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Ex-members scorn, current members praise GCI


Sentinel Correspondent

Six former members of the GCI church in Townson belong to a support group run by the Cult Awareness Network just outside of Baltimore. They were willing to talk to The Sentinel about their experiences in GCI.

Delithia Gross said she was encouraged by church members to discipline and spank her children until they stopped crying.

“The wives of the church elders would tell us that you could know you’ve broken a child’s spirit, that he has repented, by the sound of his cry, like he is almost out of breath,” Gross said.

“They would say, ‘You can tell, you can tell,’ when the spirit is broken. They would recommend that you use a wooden spoon,” she added.

“I didn’t go to discipline night because I thought it was disgusting,” said one ex-CGI member who asked that her name not be used. “The elder’s wives would tell us to keep spanking the child, even if you left black and blue marks, until you break the spirit,” she said.

“Crying is called rebellion. The idea is that if the child is crying, you beat him, discipline him until he stops crying,” said former GCI member Keith Cingel.

“The idea of the perfect child is very submissive, he doesn’t cry, he doesn’t talk back. He doesn’t do any of the things that normal kids do,” Cringel said.

“My marriage is ruined because of that church,” said Wanda Bower, another former member, who related an incident that occurred while she was pregnant.

“One day I was cleaning my kitchen and I wanted to clean a piece of carpet under my microwave. I asked my husband to move the microwave for me, but he refused. When I got mad at him, he called the church,” Bower said.

Two church members then came to her home and “told me I was a sinner and that I ‘should submit’ and listen to my husband,” Bower said.

Greg Thompkins, another former church member, was working at the house of one church member when he realized the church was not for him.

“He had some heavy furniture to move and I had to leave. I told him I could stay and help, but he told me his wife would do it.

“I couldn’t believe it. There she was, this tiny and frail pregnant woman, and he was having her move furniture,” he said.

Thompkins was a saxophone player who was a music major at Towson. The church member he was working with “was constantly yelling at me how evil it would be for me play in sleazy little bars. That is what really broke my heart,” Thompkins said.

Another young woman, who asked that her name not be used, said that she was only able to leave the church after her parents had her listen to “deprogrammers.” or “Christian counselors,” as she perfers [sic] to call them.

She said that her parents told her they were going to vacation at a beach house. Instead, however, along with her parents were the two men from the Cult Awareness Network.

“I listened to them for three days before I realized how wrong the church was, how ridiculous it was to be discouraged from dating. I’m a Christian and I feel there is nothing wrong with dating,” she said.

“I’m glad my parents did that for me. When I was member, other church members were telling me that my family would come under the influence of the devil and try to have me quit the church,” she said.


Sentinel Correspondent

While GCI leaders refused to talk to The Sentinel, two GCI members did give brief telephone interviews.

On child discipline, GCI member Greg Krehbiel said that, “The one aspect of discipline is that the child comes away knowing that you love them.

“The child gets a spanking and you won’t leave the room until the child understands there is no bitterness. You make certain the kid is smiling, and comes away laughing and playing,” Krehbiel said.

As far as GCI itself goes, “It’s a very sound New Testament church … they follow biblical principles. They’ve helped me get to know the Lord. The authority has no say on when you marry or how you marry. There are just suggestions (on what to do).

“GCI is very practical, down to earth, nothing is hidden. Everything is open,” Krehbiel said.

“What is common and advisable is for members to get advice from an elder. At first, (an elder) thought at the time that Wendy and I weren’t ready to get married. But I went ahead and (proposed to her). I didn’t get kicked out, or get sat down before a group,” Krehbiel said.

Mike Robertson, another church member, discussed the authority structure in the church. “There will be ones that do question (elders). I don’t swallow everything I hear. I have had several disagreements in the past. I question authority about different things. I still have some questions.

“But I’m not going to let little doctrinal questions override the overall pluses of the group,” Robertson said. Adding that “It’s hard to credit GCI. I would speak more in terms of the Lord in my life. The Lord is the final authority.

The Montgomery County Sentinel, February 6th, 1986