Great Commission International, the controversial church that opened a DuPage County parish last year and that some critics label a cult, has withdrawn from the National Association of Evangelicals.
The withdrawal precluded the possibility that GCI might be forced from NAE, a respected umbrella organization for evangelical groups and churches that is headquartered in Carol Stream.
"We didn't have to take any action," said Rev. Billy Melvin, NAE's executive director.
Six months ago, NAE postponed renewal of GCI's membership in its national registry pending a review of complaints against the church.
Critics charge that GCI promotes unquestioning obedience to church elders and exercises tight control over its members' daily lives.
Gci was invited to answer the allegations, and three GCI pastors met with Melvin and other NAE board members in late February.
Following that meeting, NAE was poised to drop the church from its rolls on a technicality - that it misrepresented itself as an "organization" rather than a "church" in its original application to NAE, Melvin said.
He believes GCI's application error was an honest mistake, Melvin added. "They believed they were doing it the right way."
The church would be welcome to reapply for membership in NAE, but he doubts it will, Melvin said. "They are aware that with the controversy that surrounds the group at this moment, that would not be wise," he said. "If they applied to us as a denomination, we would start the process from square one...We'd get into a lot of things we did not get into previously."
GCI officials declined to comment its withdrawal from NAE.
GCI has 60 member churches. One of the newest is the Grace Community Church, which opened near Glen Ellyn last September and solicited new members through a sophisticated telemarketing campaign.
Controversy has dogged GCI and its affiliates through most of the church's 19-year history.
The Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network terms GCI a Bible-based cult.
Christian cult watchers stop short of calling GCI a cult because of its apparently orthodox Christian doctrine. But they do describe GCI in terms such as aberrant and quasi-cultic.
Wheaton College dismissed a part-time teacher last fall for recruiting students to join his GCI-affiliated church.