Comments from Readers
December 2004, Bob Franzese, an AK from Omaha:
“I would like to commend Gretchen W. on her well thought-out and extremely well written article about the Assembly in Omaha and the major issues that surrounded it. It was flat-out spot-on accurate. I am sure it took a lot of courage to write and post that article. For that she should be commended. The points that stand out to me most in Gretchen’s article are :
- Her comments regarding former “Leading” Brothers who are still making themselves available for counsel
- Leading Brothers and people who wish to see the Assemblies restarted in their communities
- Former members of the Assembly and Leading Brothers who have gotten involved in positions of leadership in other churches.
Simple reason would demand that former Assembly leaders have absolutely no business doing any of these things. They were trained by wicked and deceitful men, George and Tim Geftakys. These two men had absolutely no business inflicting their opinions on their own family, much less thousands of people across the United States. If you factor these thoughts and combine it with the fact that not one lecture George Geftakys ever gave made one bit of sense…..Need I say more?
How much more clear can it be that the former Leading Brothers are the ones who need the most guidance and counsel and under no circumstances should they be subjecting anyone to their twisted views?
I still wish that after returning from California in 1993 I had raised holy heck about what was so blatantly obviously wrong with the Assembly. All one had to do was take one trip out there and spend about 20 minutes observing the Fullerton Assembly to realize that manipulation, deceit, greed, nepotism, and dishonesty were the foundation the Assembly stood on.
From the time I was two until I was nineteen, I was subjected to the twisted views, teachings and ways of life of that god-forsaken place known as the Assembly. Outside of school, I spent more time there than anywhere else. I would love to just “get over it”, but it just isn’t that simple. The guilt and confusion that I felt while growing up in the Assembly and in the years after I left that place–there was just no reason for it. Once I am convinced that the Assembly system is dead forever, then maybe I’ll get over it.”
December 2004, Mark Campbell:
I just read the article by Gretchen, and was totally blown away by the insights that she has provided! Read it—and read it again and again, if you are working on your recovery from the Assembly. There are two very important things that I took away from reading her article:
We were damaged by our involvement in the Assembly. We cannot ignore this point! True, some were hurt worse than others, but none were left unscathed. We must understand how the Christian faith was twisted and used to affect this damage by GG and company. A dismissal of the fact that GG developed an abusive system, or that it’s toxic influences actually could hurt one’s soul, can only lead to great loss.
“Like what, Mark?” Take Gretchen’s example of what became of Mark Sjogren: He started out as a kind Christian man and was turned into a monster.
Question: When one is transformed into a monster, via “God’s instruction”, and progressively allows this process of a hardened conscience over decades, how do you think the process can be reversed and recovered from? Can it be done without understanding how one allowed this to happen in one’s life? If one just denies it and “gets on with one’s life”, will all be well?
Take the victims of the monster under consideration as well, who were constantly told they were “nothing” and that God’s love (and the group’s as well) was dependent on their absolute loyalty to the leadership. As they were heaped with guilt, shame, and a constant pressure of trying to please a perfectionist God, they were being transformed as well.
Gretchen description of The Selfer’s Prayer” as a kind of mantra to be used to purge the inner life of the evil of self shows it is the kind of tool used by evil religion to destroy the conscience, and break down resistance to being controlled. It can, in it’s extreme form, lead to Jonestown styled Kool-Aid parties.
This “transforming process” worked by convincing individuals they were personally defective, and then setting up a hopeless expectation of “putting to death their self life.” Suicide, depression, etc. are the results of such “teaching.” Liberated joyful souls full of peace are not the result of these kind of manipulations.
These same victims were told to “submit” to these leaders even though the abused knew the leaders lied, were cruel, sought mastery over them, were full of pride, etc. Like David with Saul, they were supposed to submit to these evil people.
Because we were deeply affected by the Assembly we need to be involved in a recovery process that will reverse the damage. I have already alluded to this above. This recovery is not just a psychological one, but a spiritual one as well. There is great hope here that these wounds can find healing and make in us the kind of Christians that can truly be a blessing to others.
Thank you so much Gretchen for telling your story and I know that it will be a great help to many.
December 2004, Marcia M.:
“When someone close to me dies it helps me to “view” the body in order to get closure before burial. This helps me to say “goodbye” and then to gradually get on with my life. This “viewing” the body of our past Assembly experience is part of the healing and getting-closure process as we gradually get on with our lives. I read the article in its entirety and yes, I agree with you that it is very well written, especially as it ties in our experiences with Robert Lifton’s 8 Criteria for a Cult” and exposes the error of the system.
[Brian Steele, former Assembly member from Santa Barbara, also makes correlations between Lifton’s Eight Criteria of a Cult and his Assembly experience.]