018, 12:50:58 pm »

Peace - if I understand your pain it is that of any member of a church group that would find out that other locations of their church group are abusing members.

You asked about the impression on this forum that most of the churches in this group are abusive. How can we know that if we are not there in person. I think that becomes clear when one reads testimonies on this forum that come from locations all over the country, all saying the same or similar things are happening in their church location.

As I stated to Badger, I don't feel this connection to the other locations that some of you may be assuming I have. I can't control what is going on at ECC any more than I can control the church down the street from my house. I just don't feel connected or responsible for it. Now, I would be heartbroken and would get involved if I heard my pastor or leader was saying or doing some of these things, but thank goodness that isn't the case. I stated in another post, if my local church left GCx tomorrow, I highly doubt anyone would shed a tear and I doubt much would change besides a handful of conferences throughout the year.



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