I started attending GC in the fall of my freshman year at CMU with friends. I wanted to find a church to connect with for support and encouragement throughout my college years. I jumped in with both feet and began serving constantly during the Spring of my freshman year. I have always struggled with fear of man and this was magnified during my time at GC. I strived to do everything my leaders asked me to do, often at the expense of my sleep, my studies, family and friend relationships, and emotional well-being. I felt an enormous weight of burden and stress but couldn’t get out from under it. I served as part of the music ministry and we were expected to memorize our music for each service, sometimes two different sets of music each week for different services. I studied the recordings to play them exactly as they were recorded (as instructed by my leader) and often received harsh rebukes if I didn’t play them just right or messed up in some way. I was asked what sin was in my life that caused me to mess up what I was playing on my instrument and I spent so much time searching my heart to figure out what was wrong with me when I fell short. In addition, I was expected to submit a weekly schedule to my leader to outline all of my time for the week in detail and then the next week turn in an edited version with a record of what had actually occurred and justification of why I had changed my schedule. I was again questioned and reprimanded time and again about why I had changed my schedule and not stuck to what I had originally outlined. It seems crazy to even write this now, but it’s accurate.
I also endured a poignant interrogation session that has stuck with me above most of my other painful experiences. I was interrogated about a very private instance of sin in a relationship and asked to confess in detail everything that happened in the situation to a male Elder in a closed room by myself. I was 19 years old and that meeting broke me to sobbing. He told me “the more you confess, the more free you can be” and dug further and further. I knew something was off but as a scared young woman in a town I had just moved to, I felt isolated and alone. About two years after I started attending GC, my eyes were opened. I was attending a meeting with my ministry team when we were all presented with a contact that we should sign by a certain date to be able to continue serving. I read the contract and was immediately struck by the language that indicated that I would agree to obey and submit to my leader in all things. At that point, I could no longer remain silent and I respectfully voiced my concerns within a few days after the contract was shared. This questioning led to surprise interrogation meetings with leaders that were painful and humiliating. It also resulted in a demand that I make a decision to leave or stay by a certain date. I cried and prayed for days about what to do, knowing that I had isolated myself to a point of not knowing anyone outside of the church in Mt. Pleasant and facing the reality of living in Mt. Pleasant completely alone. I still hadn’t come to a decision by the dates set forward at which point a current Elder told me that I was “in sin for not making a decision by the date given to you.” That was all the clarity I needed to know what to do. I walked away that day and never came back.
I was immediately shunned and for a long time, I would see people I knew from GC out in public and they would act like I was invisible and turn to walk the opposite direction. It was horrible and took its toll on me emotionally. Thankfully, I found a wonderful new church to call home that has helped me to heal and loved me throughout the years since. Reading the other stories on this thread breaks my heart. I had no idea that all of this was going on while I was having my own struggles but it doesn’t surprise me given my own experience. I didn’t talk to anyone around me because I was afraid. I know many of these people and I do not question any of their stories given my own experience. I witnessed similar things and was too afraid to speak up. Just to be clear, there are many people here and in other private venues who have been sharing their stories. For those who are reading, please know this is not a small group of people. If I had to make a rough estimate based on all the people who have shared publicly and privately, I could safely say that the number is close to 100 or more people who could and have shared stories similar to mine and others here.
“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” 1 Timothy 3:2-7