How did George treat others? What were his methods for controlling and manipulating the members of his group and his elite Workers?
In the following excerpts taken from a tape transcription from a Workers' Meeting, George is describing to the workers what he means by visitation.
Visitation is going to their home...If you just go in and if you spend 10 minutes just to talk with them and have a word of prayer before you leave. Have a word of prayer and leave them a precious promise. Then you put that down as visitation... Get this thinking out of your mind that if I go visit the Lord's people I've got to stay for dinner, I've got to spend a couple hours. That's foolishness.
Gay asks, "George, if some of us don't get out a lot, can we include phone visitation, because sometimes they turn into real..." George interrupted her, "No. No phone... I'm telling you, no. No phone. You can telephone all you want, but that's not visitation."
Pam objects, "I don't agree... I've had some excellent opportunities to talk to people who can't get to me and I can't get to them." George replied, "You don't agree? Fine. You can disagree, but still do it my way."
It is interesting to note that visitation is a concern of the local "Assembly," not "the Work." And yet here George is dictating how visitation is to be done in the local Assembly.
Another Worker, Nancy, was in charge of an upcoming pot luck. She made the suggestion, "What do you think, instead of having a big pot luck, why don't we have each family bring their own dinner, and then invite another family to..." George interrupted her, "I don't like that, friends. I tell you why I don't like it. Because I think the whole idea of what we do around here is sharing...We're not going to get each individual family‑oriented. We're going to bring for everybody."
George did not explain what was wrong with being family‑oriented, or why two families bringing food for each other wasn't sharing. And no one questioned; the discussion had come to an end. Nancy had done pot lucks many times, and had considered how it might be expedited. But there was no room for her opinion or her contribution to the planning.
Someone was needed to write the articles for the prayer letter. When it was suggested that Frances write the prayer letter, Kevin, who was in charge of the Job Fellowship, expressed concern that she was busy already writing reports of lessons learned in the Job Fellowship to be mailed out to other assemblies.
Frances was already slated to become George's secretary, and he said, "I'm going to use Frances more and more, and I'm going to have first claim on her time." Kevin replied, "Well, we should talk about that... Frances is walking before the Lord..." George interrupted, "So you're going to have a problem there." Kevin said, "This is one of Frances' main ministries..." George said, "We'll talk about it."
When George said that, it was really the end of the matter. Everyone understood that George was going to have his way, and that Frances would no longer be fully engaged in the Job Fellowship. Timothy, understanding this, immediately suggested Kimber to replace Frances. Frances was present in this meeting, but she was not consulted at all in this discussion of her ministries. And the point that she had been walking before the Lord in the ministry was irrelevant to George. He autocratically swept aside the direction she believed she received from the Lord personally.
Tom M. and his wife Terri were initially burdened to publish a newspaper. They had just a few weeks before presented their ideas to the Workers. It was now June 11, 1973, the very day of the first editor's meeting of what was to become the Torch & Testimony magazine. From my notes, we find George speaking to Tom these incredible words.
This is an Assembly newspaper... the paper represents the ministry. That involves every aspect even the art work. Tom, your art work should be submitted, but this in no way means yours will be selected. We need to lay aside all feelings of temperament or competition or envy - all personal interests. The first characteristic of responsibility is restraint and that is always shown in subjection.
Tom is to lay aside any personal interest he may have in the publication, because it wasn't his anyway; it was George's -- "the paper represents the ministry". Tom is to exercise restraint, that is, not be upset with George when he overrules Tom’s personal tastes.
In a discussion about who to send out to an outreach on the East coast, George looked at me and asked,
Why do you want to go, Steve? You're the elder in this assembly. You've got to stay here. Mark Miller's got to stay here. You know I believe that shepherds, local shepherds in the flock need to sit on the heritage. They need to sit there because they need to take care of the eggs. See? And if the cuckoo is wandering too much, the eggs wouldn't hatch. You understand? Not only that, but snakes come in and steal the eggs. So you've got to sit there and take care of the eggs.
By contemptuously comparing me to a cuckoo bird who sits on the eggs, George was putting me in my place. I would not be allowed to go the East coast. My place should have instinctually been in the Fullerton assembly.
During that same discussion, another brother and his wife were brought up as possible candidates for the work on the East coast. Because George did not think highly of the brother and because he refused to have the brother come into the work, he caricatured the brother by telling the workers about a Disney comic strip he once saw.
Friends, have you ever seen this cartoon years ago? It was a Walt Disney cartoon about this guy Mr. Milk-toast. He comes out of his house and he sees an ant and he steps over the ant. Then he gets behind the wheel of his car and he becomes a Mr. Hyde. grrrr...
Some brethren are great as long as they're working with peers. You get them on their own, suddenly they've got the big head. They think they're somebody. And they metamorphose into something that you wouldn't believe. I mean they become a horrendous locust with whirring wings, a lion's mane, and everything. They get out there and suddenly they think that they're the master of their fate, the captain of their fate.
This particular brother would not have "metamorphosed" into a "big head" when left to himself, but because George wanted to put this brother in his place, he spoke contemptuously of him.
When George wanted the sisters in the workers' meeting to conform to his standards of hair-length, make-up, and dress, he speaks contemptuously to them.
But you know there's a problem with some sisters in the assembly. Some sisters come up with very short hair. And if you talk to them about it, you know what they tell you? They tell you, "Oh, I went to the hairdresser and before I knew it, you know, she had me scalped and I didn't even know about it. I was reading a magazine." I don't believe it. I just don't believe it.
He gives an illustration from his own experience with barbers to support his unbelief. When he's done, you feel guilty for not bawling out your barber the way he bawled out his barber if his hair was not cut to suit him.
But when sisters obviously come in the meeting and they have their hair cropped way up here and its as short as my hair or thereabouts. Or they even have their neck shaved. I don't think that's honoring to the Lord. I'm going to tell you that. And if there's workers that are like that, you change your behavior. It's not honoring to the Lord. Lord says you should have long hair. Its a shame for a woman to have short hair. Now it says that. Do you know it says that in the Bible? Yea, you read it for yourself. I Corinthians 11. I'm not putting anything in the Word of God that isn't there. That's exactly what it says.
George shows how he goes up to sisters who have "butched" hair and tells them how they are really dishonoring God and are bad examples. They are made to feel inferior for not being what George wants them to be.
I've had a couple of older sisters in the meeting. Boy, they came in, their hair was butched up like this. And I told them... I went straight up to them... Generally, I let a sister go up and talk to them. But I went to both these sisters (they are older women) and I told them, "Listen, I'm telling you now, that's not honoring to the Lord what you're doing." I tell them. And I also tell them, "And not only that but you're an older sister and you ought to be a good example."
Then George tells the husbands that it’s their responsibility to correct their wives (their “Apple Dumplings”).
I want to say to you husbands in particular. If your wife isn't looking quite the way she ought to look, it's your fault. Your the one to blame. Your wife dresses pretty much the way you want her to dress. And if your wife has real short hair, it's your fault, because you want her to have it. If you're a worker you change your way and you talk to your wife and you say, "Apple Dumpling" or whatever you call her. You tell her, "That's not the way we're going to cut our hair." You hear me? Do you hear me husbands on that? I want you to listen to me, because we're not going to have that around here.
He mocks the sisters who wear excessive make-up by likening them to parrots and circus clowns.
I got nothing against sisters if they want to wear some makeup. I got nothing against it. But when I see some sister walk into the assembly and she looks like a parrot, you know? She looks like she just came out of the ring of the Barnum Bailey circus. And she's got this thick goop on her eyelashes, you know. And I feel like telling her not only does it look bad but its not healthy. Did you know that? Read the nutritional books, you'll see what they say about it.
He tells the workers that if they are "good examples the majority of God's people will be good examples." He doesn't ever want to hear someone say, "She's a worker and look at the way she dresses." He then holds the husband accountable for a young man getting provoked by his wife's tight slacks.
The women generally aren't aware of how they dress. They're not. But the husband should tell his wife, "Now those slacks are too tight." You understand. That's up to the husband to do that. So you be wise. And not only that we've got a lot of young men around here. And we don't want young men being provoked by some unwise sister or some unwise husband who doesn't know how his wife ought to dress. Okay?
He threatens to humiliate any sister who wears tight blue jeans.
I've nothing against sisters wearing slacks. But you sisters you watch it when you wear these blue jeans. I'm telling you. You're getting precariously close to wearing the wrong kind of clothes. Because blue jeans when they get too tight, it's not honoring to the Lord. I'm telling you now. So I'm telling you as workers so you listen, take heed, then I wouldn't have to say any embarrassing remarks to you, okay?
Finally, he gives the workers an opportunity to respond to what he's saying.
Now if you got anything you want to respond to that you feel free now. You're open... You're open. Everybody can hear ya'. But say it now. If you don't agree with me, say it now, don't say it when the meeting's over. Because then I can answer you here. Okay.
Would the sisters dare to speak up after being humiliated for looking like circus clowns and parrots, and after being threatened with the possibility of embarrassment if George finds them inappropriately dressed? And would the husbands dare to defend their wives after being made to feel guilty for provoking young men to sinful lusts, and after being told they are passively letting their wives do as they please? I don't think so.
After Paul Martin finished telling the workers how he and his wife learned the difficult lesson of submission, George proceeds to shame them before all the workers.
Well, you see our brother is saying, "Its a real release." And he that hides his sin shall not prosper.
Now our brother and his wife were liars. That's what they were. They were liars. They were compulsive liars. They couldn't tell the truth. Again and again. And their children were learning to lie from them. Another one of their problems was staying out of debt, balancing their budget... And now... I can start believing them. In the past, no matter what they told me I took it with a grain of salt. Because they either twisted it or they just didn't you the half of it...
The workers had no way of knowing if Paul and Debbie had actually lied or if they did, what they had lied about. Paul and Debbie were never given an opportunity to tell their side of the story. And even if they had, they probably would not have defended themselves, not wanting to be completely disgraced before returning to the assembly in St. Louis.
Periodically, one of the workers will run afoul of George in some way, perhaps by speaking to others of a disagreement the worker has with him, or perhaps by instituting in a ministry a practice or policy which George doesn't like. In any case, the usual treatment in a workers' meeting is that at the very beginning of the meeting George calls out that person's name, or tells them to come sit in the front row, often with a comment such as, "I want you here where I can see you." Then he proceeds to address the problem without mentioning the person's name, but unmistakably identifying them as the subject, doing so with statements and descriptions filled with contempt.
George did this to my wife over counseling practices. He attempted to humiliate her before the workers by implying that she was counseling to feed her pride, because she had her own "private clientele." George began his remarks after calling her to sit in the front row by me,
In the workers' meeting we are open. When papas and mamas are talking about the family of God they don't bring in the kids. Now we want to talk about avoiding cliques, which are little power groups. They begin with special friendships where someone sets themselves up that someone can come and spill their guts out to them. Sisters are especially vulnerable to this. It feeds your ego and you become 'god.' In counseling you don't have a private ministry, a private clientele. Is adultery worse than pride? The greatest sin is the sin of pride.
Having only the counselor know about the problem fed pride in the counselor, so George gives the directive to all the leading brothers and workers that there was to be no confidentiality in counseling. The leadership was to know about the failures in people's lives so that a pattern can be established and the past held over them. "Don't agree to confidences. If a person has a failure in their life, we are going to know about it. If they get over it, but then they have another [failure], then there is a pattern. If they turn to wickedness all the past will be held against them." He then made reference to Ezekiel 33:12-16.
The workers had just suggested that Don and his wife be sent to the East coast. In order to convince the workers that Don was not a suitable candidate, George raises the specter of his past.
We remember Don in the past. He really lacked the courage of his convictions. He was wishy washy, compromising, everything. He's not a bad brother, but I never thought he was a strong brother... The problem we've always wondered about Don, in the past, has been that Don was a brother years ago (without going into detail) who always believed that we owed him something... and we had to sort of reimburse him in some way. We don't want that in the work, we want people in the work who are willing to count all things but loss and to make real selfless sacrifices. Because in the work we don't guarantee anything as you know.
Upon hearing Don's compromising character and selfish attitude, the workers immediately suggested another couple. (Don and his wife were not present at that worker's meeting.)
Dan Notti told his employees at the Ariel print shop that they must be willing to pay whatever sacrifices are required, because the shop is an extension of the work of the Lord.
There has to be an underlying awareness that we're involved in the work of the Lord. And that, that is very... as much a ministry as putting food on the table for my family.
Apart from the ministry, we wouldn't have Ariel. But again, apart from Ariel, we wouldn't have the ministry. So there needs to be that double awareness of our responsibilities in light of our daily thing that we have to go to work, but also to approach that work the way we approach the work of God. And, that is, that I give my all to it. That whatever the sacrifice costs, or whatever the sacrifice that is required, I'm willing to pay it to insure that the Lord gets what he wants there.
When Dan said this, George, interjected, "Thank you, brother. It's true." Because Ariel is an extension of George’s ministry (“the work of the Lord”), George expects people to make financial sacrifices. When a father who worked for Ariel was having a difficult time putting food on the table for his family and asked Dan for a raise, Dan told him that it was a privilege to make sacrifices for the sake of the work of the Lord. Interestingly, George does not seem to make difficult financial sacrifices. He lives comfortably in his Sunny Hills home, with a weekly personal spending allowance of at least $200 a week from the offerings (in addition to the money he receives to pay for his comfortable life-style, constant home improvements, and numerous trips).
The House of Christian Love in Garden Grove was one of many Christian communes rising out of the "hippie" movement of the early '70s. The leader of the house had heard George speak at a Bible Study on the Fullerton College campus, and so invited George to conduct a Bible study in his own commune. After George established the assembly in Fullerton, which met at Hillcrest Park Recreational Center, he wanted to bring the commune under the control of the assembly. He told the brothers living at the house:
A Christian house is not a typical way of living; it is not like a regular family. It is a place of re-orientation to a Christian atmosphere with order.
The leader of the house is not someone who says, "The house is my thing." The work is done in light of corporate responsibility and commendation. The assembly determines what is Christ honoring. Our ways should be changeable, learning what the Lord wants.
George then establishes the rules of the house. Each brother was expected to attend the assembly meetings on the Lord's day, to be in at a certain time at night, and to do stewardships (chores).
The house will have a list of things for the brothers to do. Suppose a brother takes the attitude, "I don't like to do that." After a while, there comes a time when entreaty comes to an end. It's a privilege to live here. If you don't want to do it, then leave!
Communal living was strongly encouraged for members in the group. A married couple (picked from among the workers) was usually placed in charge of the house. The couple minutely oversaw the schedules, finances, relationships, assembly involvement, and attitudes, of everyone in the house. Even wives and children were given chores to do, checked up on, and given consequences by the head steward of the home if the chores, called stewardships, were not done on time or incomplete. The idea was to train people to be faithful in little things so that they would become faithful in greater things.
Betty Geftakys, George's wife, introduced the use of consequences while working with sisters in "training situations".
"How many of you believe in consequences?" George asked in his talk to head stewards.
If we don't do consequences we wrong the brother. Don't give long lectures; lecture after they don't do consequences. Don't make it personal. If the brother doesn't want to do consequences, he doesn't want to live in the house. We are to have regular consequences, not occasional consequences. We want the brother to learn. Just talking to a person doesn't change the behavior. Consequences help a brother face responsibility.
A consequence was to be equal in time to the chore. The trainees were to choose their own consequences ahead of time. They filled out a small 3 by 5 card with 3 or more easy consequences and at least 3 difficult ones. "Consequences should be things the brother doesn't want to do," Betty would say. Consequences were added to form a habit and to transform a bad attitude. The presupposition was that once you got a change in behavior, the attitude would change. If washing windows was a consequence, the trainee was to think about how he was to be transparent and clear in all his commitments. Betty encouraged husbands to break their wives of bad habits or negative attitudes by "training" them with consequences.
The head steward was to never let the person being trained "off the hook". Betty said that even if the house burned down, it would not be an acceptable excuse for failure to do a stewardship or keep a commitment. Absolutely no excuse was to be tolerated. The person being trained was always in the wrong.
The consequence system in the living situations of many homes was a source of abuse because trainers could not be fair about the degree of punishment. It is a known fact that trainees scrubbed down bathroom tile with a small toothbrush to fulfill a consequence.