Excerpts from Letters, etc.
[Inclusion of these excerpts is not meant to imply whole-hearted agreement with
everything expressed in them - lap]
1. Dear Larry,
Thank you for your recent letter - I can only say it was much needed. God will strongly support individuals - but also strongly support the truth. Many of us have has convictions concerning the present imbalances - lack of teaching on the whole counsel of God. But many including myself have been unable to express ourselves.
I've personally been frustrated with the attitude toward Christian responsibility and especially in the realm of job - work - family support. It wouldn't have been so bad had certain brothers not considered us “working” brothers as undedicated, immature, lacking vision, etc.-
By observation - I have concluded that brothers with wife & kids cannot support their families consistently without working consistently.
One brother that I've known for three years - has a large family - and has been helped along the way because he couldn't make it with his salary and position at work. Finally, by God's grace he was promoted at work to supervisor - and had an adequate income. But he is quitting his job to “go” witnessing at [another city] this summer - for 2 months.
He can't keep his family on minimum wage - which is probably all he will find upon returning.
You young men be sensible? He is only 3 years old in the Lord.
It seems to me that God wants us to be witnessing - and some will go witnessing as representatives of the church - but only those who can do so and maintain their other responsibilities…
Fortunately - God is using pressure, circumstances, and babies to convince us - for we seldom hear words spoken…
-May 13, 1977
2. A couple writing from Bible school
“…We seem at a point in our lives now that we are thinking everything over again what [sic] we learned or were taught so far and which we took for truth. We are finding many slanted ideas and attitudes, mainly seeing how much we had put ourselves under the law, denying the liberty and abundant life Christ wants to give. We are coming to see how very fine the line between faith and works really is in the life of the Christian. Another thing we are seeing is how God's truth really is spread out over Christ's whole Body; and no part can claim to have more of it than another; because we all are full of blind spots. This is really contrary to what we held to before, despite general teaching on the subject. But somehow it was never applied. And so one starts to hold to a movement or church more than to God Himself, boxing oneself in. Many areas we found wrong…”
3. A man who had left the GCI group and then returned only to leave again for good
“…[My wife] and I became disillusioned with the group here for the last time and left for good a few months ago. The Holy Spirit has been bound and tied and put in a closet, although he continues to operate in individual lives…”
-March 28, 1977
4. A young man writing several months after leaving GCI
“…I have recently been reading through Galatians. The message of that book has quite literally changed my life… I discovered that the problems of guilt and disbelief that I had been continually experiencing for about the last year and a half sprung from a false concept of God spurred on by the 'self-sanctification' which seems to me to have been encouraged while [in the GCI group]. When I began to be pulled under the law again (self-sanctification) I was faced with constant condemnation. Not having a desire to do these things (witness, etc.) I continually prayed for the desire to appear. When I still lacked the desires I felt that God was withholding them from me. This led to a hatred of God, a picture of Him as that cruel sadist who loved to see ones suffer. It was as if He had let me hear the gospel of truth and let me adhere to it for a while and then snatched it away from me so that He could delight in my torture as I was consumed by my lust yet seeing the hope and blessings of Christ completely out of my reach But since reading Galatians the Lord has turned my heart. He has shown me the falsity of self-sanctification which is equal to self-salvation. Never has Gal. 2:20 meant so much to me since just reading it in the context of Galatians. Christ living out His life in each of us. NOT Christ in us to help us keep the law but Christ living out His righteousness thru us. The glory is all God's because He is doing all things that are worthy of glory in us. Praise His name.
“…He didn't save me because my heart was right towards Him and He isn't going to perfect me because I cleanse my heart of iniquity either. It's because He loves me, really, truly, beyond a shadow of a doubt Loves me and desires the best for me, His son.”
-December 27, 1977
5. A girl writing to a former leader who had been expelled from her church
“…I left [the group] May of 77. It was the most horrible experience of my life. I ran away. The reason I left was because I sensed a growing rottenness within the church. Many of the members were so full of pride & conceitedness it made me sick. The church also began to stress conformity & uniformity to such a degree that I felt like a robot. But the clincher was when they began teaching that a woman served God indirectly, that is by serving the brothers. If I'm going to serve God, it's not going to be through anything or anybody.
“I never understood why you were put out nor did I agree with it. None of us peons knew who it was you were supposedly 'dividing us against' and that seemed weird. I didn't think it was right to hear only one side & then with no facts or evidence. The impression I got was that you were some kind of raving maniac trying to gain followers which hardly seemed possible viewing your previous conduct. Not knowing anything, however, instills enough fear to keep a person away [from someone under discipline].
6. A girl writing to a former deacon of the church she had left about the same time
“I, (as probably many others) have great difficulty in trying to understand and comprehend the actions and super-un-biblical attitudes and behavior being demonstrated by the elders! …Let me ask your counsel, opinion - as to the reasons behind these 'elders' ' behavior? How can born-again, Spirit-filled men act in such habitual, un-Christ-like ways? I would appreciate hearing from you on these questions. Perhaps the answers are quite obvious, but I fail to see any at this point in time.
“I am truly grieved to know of the damage done in quite a few saints lives, as a direct result of lies and character assassination performed by [the elders]. Are they so deceived and/or inflated by their (abuse of) authority/power and position that they are blind to the truth? It seems they are afraid of something and now are trying to cover-up. How our Father must be grieved by this whole mess!
“I've seen personally (first-hand) some of the 'fruit' coming from the [group] these days, and it causes me distress. To see a person change from an individual being his real self, into a clone of [the group] conformity, uniformity, and living in a superficial world with tunnel vision is hard to take…”
7. A young woman writing about a year and a half after leaving her GCI church
“…Concerning 'running through the paces' etc.: I believe that part of this is a [GCI] hang-over, and I mean hang-over… We were behaving (some more than others) like those two seals we saw at the zoo last year…; in a sense, a follow-the-leader type of thing. We continuously ran the prescribed pace set down for us by men - instead of following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It's almost as if people asked us 'did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?', and we said, 'No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.' Today, many believers follow their pastor, their elders, their older ones in the Lord - but they are at a loss in the knowledge of being 'led by the Spirit'… God didn't roll out a huge batch of dough and get one Santa Claus cookie cutter to stamp us out. He didn't tell us to follow the first cookie cut, so to speak, nor the final one cut out. You see what I'm saying - the emotional and spiritual damage can be disasterous [sic] if we try to follow men and their teachings…”
-November 7, 1978
8. A young woman writing from the Army back to a friend who had also left the same
“I know when I lived [in the local GCI sisters house] I felt hemmed in & oppressed by rules, schedules, other people's expectations, fear of being judged, & my own conscience.
“About 'old' friendships I had this thought: is it right that we live out our witness by honoring the friends we had before ('I love you IF you come to church' is not agape!), or shall we forsake them when they won't be interested in the same thing we are?
“I'm glad you left the fellowship with the conviction you were obeying the Lord. That has probably helped you more than you realize. When I left, I knew something was wrong, but I thought it was me. I thought they were right, even to the extent that I equated leaving them with leaving God. And I was so unhappy I was ready to take even that step to escape. You can probably imagine how guilty & alone that made me feel. The final result was that I suffered what I consider a mild nervous breakdown through Basic Training… Even after that, I was sunk in depression until very, very recently & I thought I'd never be happy, or willing to be used by the Lord, again… I think, from reading your letter, my counselling [sic] sessions maybe weren't as vicious as yours, but because my vision wasn't as clear, perhaps, & I was afraid to tell the people who might have helped me, the results in my life were nonetheless devastating. The only other thing I want to say about all this is that when I left [the city] last spring I felt like I was running for my life…”
9. A young married woman still in a GCI church, writing to a couple who had left
a different church two years earlier
“…What really gets me is how I believed so many things that were said in the fellowships and at conferences - then a little over a month ago, it's like my eyes were opened up. It's just a weird situation. Only Jesus can show you these things after 5 ½ years of indoctrination and brainwashing.
“…I still have very serious problems (which you can probably imagine). I'm still brainwashed in many ways, and am not seeing things as clearly as I could if I were on the outside for awhile. There's a constant battle in my mind to conform to the group - it's easier, and yet I know I never will or could, because I've seen too much already which just makes my heart sick. My husband has put a lot of pressure on me also.”
-July 23, 1979
10. A young woman writing soon after leaving her group
“At this point… I don't understand what's going on in my life. As far as my leaving the fellowship - I have no problems with that. I know God's Spirit led me (one of the few times I've allowed Him in the past two years!) But I feel somewhat like a statement that Roland Allen made - that 'the spirit has been crushed out' of me. I don't want to be a spiritual 'vegetable' - but that's how I feel. I want to press on - to be effective for the Lord…
“…I long to fall more in love with Jesus; and to be revived according to His Word.”
-July 30, 1979
11. A young man who had left his GCI church about a year and a half earlier, but
had kept close ties with several members
“…I think the group is farther along the road to becoming a sect or even a cult than I thought. Certainly, in any local church where the priesthood of all believers suffers a 90% emasculation; and where the elders have assumed extraordinary authority as a matter of course; and where the members are effectively prevented from circulating in society or among other churches; and where anti-intellectualism is a virtue; well, given these conditions, serious errors are bound to creep in eventually. [The group's] Christology may not yet be faulty, but I believe they are not holding fast the Head… There is little doubt that [the group] is a sect today; tomorrow it may well become a full-fledged cult. The scriptural church principles which cause assemblies to be self-steering are twisted [in the group] to cause the church to become ingrown and in many respects stagnant and lifeless. Believers there are under law… God is fully in control, allowing these things to happen; He will be glorified in these circumstances; but in terms of truth and righteousness, [the group's] current trend is not encouraging…”
-December 27, 1979
12. A deacon of a GCI church in the Mid-West to the founder of the movement, Jim
“…I'm carrying a casket on my shoulder tonight as I write this. There is much that is dear to me that will go into this casket depending on your response, that is, if you respond negatively you will kill part of me. I know this. But compelled by love for you and the dear saints I'm growing to love even more as separation from them has become, apart from God, a near certainty, and also compelled by a growing and already intense hatred for this sin I will endeavor to show you, I have counted the cost and would sacrifice much more if I had it.
“I hope you are thinking to yourself, 'What's going on? Why is [Bob] being so dramatic? What's so serious?' My answer, briefly, is that I have found sin in you. Sin so great, that were it in my power, I would snatch you from your position because of the terrible consequences that sin is wrecking [sic] upon the lives of many saints. I have had to choose how to think of your integrity relative to it and, despite a good deal of evidence to the contrary, choose to believe that your conscience is clear - I choose to believe you in this. The option then is that you are not willfully wicked but deceived, have a blind spot like some of the good kings of Judah, you've walked in righteousness and have God's commendation in much but have not removed the high places and like Moses going back to Egypt to see Israel delivered, you will meet God in his fury over the uncircumcision of your spiritual children and the disarray of your house…”
-March 6, 1983
13. The wife of a deacon who had been excommunicated from a GCI church in the Mid-West,
writing to a former elder of the same church who had left several years before
“…It seems a crime to be praying for people to 'leave' but that is the case here. We just want to be available to help in any way we can to assist in making a step out. The single sisters are having an especially rough time - only two have left. Getting out from under that 'umbrella of protection,' the authority claims, is a scary thing. Just is, the sisters have the most to lose by staying in. Their (GCI) attitude toward women is less than encouraging. Woman is deceived and the deceiver. Many of the men who have left shared how they were challenged that they were listening to the whisperings of their wives and were not being leaders of their homes, even couples whose concerns were every bit equal between the two.
“We have a great desire to get past all of this stuff and fill our minds and hearts with more edifying stuff. It's just hard since our roots are so deep and our concerns for ones in the church are so real…”
14. A woman writing a general letter to the members of her GCI church to explain
why she has decided to withdraw from the fellowship
“It is with grief and resolve that I write this to you; grief because it is to say goodbye to some that I have loved and cherished for a number of years and resolve because no matter how closely akin I am to you, I cannot go against areas of conviction in order to continue to fellowship.
“To help you understand how I feel, …may I share this analogy? I feel much like what I think a marriage partner would feel that comes home one day to be confronted with a mate that violates the marriage union, adultery; and not only openly admits this but since the other partner sees nothing wrong with their actions, wants the extra-marital connection to move in 'for the good of all'. But since my convictions do not permit such violation I see no option but to leave. In such a situation I cannot see where I could be labeled as having a divisive spirit
“…I stand to lose alot [sic]. I understand that. The price for me is big. I have benefitted greatly from this local body and also from the imput [sic] from the brothers and sisters in the various works across the country. When I came to [the GCI group] first in 1973 I was groping for stability in my spiritual life. I learned and grew and soon moved to [this city], leaving behind my profession (a field unavailable [here]) and my physical family's approval because I was leaving the accepted denomination, to be part of this local body. My life among you has bee years of opportunity of being intimately involved in our common spiritual growth. I have stayed through many rough waters, I have cried many tears and prayed many prayers for the preservation of the body life. So it is not with ease that I give in to exit at this time but you know me to be a woman of conviction and I cannot participate in what I believe to be wrong (James 4:17)…”
-February 10, 1985
15. A woman writing to Jim McCotter to enumerate several problem areas with him
and the movement as a whole; what follows is the beginning, and then the ending,
of her letter
“I write this letter in lieu of a meeting in private with you. The fact that I am unable to do that disturbs me also, however, I trust you will seriously consider the things that I have on my heart and mind.
“The things that are presently happening in our body here in [this city] are breaking my heart and the hearts of many others and are causing untold confusion and hurt to so many who are nothing but earnest in their desire to follow Jesus and do all that He says.
“As the leader of a movement such as this and one who has inspired so many to follow God with all their heart, I am asking you to please, please not disregard these grave concerns. I speak my own heart and mind, not that of others, although it may echo their concerns as well. For the sake of God's kingdom, will you please listen with a heart open to reproof.
“I come to you recognizing that I myself am a very weak and faulty woman, a Christian in process, but desirous of obtaining all that Christ has in store for me. I want that for everyone. That is why I write this…
“…I have at times not believed the best of you and others in Washington. I know that this attitude, no matter whom it is directed toward, is sin. Will you forgive me for not believing the best and speculating on things recently to others that I do not really have knowledge of in fact?
“Will you also forgive me for not examining everything carefully before now and holding fast that which is good? I cannot measure the harm that my lack of love in failure to confront and address these things may have caused, not only by me, but by others also.
“You and I and others are hurt greatly by such failures.
“Supporting you and my elders here could be a real joy for me. At this time, however, I will not be able to continue to do that unless the sin explained here is confessed to and real change takes place…
“I want to believe the best, yet I cannot obey any church or other authority when it does not uphold and live out clear-cut principles of God's Word. Neither can I disobey God when He has clearly shown me something that contradicts what my authority may tell me.
“I love you all and want the very best for you. I hope and pray earnestly that you will respond as God desires to these things.
“It will break my heart further if you do not see these things and repent.”
-February 13, 1985
16. A man who had just left a GCI church along with several others following a major
intervention in the local church by the national leadership; he writes to a former
elder of that church
“It was good to hear your voice this morning and I appreciate your concern for those hurt recently.
“I have mixed feelings about the whole nightmare. I want to forget the whole mess and go on to establishing myself and family in a new fellowship of believers. Yet I keep seeing the tremendous emotional pain and relational disruptions caused by [the] movement. When I think of those hurt in the past, and think of those who will be hurt in coming years, it overwhelms me. They are beginning 50 new churches now and 100 conferences are planned for next year. That is a lot of people who will be hurt!…”
-February 20, 1985
17. A man (formerly in leadership) writing a general letter to members of the GCI
church he had left and afterwards was disciplined by his elders
“…Perhaps the single-greatest point of anger, hurt, and puzzlement for us in all of this is that we still have not been told by you what charge(s) have been brought against us. You may say, 'But you refused to get with the elders to hear any charges!' First, let me say this even if I had refused to meet with them Christian love and a common sense of fairness and decency dictate that you would notify me of anything that is to be said publicly about me or mine. But as is the case…
“I did wholeheartedly agree to and desire to meet with [two elders] at noon of the very day they called me. It was basically set to happen in just that fashion and only needed my return call to confirm our meeting. They then mentioned that [two national leaders] were in town and would like to be with us. I stated that I didn't feel like I needed to talk with them and didn't think it was necessary or best for them to come. The conversation ended with them awaiting my confirmation to them.
“I must admit that the thot of 'being talked with' by four men, two of which were from Washington was a disturbing idea to me. And here was an opportunity, perhaps the best chance I would have to question such a group about deeply divisive issues which have been springing up in the churches around the country since last summer. But I was fearful of talking with them by myself, especially having known what had happened and how things were handled in K.C. recently…”
[Later, during a conference call with those four men while the writer was at work, he tells how he felt, especially with regard to one of the men from Washington whom he had known well.] “This was an extremely difficult time for me since [this man] has always been a supreme example to me of what a Godly man is all about. To be so completely at odds with one whom you love is a terrible experience. I am sure he would say the same thing of me. I was angry, sad, praying, near laughter at times, weeping, distraught, …all at the same time. How could I break through? I could not
“My day was shot. What should I do?! I tryed [sic] to pray; talked with [my wife] on the phone (who was beside herself with the upset of it all; …I thought…
“…[After asking several questions and enumerating other points:] In concluding: I ask you, the church to corporately either rescind your judgement or send me a written statement and reasons for your action. If I feel that the case against me is wholly or in part unclear or false… I ask to appear before you all to personally recieve [sic] the charges against myself from the witnesses involved. I ask for the opportunity to defend myself as God gives me strength to do.
“I charge you all to prayerfully consider these things, to consider my plea, to examine the facts and intentions of the heart carefully and to speak the truth to me and to one another in love.”
-April 8, 1985
18. A well-known Bible teacher who had worked closely with GCI in its earliest days,
explaining his concern about the movement to a group of former members
“…The work of God is too great and too important, and people are too important to see any of them hurt. I think this is one of the things that has been most distressing for me, is to see the way the movement can discard people like you throw an old banana peel out the window with no apparent care for them. And I can't do that with people. We have friends we've had for many years, brothers and sisters - it's very difficult for me - maybe I'm more loyal, I don't know, but it's very difficult for me to cast a person off this way. So it's been hard for me to understand that mentality, and I know something of the hurt that many of you felt.”
19. A man who had left a Mid-West GCI church describing the atmosphere in his church
right before he and his wife decided to leave it.
“More and more it seemed like in [our church] it got to the point where it seemed like the order of the day was 'Who are we gonna kick out next?' And I got really sick of that. Not that I was against discipline, or anything like that, but it seemed like that was the biggest highlight of any meeting that we had was 'Who's gonna get the axe next?' I just couldn't believe that was the emphasis that God wanted us to have, so consequently we basically sorta drifted away from the [church] after some real personal problems that [my wife] and I both had with the direction of the church that was really never answered. We felt guilty for a year - we felt really guilty - because we were meeting together, she and I. We'd visit other places, but mostly we were together; we just claimed that 'when two or more are gathered in My name, I'm there.' And we still felt guilty, because we thought we don't want to be apart from people, but we weren't sure where to go. We didn't know of anybody or any church that we could go to that we didn't think we'd have the same problems. Although we knew there had to be a group of believers that God wanted us to knit with, but we weren't sure where. So it was really a blessing in February when we started meeting with the remnant of [our GCI church (a group of former members)] I've never doubted my salvation or where I stood with the Lord, but it's almost like I've been reborn if you can say re-saved in a sense in February, because it's like I kinda came down from the Empire State Building down to the first floor, and I'm just re-building, really starting from there… I really believe that we'll get back to the simplicity of our devotion to Christ - that's really all I want to get back to.”
20. A former deacon of a Mid-West GCI church explaining his personal frustration
after being excommunicated from his church on a trumped-up charge of faction
“We were in [the church] for many years, involved in a lot of things I guess I'm a lot disappointed - maybe more than disappointed, angry - with a lot of people that take a 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil' [attitude], and just hide, just hide - turn off their minds, ignore the Scripture. It's frustrating, it's aggravating to know, 'How can you reach these people that are still in that you know about?' I've invested ten year of my life in these people, and I'm cut off from them - I can't give any more, they won't talk to me or anything, and so, what do I do? I've written a letter, really trying to urge people to consider the facts, to listen to the other side. When [two other brothers] and I were thrown out, there was no opportunity for defense - y' know, the same kangaroo court situation - not even an opportunity. I went back and tried and they shouted me down and ran me out. That was that.”
21. A man who had been a member of a GCI church in the Mid-West relating how he
had been excommunicated from his church
“I've been going through a lot last month. Came home from work one day and everything I owned had been thrown out of my house. I was thrown out of my church almost three weeks ago. They excommunicated me too - I asked too many questions. I still pray for everybody that's still in the church, and I wish that I could talk with them. I wish they would come talk to me…”
22. A young woman who had been exit-counseled out of a GCI church on the East Coast
about a year earlier
“…After I realized what had happened [in the group] it was very devastating to realize that I had been believing something that wasn't true for two years - wholeheartedly committed, I might add, to converting the world. The emotional adjustment has been really difficult for me. I think at times I was even suicidal at points, because it's so drilled in your head that this is the best thing that you could be in, and if you willingly put yourself outside of that then you're obviously not in God's will anymore, and I felt like a piece of human trash…
“…I didn't even get to talk to [my elders] - they excommunicated me before I opened my mouth. I didn't even get the kangaroo court.”
23. A woman writing to a former elder of her GCI church after learning of the trauma
he had gone through as a result of his experience in the church
“I have to tell you that when we heard your testimony it shocked and deeply moved us. I just had to sit down and cry; really, we had no idea what you went through, why you left, what was going on in your life…
“…I'm sorry that we weren't close enough or wise enough or maybe understanding enough to offer support or help in such a terrible time. I wonder how many others there are that have gone or are still going through such heartbreaking things… There are so many hard things about what we've gone through with the movement; part of the difficulty is that we love those who led us down the destructive path, and also that for so long we hated ourselves, found ourselves lacking in so many ways, only to find out later that it wasn't us at all!…
“Some things you went through, some that all of us went through, make little or no sense now. We wonder, 'Why did God allow this?' But we also know that we never go through anything just for ourselves; when we come through it we're equipped to help the next guy stumbling along, going through the same thing. That's fulfilling the law of Christ; bearing one another's burdens.”
-June 24, 1985
24. A woman who had left a GCI church in the Mid-West
“…I've found out… that some of my concepts of God and of authority are really warped as a result of meeting with 'the saints' and being under that authority. I mean, I've doubted my own priesthood before God, especially in my womanhood. I've really had big doubts about, 'What am I here for?'
“[After relating how the founder of the movement had urged a deacon and his wife to give up the little girl they had adopted because she was the product of an immoral relationship] I've really seen just how harmful that idea or that attitude toward sin is in the movement. It's really perverted…”
25. A woman who had left a GCI church in the Mid-West
“…I didn't even realize how indoctrinated I was. I was one of these people that said, 'No, they didn't really affect me. All these other people had been in ten years, twelve years, fifteen years.' I could see them being affected. But as I listened to [testimonies of other ex-members] I realized, 'Oh, yes, I was.' My idea of God is that God was this horrible task-master. Although you were taught in your lessons that He wasn't, personally I felt like He always had His thumb on my head. As a woman, I guess I was only to be bare-foot and pregnant As far as having any intelligence, or being able to interpret the Bible and the Word and what God was saying to me, I didn't even have any ability to do that…”
26. A couple who had left a GCI church in the Mid-West (speaking alternately)
“[After we left the church] I was then told that this elder would not have fellowship with me - we couldn't meet [as we had previously] any more after that time. It was said that we could still be friends, that they still loved us, but ever since that time there just wasn't a bond, there wasn't a friendship. We never met with them again, we were never in their home again, and tried. We tried to set up things, but for some reason they didn't work out. It really affected me, because we thought these were our friends. It took a toll on us.
“The thing that the Lord also showed us, too, was that our relationship wasn't based upon 'I love you because of who you are,' but our relationship was based on whether you were in the 'work,' the true church or not. We just thought that was crazy… We were just willing to love people where they were at, and not tell all that we knew [about the negative things of the movement], but we later found that people wouldn't have a relationship with us. They were told to not talk to us, and different ones that had left the movement, even though we hadn't 'slandered' anyone. God just started putting a lot of things together for us, and showed us that this is wrong, it's just simply wrong…
“…When we left the movement it has taken us two years to get semi-normal again, just semi-normal. It has been devastating, it has been hard, to associate with other believers, not to judge them But it has been hard. It's like a death in the family, it's really like a death in the family, like you've lost your best friend, or your right arm, or somethin', it's like a real death…”
27. A college co-ed who was formerly a member of a GCI church in the East writing
to a university official
“…During my involvement with Great Commission Students at [two different universities] …my interest in subjects outside of or unrelated to church goals became non-existant. Before my contact with this group my interests were varied and all encompassing. As my commitment to the organization grew, my struggle to keep a balance between time given to church-related activities and time needed for other responsibilities became overwhelming. I felt a need to do well in school because my parents were paying for my education, and in order for my teachers and classmates to respect my 'message', it was important to exemplify my life in a way that they could respect. In short, if I did not do well in school, Christ's reputation was at stake. On the other hand not being totally committed to the goals of the group was like saying you didn't think Christ was worthy of all you could give. These concerns produced incredible emotional and mental strain upon me and frequently resulted in periods of breakdown (depression and slight hysteria, sporadic crying and laughing sometimes for no apparent reason). Eventually my attention span decreased to such a point that headaches would result after only fifteen to thirty minutes of concentration. In addition, my ability to process information deteriorated to the extent that it would take twice the time to complete an assignment or understand material as it would have taken the average person. To people around me, my thoughts seemed disjointed or unrelated and my conversations hard to follow. Even I noticed the changes in my ability to think, and became discouraged at my own inability to communicate. At the time I attributed these problems to my own shortcomings. I thought I just needed to try harder. The final blow came when I recieved [sic] my grades for the Spring semester of 1984: two D's and one F. In all my years of school, even when I didn't try hard I never received lower than a C. I felt I had given every ounce of energy I had left to finish well that semester and still I received these grades. I was more confused than surprised but very distressed about the outcome. I was very hesitant, even after leaving the group in the summer of 1984, to attribute any of these changes to the church. It has only been recently after talking to several others that I discovered this experience is not restricted to me alone…”
-September 20, 1985
28. A woman writing (after leaving her GCI church in the upper Mid-West) to a former
elder in a different GCI church
“…I had been asked to meet with [three elders] and about 10 others as a 'leadership group.' Those meetings showed me a lot to be concerned about, and when they gave us Jim McCotter's Leadership book, that really confirmed it. Once I started it, the incredibly faulty exegesis and less-than-scholarly form made me so mad that I knew that if I finished the book, I'd leave the church. I loved the people so much that I quit reading it for a while…
“…My questions got more and more haunting (I did read Leadership ), and began asking a lot of questions. I wanted to help, not just leave. I tried to point out the elitism, in-growth, faulty 'apostle' doctrine, peer-pressure and conformity being substituted for genuine spiritual growth, focus on church and church government rather than on the individual's personal relationship with and knowledge of God, inordinate dependence upon leaders, lack of independent thinking, etc., etc. Most of what I said (usually in small amounts, said at the 'leadership' meetings) seemed to go right past everyone.
“Eventually my questions and everything got worse, I was accused of having a pattern of slander, and was given my three warnings. I was told that I'd be disciplined if I ever talked to anyone else about my questions, but they never followed through on it.
“What they put me through at that point gave me a small idea of what you and hundreds of others have gone through. I was told over and over that I was deluded, that I was in sin, and that they feared for my life, etc., etc. When I said that I just wanted truth, I was told that I didn't. I was also told that the problems that I saw were products of my imagination…”
-April 14, 1986