The aftermath of Pastor Robert Prokop's (CIG) disaffiliation
My name is Gerald Schmidt from Vienna, Austria and I have spent nearly 6 months on the “Bible Speaks” Campus in Lenox in 1984. Some of you may remember some funny stories from that time, such as my unsuccessful attempt to pet a skunk and my successful attempt to jump from a bridge in Florida.
I used to be a faithful member of Rob Prokop’s church in Vienna from 1985 to 2010. Many of you remember him as a preferred speaker at Greater Grace-conferences preaching to huge audiences with thousands of people. Based on his popularity he was the driving force of the “Sandy Cove”-movement. In his disaffiliation letter, which was one of the most wide spread documents in the year 2005 (also available here on carlstevens.org) he listed seven reasons for leaving Greater Grace.
Many have welcomed and praised his initiative, therefore it is only just and fair to publish the other side of the story which is verifiable by numerous ex-members. The purpose of this article is to testify as an eyewitness how Rob Prokop was offending us in all of the seven points that he directed against Greater Grace.The disaffiliation by itself was not the problem
I am not speaking in general against pastors who were a part of Sandy Cove but, believing the best, I hope that Vienna is the only sad exception that had such an unhealthy development because there the leader chose to cover up the past with a new facade of “seeker sensitive church consumerism” instead of truly repenting and reconciling the hurting and the ostracised just as he demanded for himself in point 6) of his disaffiliation letter.
Those of us, who used to be a part of Greater Grace, didn’t mind the disaffiliation, even though we did not get personally hurt by the ministry in Baltimore. Actually most of us fondly remember the time with Greater Grace, because we were only moderately involved in “homebase”. Luckily we were not close enough to the Baltimorean leadership to witness some of the ugly stuff that was posted on the internet. But regrettably we were far too close to the leadership of the church in Vienna, now called CIG (in German: Christliche Internationale Gemeinde).
No, we didn’t mind the disaffiliation by itself, but we were suffering because Rob Prokop was treating us the same way that Greater Grace allegedly was treating him. He treated us that way not only after he was splitting Greater Grace worldwide, but ever since the early days of the church. Enlightened by his disaffiliation letter we saw him committing the same crimes in Vienna that he ascribed to Greater Grace. As he frantically tried to veer out of what he labelled a cult he acted like a cult leader. The Exodus
As a consequence, not one single person, that has co-labored and helped Rob Prokop build the church in Vienna is still around. Dear brothers and sisters that I had known for 20+ years left the church grieved, disgruntled, confused and anguished. A daring minority who spoke up was kicked out by a new board that was manipulated by Rob Prokop. This board comprised of people who were not even present at Greater Grace-Times and who were not even capable of making sound judgments concerning this issue. Rob Prokop always knew how to get the dirty work done by new unsuspecting members, who were mesmerized by his charisma.
We have kept a picture from our working crew in 1998 where all of us are standing in the rubble preparing our new meeting hall. Except three people from the “leadership”, everybody else on this picture is no longer around. However I am glad that me and all of my family members got out, including my brother in law with his family and my mother in law who sent a resignation letter to Rob Prokop almost immediately after I got kicked out of his church. More about this later.
The aftermath of the disaffiliation was a spiritual holocaust, that wiped out the history of man and women who have laid down their lives for decades for what they thought was God’s cause. Within a short time Rob Prokop moved from a partially legalistic “fundamentalism” (e.g. the viewpoint that Rock music is exceptionless of the devil, etc ...) to a state-of-the-art-seeker-sensitive-movement that opened its doors to all kind of “worldly” practices. The “practices” were not so much in my focus, but much rather his authoritarian leadership-style that he still held on to. Just as in the old days, he continued to crush people who dared to challenge him. We were always lied to about the reason why these people left. Summarized it may be said that he distanced himself from Greater Grace-practices as a victim, but not as a perpetrator.Going public
Five years after the disaffiliation, in the beginning of 2010, after much patience and countless meetings and tears that were to no avail I felt led to cry for help on the internet, using facebook as a platform the same way factnet was used to address Greater Grace issues. Soon 34 people joined my facebook group that I called “first generation”. Some of these people went further and discussed my articles. After reading them they commented that I described the situation “in depth and with historical accuracy”. In spite of the fact that I removed my articles upon request of the leadership in May 2010, I received a letter on June 2, 2010 that I was kicked out of their church that I had co-laboured in since 1985. Strangely enough, Rob Prokop was accusing Greater Grace because of a lack of freedom (Point 4) and because of a lack of having a voice (Point 5) in his famous disaffiliation letter.
Independently from my pleas Mary Murphy got pulled on the carpet by the leadership in March 2010 because she dared to speak up against one of their policies after faithfully serving them for 24 years. According to her testimony she had to answer before a tribunal of ten people (!) all by herself. I would call this a “serious lack of biblical ethics”, just as Rob Prokop put it in point 2) of his disaffiliation letter.
When my facebook articles caught the eye of the public Rob Prokop organized a propaganda trial on May 18, 2010 in front of 120 mostly unsuspecting church members. Labelled as “facebook group” Mary Murphy, Greta Mikan, Victoria Sommer, the Krösses and myself were limited by this trial to direct five questions to the leadership. While Rob Prokop remained silent his cronies started to praise the ministry and mentioned how much they accomplished, how many people they reached and how vicious we were to attack such a great work. They counted the lives helped and saved in this ministry, but forgot to count the ones destroyed and wounded. That takes me right back to the C.R.I.-Martin-Report which exposed the „end justifies the means” attitude in some of the Grater Grace-leaders. Characteristics of Rob Prokop
The greatest problem is that people underestimate the charisma of Rob Prokop. From the 1980's to today scores of people have failed to make an objective evaluation because they were blinded by his flattering and confidence inspiring demeanor. It took some of us 20 years to objectively evaluate his personality. The leadership twisted the situation and explained it away as follows: “we were co-dependent and instable because of wounds from our childhood”. This is not true in most of the cases. Even if it were true, it does not discharge the accused from undue influence, just as the court ruled in favour of Betsy Dovydenas (the lady that donated over $ 6 Million to Greater Grace in 1985) inspite of the fact that she was evaluated as “more susceptible to influence than the average person”.
As a consequence members that see a “true-faced” leader are divided from members that see a “two-faced” leader. Does this sound familiar to anyone who has undergone the ordeals either in Baltimore or overseas? Rob Prokop is repeatedly playing off new undiscerning members against members that have been around long enough to smell the rat in him. The two extreme opposite faces of Rob Prokop are separating people and even families: one face is perfectly playing the persecuted victim (that makes the co-dependent willing to “die” for him) and the other face doesn’t shrink back from “shooting” at his own people, just as it has been seen in recent political upheavals in northern Africa. Members have always been separated by their degree of discerning the issue. The bottom line is that Rob Prokop always knew how to silence the oppressed and to convince the naive of his innocence.
In point 1) of his disaffiliation letter Rob Prokop accused Greater Grace for their serious lack of accountability while he himself is not accountable to anyone. Short-term his charisma seems to be his greatest asset but long-term it has proven to be his greatest curse because it continually stifles the growth of accountability structures. Like a magnet he attracts people who soon become yes-man (and yes-women) that never criticize him.
Rob Prokop is not the least bit sorry for all the heartache that he has caused. Contrary to the scriptures: “there is no one righteous” he is convincing the naive members of his new movement that he has never done anything wrong. Those who remember him as the successful speaker at Greater Grace Conferences who suddenly and miraculously overcame his introvert personality when he stepped on the stage may think this is impossible, but I can only plead with them to ask other witnesses such as Pastor Brent Orman, Pastor Dragan Jevremovic, furhermore those Austrian students that graduated from MBC&S, such as Arpad Csoka, Angela Csoka, Peter Ramsebner, Marvin Liu, Kathy Waldl, Gudula Urban, Aurora Guzbeth, furthermore my brother in law Paul Kocarek who is the brother of Pastor Josef Kocarek and last not least, Mary Murphy.Specific examples of betrayal
Example 1: At one instance Rob Prokop elevated a member to the heights of heaven declaring him to be “like David” and flattering him to death. Admittedly back then we were envious. In 2005, when this member spoke up against the way the disaffiliation was conducted, Rob said he was “demonized” and kicked him out of “his” church. But at the same time Rob was running down Greater Grace for allegedly behaving the same way towards him.
Example 2: On Sunday, April 02, 2000 mister Prokop inaugurated 12 elders. According to his own words one of the reasons that he chose them was that “they are 100 percent in line with Baltimore”. 5 years later he decided that he didn’t want to have a Greater Grace Pastor on his team. He justified this by telling me that he was always skeptical about Greater Grace and that he is glad that he finally found the exit door.
Example 3 - loyalty towards Baltimore: “home base” used to be promoted to the heights of heaven. Greater Grace Conferences were so strongly recommend by “important” members that we needed “excuses” if we didn’t spend our vacation at the Greater Grace summer conventions. By the way, I don’t regret these conferences, I always had a great time there. I only thought it was so weird when some conference visitors including Rob and Mary jumped over chairs and tables in order to catch up with Carl Stevens while another pastor was still speaking from the pulpit. And here comes the insanity: only a few years later faithful members that had served in Vienna for many years had to endure hostile treatment merely because they were associated with Greater Grace.Believing the best
This is not an attack against mister Prokop’s call or against his ministry but against his harmful behaviour that consistently contradicts his messages. Nor is this an attack against the potential of his new nature but a solemn warning against the harmfulness of his old nature. What does it mean to believe the best after observing such a behaviour for 25 years? It is to believe that this is not intentional sadism. It is to believe that no one in his right mind is able to cause so much heartache and pain and trash people without an afterthought that have served faithfully for 20+ years. It is to assume that Rob is mentally ill because now he is bragging from the stage that he is keeping a journal how he daily spends one hour with God while at the same time these atrocities are going on behind the scenes. It is to assume that this is a sociopathic disorder. There is an article on the internet that is describing the behaviour of such people so stunningly accurate, that I was wondering if the author personally knows mister Prokop and his role models, seehttp://www.youmeworks.com/sociopaths.html
Whatsoever has been truly accomplished was done exclusively by the grace of God. However it is easier to stop a drunk driver than a religious leader that is wise in his own conceit. It is my prayer and my hope that the grace of God will keep him from completely destroying what Christ has built in Vienna. Can he be a trophy of God’s Grace? May be, but not because of what he “achieved”, as he would always try to make us believe, but much rather inspite of what he destroyed.
In his last point (7) of his disaffiliation letter Rob Prokop addressed a “serious lack of repentance”, however unto this day he has not repented of anything. If he would be willing to direct his quest for anyone willing to say: “I was wrong; I repent—what can I do to make things right?” towards himself, healings and reconciliations would progress so much faster as they have done until now.Conclusion
The statement of Michaela Kröss who joined my infamous “facebook group” was perfectly summarizing the psycho torture that the leadership has inflicted on us (translated from german into english):
“…in the last 4 years I frequently feared that I would loose my mind, because incidents have always been portrayed differently as I have actually heard them, saw them or perceived them. Everything has been perfect and everything is perfect, and I am the only one who sees things negatively. That’s the way they portray it. Now I know I am not the only one! Halleluja. After all of these months of suffering and doubting myself I only sense pity for the responsible. Pity, because one day they will have to give an account…”.
Summarized it can be said that the majority of Ex-Greater Grace-Vienna, now called CIG, is made up of sincere Christians that are living under a cultic leadership. This is exactly what the CRI-Martin Report observed in Greater Grace some 30 years ago. Things have not changed but thanks be to God for this christian majority!
Therefore I want to express my thanks to the true body of Christ comprised by people from churches in Baltimore, Vienna, etc… but also by some “lone rangers”, that have invested in me and have helped me to grow in Christ. I treasure the memories from brothers and sisters all over the world and I want to join hands with them to preserve the invisible unity of the true church that will never rotate around a man but will only lift up Christ. I don’t regret one single hour that I have spent in Bible School and in serving the Lord.Moving onwards
So far this has been the greatest ordeal of my life. But God is faithful. We have moved to a tiny Baptist Church in the city of Vienna. There we have been cordially accepted and our children, aged 17 and 18 at the moment, have been integrated into their youth group.