Cult label follows new church: Cult watcher calls GCI 'shepherding cult'

The Sunday Journal, Wheaton, Illinois/November 6, 1988

The Cult Awareness Network calls Great Commission International (GCI) a shepherding cult - one that assigns new recruits to someone "more spiritually advanced" for guidance and control.

Among CAN's criteria for a cult: the group's procedures, use of mind control and degree of consent by members.

Under the shepherding influence, there is "a gradual moving in on your life, so that gradually your time is not your own, without your clearly making that decision," says Cynthia Kisser, CAN's executive director.

Lack of explicit consent is one thing that distinguishes a cult from a conventional religious group, said Kisser.

Another cult criterion: "some kind of controlling or thought-stopping technique," Kisser said. GCI discourages its members from listening to outside criticism. Ex-members say it also discourages questioning church elders.

Members and elders of GCI reject the "shepherding cult" label.

"That's my job, to shepherd," said pastor Chris Biang of Glen Ellyn's new Grace Community Church. "If that's a cult thing, then Peter was in a cult, and Jesus, too."

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