Gretchen’s Story – Readers’ Comments

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.]


My Theological House


Sandy Blank went through the big doctrinal changes in the Worldwide Church of God, became thoroughly disillusioned, and walked out. After having a powerful conversion experience she went back to Worldwide (now Grace Communion International) to try to make a difference, but left again after 10 years. In “My Theological House” she describes her experience using a punchy metaphor that captures the feeling of desolation that comes from leaving a Bible-based cult. Continue reading

So what do we still have to do??

Those of us coming out of performance-based Christian systems are happy to have escaped the pressure of all the stuff you had to do to be “spiritual”. So glad that’s behind us. But there is still a depressing anxiety – “I feel that I was a better Christian when I was doing all that stuff. The Bible has all those commands – pray, study the Bible, etc. In the church I (sometimes) attend now, I constantly hear exhortations about it. Don’t I have to be doing these things in order for God to approve of me?”

The short answer is “No.” God approves of us because of Jesus. Period. Jesus died for our failures, plus he perfectly obeyed God on our behalf. God accepts what He did and puts it to our account. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

So, okay, you believe that already. That is how you came to Christ. But now that you’re a Christian, aren’t things expected of you? The commands are still there in the Bible and they continue to plague you.

I want to attempt a couple of posts to tease out the elements of our freedom from performance, so we can chew it in small pieces and hopefully begin to digest it without gagging on hard lumps of commands. It’s not that new “truth” is needed to solve this problem. It’s a matter of bringing together what we already know.

To begin, it’s important to keep firmly in mind God’s single overarching value, which is LOVE. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have been enjoying perfect love and communion from all eternity. Human beings were expressly designed in the image of God to have the ability to take part in that circle of love. It was the great pleasure of the triune God to include man. Jesus summed up God’s expectations for man. There were only two (all the others hung on these): Love God and love your neighbor.

BUT….right off the bat Satan very cleverly lured Eve to waver from her love of God and Adam and to act independently. And he lured Adam to forsake his love of God and Eve in his desire for the “knowledge” she had acquired. Then Adam started the blame game, and we know the rest of the story.

Obviously, in terms of God’s law of love, mankind is now completely riddled with sin. It’s a fact often conveniently skimmed over in performance-based ministries, in the relentless push to get everyone doing more and doing better. But hold the phone. We are thoroughly messed up people. Love is not our strongest point. Faith in Christ doesn’t miraculously change that.

If a church is set up in terms of rules, it might make sense to assume that the gospel changes us from being unable to keep them, into those who now can. But if the Church operates on the law of love, it becomes apparent that the gospel does not transform us into beings who are now capable of perfect love. Try as you might, your buttons still get pushed. Your family background causes you to do too much for someone. Or too little. You practice petty deceptions to save yourself from disapproval. And the thoughts you sometimes have about certain people…let’s not even go there. Isaiah speaks the truth – our best righteousness is like filthy rags.

But the thing is, God still wants perfect love around Him, and the Bible is very clear, from beginning to end, that “sort of” living up to his expectations won’t fly. If you slip up in the least way, you’re guilty of breaking the whole thing, because it’s not a matter of a list of rules, some of them important and some minor. If God’s standard of righteousness is a matter of love, you’re either righteous on the basis of living a perfectly loving life, or you’re not.

This has been pretty bad news so far. It hasn’t lifted the burden of performance expectations in the least. In fact, it has increased them exponentially. But we’re in good company. This is how Paul begins the book of Romans, too–all is sin and failure in the first two and a half chapters, concluding with this precept: No one – (and we have to repeat, this includes believer and unbeliever alike) – no one is going to be justified by living up to the law of God. When we come to the final judgment seat of Christ, there won’t be anyone there – not Mother Theresa or anyone else – who will be able to justify themselves in that legal court by their record of a life of perfect love.

But then we turn the page, and behold, Paul announces a remedy for this dismal situation–a perfect righteousness, a Life of perfect love toward God and man, is brought into court on behalf of the guilty and exhibited as a gift that has already been given to all who believe in Christ!

You can see where this is going. Stay tuned….

“Just carry on”….

PostIt copy“Just carry on” is one of the cards in The Oblique Strategies by Peter Schmidt and Brian Eno. Haven’t seen the set of cards, but I ran across this quote just now, and was surprised how a load suddenly felt lifted. Hmmm, wonder what that could be about….Even though I’ve consciously rejected the performance-based life, the mental conditioning still “carries on” (ironic, that). I guess I still usually go around with this monkey on my back. I’m going to try to develop measures to shake it off! Like writing out this quote and posting it a few places around the house.

(My reaction to this quote is one example of the results of Assembly mind control. Here is a short piece on Assembly Reflections on the subject, and here is a much longer treatment.)