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Author Topic: Is it fair to call the Assembly a CULT?  (Read 19375 times)
A Voice of Concern
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« on: January 30, 2003, 10:04:55 am »

Is the Assembly a cult?

Answer these questions if you are or were an Assembly member:
Do people need to seek counsel and get “the approval of the brethren and the unity of the saints” before they do something like change jobs, move, marry, etc.?  
Does the Assembly have something against people “acting independently of the leadership?”  
If someone does not act according to the rules of the Assembly, do people go and “report to the leadership?”  
Are people allowed to decide what God’s will is for them without interference from others?
Are people able to decide to leave without any problems and then still able to be friends with those who stay in committed fellowship?  

Many books define cults differently.  For example, M. Scott Peck in his book Further Along the Road Less Traveled defines a cult like this:

1. Idolatry of a single charismatic leader (i.e., in the Assembly’s case, more than one)
2. A revered inner circle (i.e., “workers” and those in authority)
3. Secrecy of management  (yes)
4. Financial evasiveness (for sure)
5. Dependency (yes)
6. Conformity (yes, ever try to be just a bit different and not get talked to?)
7. Special Language (yes, “divine appointments,” etc.)
8. Dogmatic doctrine (yes)
9. Heresy (debatable)
10. God in Captivity (yes, God and His ways fit into a nice, well-defined box)

Peck continues, “If you are trying to evaluate a particular organization, let me point out that to be a cult, a group does not have to satisfy all ten criteria.  If it meets three or four, I would be suspicious… There is a big difference between a community and a cult.  Community draws people in by its interconnectedness; community applies no pressure for people to stay; community glories in the extraordinary differences of its members.  Cults, on the other hand, are characterized by the brainwashing of its members, by a tremendous pressure to join or leave, and by a certain sameness of the people in them.”

It is not that the people in the Assembly are bad or evil; it is the beliefs and practices that sap people’s freedom to live and act as they believe God would have them live that are evil.  God's will has, on the most part, already been decided as far as behaviour so how can one decide what God's will is for them at this stage in their Christian growth?  There are many good people in the Assembly that follow legalistic doctrines that are labeled as "God's will."  I pray these people will find freedom to discern what God's will is for them.

The Assembly has many unscriptural practices that other cults practice.  For example, long, frequent meetings.  Another is “reporting to the leadership.”  One former member of the People’s Temple, Yolanda D. Crawford, wrote, “Jim Jones ordered us to ‘report’ on one another to prevent ‘treason.’  His technique was to have everyone report to him (or his two or three trusted leaders) all suspicious talk or behavior of others.”  According to Matthew, you have to go to your brother first and then take witnesses to talk to him if he refuses you and then bring it before the Church.  The Assembly twists Scripture to suit their own manmade doctrines like “it is God’s will you should go to all the meetings” (“Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together”) or “you need to seek counsel” (actually, the verses from Proverbs are King Solomon telling his sons to heed the advice of his court counselors, not do whatever the leadership says).

Healthy Christian Churches don’t monitor and control a person’s life under the guise of “being accountable and walking in the light.”  Healthy Christian Churches don’t shun former friends just because they wanted to leave “the gathering of God’s people” and they certainly don’t try to stop them or discourage them from leaving by warning them that they are “settling for second best,” “leaving the covering of God,” etc. Healthy Christian Churches aren’t secretive about their financial practices or claim some sort of special status before God because the so-called “worldly Churches” supposedly do not have the same light and are ignorant of the way the truth Church (i.e., the Assembly) assembles.  Healthy Christian Churches don’t claim to have a monopoly on the truth and don’t run down other places or people.  You can only be for or against the Lord, but you are not supposed to hinder others who might do different things in Jesus’ name!  

How many times have you tried to have your own opinions and the brethren felt they had to convince you?  What happened to “Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5) ?

Gerry Bridges in his book Transforming Grace says that “controllers” are “people who are not willing to let you live your life before God as you believe He is leading you.  They have all the issues buttoned down and have cast-iron opinions about all of them.  These people only know black and white.  There are no gray areas to them.  They insist you live your Christian life according to their rules and opinions.  If you insist on being free to live as God wants you to live, they will try to intimidate you and manipulate you one way or another.  Their primary weapons are ‘guilt trips,’ rejection, or gossip… These people must be resisted.  We must not allow them to subvert the freedom we have in Christ.”      
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AaBbCc
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2003, 10:23:47 am »

EXCELLENT POST! 10 OUT OF 10!
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editor
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2003, 09:08:11 pm »

Quote
10. God not only in a box, but in a flat wafer!

Yep, that pretty much sums it up.  Imagine what would happen if George was able to grow his group to about 20,000 members.  That frightens me.

Brent
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outdeep
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2003, 09:42:04 pm »

I never personally found it helpful to call the Assembly a cult.  Christian research groups such as CRI do not categorize the Assembly as one because their essential doctrines stay within the camp.  You can go to an Assembly meeting and have no problem getting saved, understanding the atoning work of Christ and understanding that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   Yes, their sanctification ideas are problematic but so are churches that teach a second blessing or that you can lose your salvation – no one considers them a cult.

Certainly many of the practices borrow a page out of cults – difficult exit process, charismatic controlling leader, warfare mentality, etc.  But, where do you cross the line and call it a cult as opposed to a very unhealthy church?  Compared to some real cults and mind-control groups out there the Assembly is like a Kindergarten class.  This is a key reason why it has been so difficult to get Christian research groups to write something about the Assembly.  (Believe me, many have tried).

For example, it is pretty much a given that anyone who gets involved in the Moonies or Scientology have experienced some degree of brainwashing.  On the other hand, many who stayed out on the fringes of the Assembly never really experienced some that bad points that were reserved for those closer to the center.  I don’t think we were brainwashed.  I think we just bought into some bad presuppositions from an authority figure and lived them to their conclusion.

Finally, the question should be asked – what possible good is there in calling them a cult?  These are fighting words.  We want to help these people get on with their lives.  Not quibble over definitions.

I personally think the church is an unhealthy, dysfunctional system – mainly because George and Betty are unhealthy and dysfunctional.  Not a cult.

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David Mauldin
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2003, 10:01:42 pm »

  I would like to bring this up for discussion.  some people in the assembly were/are "brainwashed" others seemed to keep hold of their ability to think objectivly.  So for some in may not have been a "Cult" what do you think?
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Rudy
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2003, 10:32:30 pm »

Personally I don't have a problem calling it a cult.

Dave Breese, Know the Marks of Cults:

Page 13

"Christianity should not be thought of as a stone wall behind which we
cannot get. It is rather the highest mountain beyond which it is downhill
no matter which way one goes. There is is nothing greater, nothing
higher, and certainly nothing more magnificent than the mountaintop
of divine revelation in Scripture and in Jesus Christ. To move beyond
that mountaintop in pursuit of something better is to lose oneself in the
crags and crevices of the slopes that fall away from real Christianity. And
beyond the crevices of heresy are the fever swamps of the cults,
where the serpents and and the scorpions wait. Beyond rationality is
insanity, beyond medicine is poison, beyond sex is perversion, beyond
fascination is addiction, beyond love is lust, beyond reality is fantasy"

I'm sure there'll be mixed reactions to that quote. I did get free just
reading that 100 page guide - no internet, just a brother that wrote a
guide to help people, the Lord my Shepherd and of course little old me.  Smiley

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David Mauldin
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2003, 05:24:01 am »

While in fellowship-15 years I literally saw some individuals lose their minds!  For example One individual who came in as a visitor and after about a year began to exhibit strange behaviors during the meetings he began to constantl chant out loud  "PRAISE THE LORD_AMEN HALLELUIA! THANK YOU GODTHANK YOU JESUS  THANK YOU HOLY SPIRIT"  The last I saw of this guy was him pushing a shopping cart with all his possesions as he was homeless and unable to get a hold on reality, Another guy acctually started behaving like he was george Geftakys, he started jestering and leading the meetings He would walk into the hall and announce in a loud vouce O.K. saints LETS PRAY!!!!!   Later the brothers had to restrain him they took him to a Mental Hospital,  Another you beautiful girl who was just a visitor slowly slipped over the side one night she showed up to the meeting and she had cut all of her hair off with a pair of cheep scissors. Do any of you feel this was the dfault of the dybamics of the assembly?
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Rudy
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2003, 06:29:58 am »

just a note on "being heretical".

gg and the message on adam being
created on the seventh day.
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Oscar
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« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2003, 07:11:19 am »

Long long ago in a Galaxy far far away......


Seriously,

George Geftakys once called in a couple of cult experts, John and Gretchen Passantino, because he wanted to brand the Local Church a cult.  This was because both groups were competing for the top of the "true church in Fullerton" mountain.  

Tim Geftakys was the representative of the assembly that they talked to.  He gave them a bunch of local church literature as evidence.

I have had two conversations with John over the years since I left the assembly.  He told me that after talking to Tim a while, he became interested in the assembly as a possible cult.  So, while Tim did what he could to brand the local church a cult, he was actually providing evidence to the Passantinos about the assembly.

Here is their take.  They make the division between cult and not a cult on the basis of the gospel preached.  They ask, "If a person came in from the street, could he find salvation in the gospel he hears in this group?"

I don't think many would question that the assembly passes this test.

My take on the is/is not question is this. The George Geftakys assemblies are/were (it depends) a Christian group that is pretty sound in its basic beliefs, but is definitely cultic psychologically, (how they think), and sociologically, (how they relate among themselves and to outsiders).

In other words, it is a Christian church that has become terribly and dangerously dysfunctional.

God bless,
Thomas Maddux
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Rudy
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« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2003, 07:17:19 am »

The assembly is basic, true.

But as far as training homes, MTT finance,
campus work - okay, okay, abuse espousal.

How much more does a group have to get
"off track" before it becomes a cult. Cults
are dangerous - would you like even one
of your offspring to fall victim to anyone ?

Sorry, just on my soapbox.  Angry

« Last Edit: February 05, 2003, 03:21:21 am by Rudy » Logged
Rudy
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« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2003, 07:23:41 am »

Okay,

No I am not sorry for being on my soapbox.  Angry

Put your child, willingly into an abusive situation.
I hope you would never, and i mean never do that.
You don't know a man unless you've walked in his shoes.
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Susan McCarthy
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« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2003, 07:34:28 am »

George was visiting our home in Santa Barbara and the subject of cults and deprogramming came up during dinner.  George posed the question, "Should deprogramming be legal?  After all, people join groups of their own free will."  

Having just graduated from UCSB and written a paper on the issue, I said, "Yes, of course, if it is truly a cult, a person's family should be able to do what it takes to rescue their loved one from a dangerous and abusive situation."  (I was thinking of the Moonies and Jim Jones back then...I had read testimonies in a book about former cult members being so grateful to have their lives and sanity back...)

George quickly replied, "You are dead wrong, Susan.  If deprogramming is a legal activity and people find out about it, they can come after the assembly and deprogram us."  

Wow.  
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Rudy
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« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2003, 07:51:56 am »

true story ?

i don't know how many years it took you to leave after
that - many glaring beacons saying "rocks ahead!" in my
assembly life. Wow is right - gg was probing and doing
damage control.

I have to modify this post - If George Geftakys said that
he was concerned about "his people" being
de-programmed- meaning implied of course for all of you
legal eager beavers. - he obviously knew that "his"
ministry was a charade(SP). He was totally doing  damage
control.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2003, 08:09:32 am by Rudy » Logged
4Him
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2003, 08:24:17 am »

Two things, no three:
1. I wholeheartedly agree with Dave Sable and Tom Maddux on this point.  The gospel was clearly preached and the Word was honored and held in othodoxy in every assembly I know of.  It did however operate in an abusive structure.  Cult? No.  Cult-like practices? Definitely.

2. I agree in part with John J. Malone, Sr.'s comment about the Catholic Church.  Tho' parts of it could definitely be said to be a cult (Knights of Columbus, Jesuits, etc.), it also falls more in the realm of generally engaging in cult-like practices.  It's interesting, a few years ago I heard Tim Geftakys make almost an identical statement as John's, regarding the Roman Catholic Church.

3. For the second time: Voice! Why don't you identify yourself?  At least PM me (I promise not to tell).  It's rather disconcerting to have people making strong statements either pro or con, anonymously.
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GETOUTWHILEYOUCAN
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« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2003, 08:48:47 am »

The message that started this thread is VERY WELL THOUGHT out and TOTALLY TRUE!!!  We were not a cult so much doctrinally, but rather a cult in PRACTICE ... i.e. socially - organizationally - structurally.  One of the main Characteristics of spiritually abusive systems is the Overemphasis on Authority.  In this ministry you COULD NOT think differently.

When you scrutinize the doctrines that were taught, most of them were fairly right-on.  People could get saved in our midst, and trully know Jesus Christ.  But they never came to truly know LIBERTY in Christ. I think George Knew he couldn't keep the SYSTEM together long unless he stayed fairly orthodox.  That's one of the things that kept the SYSTEM going so long.  There were so many RIGHT things (doctrinally, not practically) and SINCERE people, that any hazy areas we just passed by and overlooked.  For example the "elders in every church", and "elders in every city."  We did not PRACTICE this.  We had a handful of elders for the ministry throughout the US, each with wide reaching authority to make decisions for local gatherings.  That was the practice.  BUT we TAUGHT each testimony is responsible to Christ alone for its decisions.   Did anyone question it?

We taught no clergy and laiety, but we ended up practicing it.  The "leading brothers", (an unscriptural term) ended up controlling peoples life decisions as was so well pointed out below.

Anyone ever question the lack of older believers in general in our gatherings?  Its because older people have enough EXPERIENCE in life that they can see through the CONTROL SYSTEM from miles away.  Ever wonder why our main effort for outreach, and the main way people came in in this "ministry" was College Campuses?  Because those people were very sincere, but the easiest to misguide and mislead.  They didn't have enought experience to see through the SYSTEM.  They came in seeing other enthusiastic people, hearing TRUE things taught about salvation and Jesus Christ - and ended up controlled.

"Concern" points out below that people were NOT in general able to "leave fellowship" without problems.  That term is not even scriptural.  Leaving the Assembly is not leaving fellowship.  We have fellowship with all our brethren in Christ.   And while we TAUGHT that the Body of Christ included other believers than the Assembly, in PRACTICE we acted like we were the only Body of Christ.  There were many things that were not out-right preached, but they were IMPLIED in our behavior and practices.

The whole idea of making a "committement to fellowship" essentially meant signing your life away to the ORGANIZATION.  Sorry, as believers WE ARE COMMITTED TO FELLOWSHIP, fellowship with Christ and those that love Him.

Also concerned.  GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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