Chris and Mary wrote this account to Delila in March, 2004, with permission to post it on the Assembly bulletin board.
I’ll share with you a little bit regarding the events that occurred that led to Mary and me leaving the Ottawa Assembly. It was basically brought on by the lies and deceitful manipulative actions of one brother who was in leadership in Fullerton, whose name I will not mention. (I will explain the reason for this as I progress through the series of events).[Ed.: This was Tim Geftakys.]
The beginning of the end of Assembly life for us occurred when Armand had suggested that I meet with him and this brother (whose name I will not mention) regarding my relationship with Mary. Armand knew that I was spending a fair amount of time with Mary (after all, it was Nancy who kept on suggesting that I do stuff with Mary, such as asking her out for coffee, etc.) Remember, Nancy was not called "Nancy Match-Maker” Zach/Cossette for nothing. I think Armand may have been upset with Nancy for meddling in people's lives when of course he wanted to be the chief meddler/boss. (Sometimes it seemed like Nancy wanted to be the Leading Brother). Anyway back to my story, Armand called in one of the Fullerton big guys and I was told basically the following by him (Armand was also present for this meeting):
You know how obvious it is when some people lie; well, when this nameless Fullerton brother said to wait a few months and then things would be allowed to progress, it was obvious that something was wrong. It felt sort of like he was saying, "Relax don’t worry, we’ll take care of you," at the same time he was stabbing me in the back. I strongly suspected that they wanted to break up my relationship with Mary, and use the few months apart to distract me with possibilities of other sisters. Perhaps this was because it wasn’t a relationship that the leaders had planned, and I might be tempted in the future to not give myself to their leading (i.e. their control). Perhaps it was for another reason, but I don’t want to speculate or accuse.
- That Mary was a great sister who very dedicated to the work
- That he believed that she had a strong desire to follow the Lord
- That for the time being we should limit the time that we spend together to normal Assembly activities where other saints would be present also
- That after a few months we could spend more time together to pursue our relationship, if God was leading that way.
As the next few months progressed, Mary and I would do things together such as travel an hour or so to the doctor that we were booth seeing at the time. (As you probably recall we both had one of those mysterious Assembly illnesses that left us unable to work at our jobs at the time). I am sure that this time together got Armand worried, so when this brother (who shall rename nameless) was back in town, he said that he wanted to talk to me.
He said that he was concerned that I was still spending too much time with Mary, and after trying to get me to talk about my relationship with Mary for awhile, he eventually asked me if I saw Mary the night before after the Bible study (as I got home very late – probably around 2:00am). I tried to continue to be evasive, and just told him the simple truth that I was at the hospital the night before (without offering him the fact that Mary drove me to the hospital and waited for me there).
After not answering his questions directly a number of times he eventually worded his question so that I had no way to answer but to tell him that Mary was there as well. He was getting frustrated that I wasn’t answering his questions and I was getting frustrated that he kept on interfering with what I am sure that I made obvious to him that I considered to be none of his business.
So to basically shut him up (trust me - he was very annoying), I told him all. And his advice (i.e. his command) was that I further limit my contact with Mary to not even speak with her, until the leadership thought that it would be appropriate, which if I remember correctly was about 3 to 6 months. And then depending on how obedient we were, and how our health issues were, and the leading of the Lord (of course they would tell us what the leading of the Lord was), things may be able to proceed further.
Shortly after this Armand gave me the advice to attend the Midwest Seminar to speak with this nameless brother there, as he felt that I was struggling with God’s leading. So I made the trip and had a conversation with this brother in Armand’s presence, and was this time told the following.
- That he sees absolutely no desire in Mary’s life to follow the Lord.
- That she would chew me up and spit me out
- That she is not to be trusted
- A few other nasty lies about Mary which there is no need to mention
- That God wants something better for me
Well, I could see that (oops, I almost mentioned his name) nameless had changed his tactics as his first approach to manipulate me had failed. Now that I realized that he had contradicted himself in front of Armand, I spoke with Armand and asked him how this mystery brother could say that he saw "absolutely no desire in Mary’s life to follow the Lord”, but be able to say a few months earlier that “Mary was a great sister who very dedicated to the Work”, and that “she had a strong desire to follow the Lord”. (Armand had been present for both conversations). Armand’s response was, “I don’t know brother, you have to ask him”. So I did ask (Armand was also present for this).
It turned out that this brother was not as skilled a liar as he may have thought himself to be. After stumbling around a bit with a dumb embarrassed look on his face, he said, that he did not contradict himself, but that although he saw no evidence of desire for Mary to follow the Lord, he believes that she does have a desire to follow the Lord. The tone of his voice and facial appearance made it unmistakably clear that he was still lying through his teeth.
So the funny part now is that since Mr. Flip Flop admitted again that Mary has a desire to follow the Lord (somehow he knows this, although he doesn’t see it), then he had to back off from his position of all the nasty lies that he said regarding her. Here is where his real desperation started to show (remember Armand is listening to all of this). I told him that I thought that I was being lied to and deceived, and could not be a party to this.
Now I am sure that he was worried that Mary and I would both leave, so this is where he really began to squirm and start to offer up some despicable deal making. His first offer was that Mary and I could “spend time” with each other after about 6 months. I immediately rejected this offer. So I guess the Lord must have instantly led him to make me another offer, that being that if we behaved ourselves for about 3 months, I think it was, then we could spend time together (but of course under the brothers' direction).
But since I now was in the position of power (after having caught him in lies), I boldly told him, sorry, that wouldn’t work either. And once again the Lord must have led him to make me yet a different offer. This next one was that if I left the brothers house that I could start seeing Mary right away. This way it wouldn’t communicate the message that the leadership thought that this was the best way for us to proceed since I then would not be under the control of the leadership of the brothers house. This brother was really getting desperate, and Armand was just standing there listening, but not speaking.
Now here is where this brother’s true colors began to show more than ever. After rejecting his offer once more, I think that he thought that I might have been worried what the other saints would think if I left the brothers house, so he told me that I could tell the other saints that I left because of health reasons (as I was very sick at the time). So he had now jumped from lying himself, to counseling me that I should lie as well. I stood there in shock, and Armand continued to remain silent. His final act of desperation was to make one more offer, that being that if and when I left the brothers house, I could not only start to “spend time” with Mary, but we could get married outside of the Assembly and still remain in fellowship.
Well, needless to say by this time I was thoroughly disgusted with this brother, and could not live within a system in which the leadership was so dishonest and corrupt. It was obviously all a game for his self importance, and now he was losing. I really wanted to say something that would shock both him and Armand to realize what he had just said.
So with a bold voice I told him that I was disgusted with him, and that I am sure that when Mary hears what he said that she would be too, but that he didn’t have to worry too much because I wouldn’t let anybody else know that he had said these things (lying to me and telling me that I should lie about why I would be leaving the brothers house). I said this for Armand’s benefit as well as his. But because I gave him my word that I wouldn’t tell anybody else that he said these things, I am not at liberty to give his name. Of course the only reason that I told him this was to try and shock him to realize what he had done, and let him know that I know that he is a deceitful liar (and that Armand also observed this), not that I care if anybody knows that he is a liar.
If you want to know who the secret brother is, then you (or anyone else)
could always try asking Armand, as Armand is free to say what he wants
to regarding this brother. Although it probably wouldn’t do anybody much
good to expose this brother. Still, whether or not Armand would come
clean regarding these events would give some indication of where Armand
stands regarding truth vs. Geftakyism.
Anyway, I told Armand that I could not remain in the Assembly under this corrupt leadership. He was kind and pleasant about it, and told me that if that was what I felt, he couldn’t stop me. Armand obviously mentioned at least some of the story to Nancy, as she got in one last jab at me before I left. She said something like, “You are not leaving because of what happened at the Midwest Seminar, you are leaving because you are selfish and just want to get married without Assembly interference”. Despite the nameless brother’s offer to get married outside of the assembly, I chose not to argue with her, and just left. ("Free from the law - O Happy Condition!"
It was now obvious that the saints were told to avoid us. I received absolutely zero help from any of the saints in moving (despite how many of them I had helped move). Paul asked me to no longer be the best man at his wedding, despite the fact that we were very close friends. I even had already bought a new suit to match Paul’s for the wedding.
When I went to pick up my stereo system that I had loaned to the sisters apartment, they were all crying and asking why. By one of their comments it sounded like they were told that we left just because wanted to get married now without having to wait. (I guess that it is no surprise that they weren’t told that we were leaving because the leadership was corrupt, the Assembly system was a scam, and that we were lied to by the leadership and told to lie to others by the leadership). Interestingly enough, when I was packing up my stuff to move a few items (such as one of my Bibles) mysteriously disappeared, and one of the brothers said two of my items did not belong to me, so I just left them behind and was happy to leave.
Mary and I did end up attending Paul and Marcelle’s wedding (with Hugh as the new best man). We were made to feel most unwelcome, and everyone tried to ignore us except Chandra, who just looked at us and cried. BTW, I actually spoke to Chandra on the phone a few years ago when I was visiting some of the Assemblyites and former Assemblyites during a business trip. She seemed pleasant and told me about how Joshua was doing.
During this trip I also met with Ed R., Paul S., Hugh M., and Peter Hanson. Ed was married with children and attending the Metropolitan Bible Church. Paul came to meet me after getting off of work well after midnight on a Saturday night, and I gave him a general idea of why I left, but without going into too many details. At the time Paul seemed to be really pushing himself to keep up with Assembly responsibilities and work, while still giving time to his family.
Hugh met me and Ed at the Dairy Queen, and although it was encouraging to hear Hugh say that as long as we were still walking with the Lord he could have fellowship with us, it was obvious that at that time he was still deeply into Geftakyism. When I met with Peter (after he left fellowship), he told me that he had not heard any of the details of the real reason why we left fellowship. I guess that it is no surprise that Armand kept quiet about the real reason.
I actually ran into Armand at a pet store less than a year after I left the Assembly. He said hello, but that was it. I am surprised that he didn’t try to hide out of embarrassment because of his complicity with the nameless brother by his silence in the matter. He was showing Ruth the animals at the store, and I only said a hello to him and left him there.
Actually, there was one brother who stopped by to see me and Mary while we were still in Ottawa and that was Darrell. He gave us a stuffed animal as a gift, and made it clear to us that he was still our friend, regardless of what the Assembly said. I guess that it is no surprise that Darrel ended up leaving the Assembly as well. There were a few in leadership that I did trust at that time. This would include Roger in Chicago, and Peter H., but certainly none of the leadership from Fullerton that I had met.
Roger actually anointed both Mary and me with oil and prayed for our healing. As you know, Mary and I were both very sick while we were in fellowship. I had to take a leave from work on my doctor’s advice, as I had collapsed at numerous Assembly activities, such as at devotions, and had to be carried out of the house to the hospital because I couldn’t walk. I spent numerous days and nights at the hospital.
But interestingly enough, when we left the Assembly, our health immediately improved, and shortly after, we were back to perfect health. It was not until after we were cured that one of our doctors (also a Christian) let us know he felt the reason we were so ill was that God had not designed our bodies to live under such a system as the Assembly, and that our bodies ceased to function normally because of this. This may explain why there were so many sick saints in the Assembly. He also told us that he was praying for us, that God would lead us from the Assembly to a healthy fellowship. I suspect that Flora may have told him a bit about the Assembly system. Well, his prayers were answered, and we were healed.
But the Assembly could not have the saints think that God blessed us outside of their precious Assembly system, so the lies started, such as, God was punishing us and that Mary was dying with cancer, when not only did she never have cancer, but she was actually much healthier than she ever was in the Assembly. The Lord has simply never ceased to bless our lives together each and every day since we have been removed from the bondage of the Assembly. But the proud, hateful people in the Assembly just spew their bitter lies. It is both sad and sickening. We have been happily married for almost 14 years.
While they were working over Chris, at the same time Nancy is meeting with me and telling me all sorts of incredible lies about why I shouldn't choose Chris. The only other thing Chris hasn't mentioned was the real reason why the Assembly objected to our relationship. As you know I am an Arab Canadian, and the Assembly policy was that people of different 'colors' were not to be together. As you know, I challenged this point with Jim very vehemently, and he held his 'prejudicial' point of view but could not show me any legitimate thing written in the Bible to support his case.
At the time that this argument between Jim and I erupted, onlookers believed I was making an issue because I was interested in snaring a husband. That was the furthest thing from my mind. At that time, it was a matter of principle- a principle that I had spent most of my life fighting for- EQUALITY!! After all the assembly used many verses out of context to support many illogical 'policies' that served their purposes. I would also like everyone to know that we have been happily married for 14 years and have never ceased to walk with the LORD the whole time- and we are raising our two children for the LORD!!
Read more about Assembly-managed courtship: An Issue of Control
March, 2004, Delila: "Dear Mary and Chris - Thank you so much for your letter. As it was a big post, I had to cut in in half and post it. It helps with the battle for the truth, and, man, I feel so stupid for my part in your leaving, my silence. Believing the liars, it's a familiar theme in the Assembly history, in those Assemblies that still continue too.
I love you two for your courage alone, let alone for the people you are aside from that. I never considered Chris a particularly bold or courageous person, until now. And Armand, though I knew he was a ninny, well, he's a total cave-in now, in my estimation anyway. Your letter will be a great encouragement, I know, to others. Perhaps it may be the straw for many on the edge of leaving the Assembly there now. Again, thank you so much for sending it to me. You are so esteemed in my mind, I can not say just how much I admire you two."
March, 2004, Hugh: "Well, let me swallow hard and say please forgive me, Mary and Chris. I did believe the Assembly line at the time. I had my own struggles with how Ed was treated and told people so. It was because Ed asked me to see you that I felt it was alright. It is amazing how we believe people, and now I feel so stupid. Thank God I did go. Anyone seeing this post remember this is what the Assembly does to you. It is brainwashing you to believe the leaders above any other opinions. God bless you Mary and Chris, and thank you, Delila, for the letter."
March 2004, Marcia M.: "Dear Chris and Mary, I was one who shunned you when you left. I have already apologized privately via email, but will now make a public statement that I was wrong to shun you.
A couple of things:
When I left, the Leading Brothers asked me to not say anything further about my reasons for departure to the others who were still in. I refused because I wanted the freedom of following the Lord and not regretting having given my word to remain silent.
It is OK and normal for single saints to want to marry. It was put forth as a condemnation when you left, but real the issue is that they wanted to 'control' every aspect of your life and you would not let them.
At one point I was told that your marriage was on the rocks and that
Mary was blaming the Assembly for her problems. And, to them, it was no
wonder that you were having problems, since you had made your own
decision to marry without the leader's approval, etc. etc. etc.
I remember the day that Chris moved very clearly. I live just around the corner from the Cossette household. I also remember regretting that we could not have a wedding shower for Mary. I did not know that part of the problem was the inter-racial issue. Chris and Claude worked for the same company and even worked together on the same contract. It was via Claude's contact that Chris was introduced to the assembly in Ottawa. Mary was an outreach contact--one of four who actually came into the Assembly as a result of of witnessing--2x2, mime performance, or something. Only one of the four remains "in"."
March 2004, Delila: "I don't have any trouble naming the brother from Fullerton, though it isn't hard to guess who it is, son of the devil by choice, son of Geftakys by birth. I walked in on an interrogation when I lived with Mary, but had no clue at the time why the three would be meeting in our living room. Tim Geftakys is also guilty of lying to me and Darrel about spending time together - or not doing so as the case may be. Shame. That's what he left us with, and you know what they say (and they really do say this, btw): What goes around comes around, Tim."
March 2004, Tom Maddux: "Hi Chris and Mary - I never met you during my Assembly years. I can't recall ever hearing of you for that matter. Your experience of having a "mysterious Assembly illness" exactly parallels mine. Mine hit about 1979...and lasted until about two weeks after I left in 1988. Symptoms of hypoglycemia, (which were real), depression, inability to face things, tight back and neck muscles causing considerable pain, sleeplessness, neuralgia, a debilitating lack of energy, on and on. I believe all these symptoms were brought on by stress caused by suppressed anger."
March 2004, Clarence Thompson: "The experience Chris had with the leaders has remarkable parallels to my experience. Just as with him, I was presented with all kinds of "objections" when I expressed interest in certain sisters...things like, "You're both so negative", or, "She's strong-willed," etc.
However, there were those who were willing honestly to bare their fangs so that I could see what kind of creatures they were. Mark Miller, Dan Notti, Jim Hayman, Greg Brislawn, Ron Womack, Mike Miller, and of course, George and Betty Geftakys all counseled me against marrying anyone who wasn't black, because, "It would close missionary doors for this ministry",and, "It might stumble some in the flock."
Now of course, you must realize two things. First, there weren't that many black people in fellowship, for obvious reasons. And second, there's a lot more that goes into a marriage than skin color. I saw all kinds of people in Fullerton who were allowed the right to be attracted to each other because of common interests and pursuits - even white people marrying Filipinos, for instance! Yet this was denied to black people.
The line that absolutely took the cake, though, came from Steve Irons when he used to be an elder. He told me that God forbade interracial marriage. His proof text was a verse in Acts about..."God fixing the appointed bounds of each nation". I pointed out to him all the mixed couples I saw in fellowship, and his response was, "Yes, we do seem to violate that rule around here..."
My experience differs from Chris however, in that while he had the guts to call the leaders liars and rid himself of them, I stupidly hung around for 23 years. I actually believed all that hogwash about upholding the New Testament pattern. I was one of those who tithed mint and dill and cumin, and neglected the weightier provisions of the law - namely, justice, mercy and faithfulness. The fact of my suffering and my stupidity in enduring it all is a source of the anger I still feel over a year after leaving the God-forsaken Assembly.
Racism is wrong. Ephesians and Colossians clearly state that God has given us a new identity which transcends all the old earthly identities, as it is infinitely better. Our identity in Christ is the only identity that will count in Heaven. But racism is just one of the sins the leaders of the Geftakys groups practiced. Their sins are legion. And they still refuse to repent. When they see some of the sheep they have victimized, instead of contrition, they still wear a plastic smile and vomit condescending remarks. I personally believe that many of them are evil - just as evil as Georgie the big cheese himself! My promise for them is Matthew 23.
Read Galatians 2 if you want to see what happened to Peter and certain believers from among the circumcision when they tried to drive a wedge into the body of Christ because of some old earthly racial/religions identity. I tried to point this out to the leaders in Fullerton, and they were too dense to see it . (And yes, I agree with you, Chris. Almost none of them is to be trusted)."
March 2004, Steve Irons: "Dear Clarence - I tried to email you privately, but I got a message back saying it was no longer in service. So I'm going to do this as a post. I hope you receive it.
I want to apologize to you for using that verse from Acts to not allow mixed marriages in the Assembly. Although this is not an excuse, you do know that I was parroting George. Today I see how totally ludicrous it was for me to use that verse against mixed marriages. It makes absolutely no sense when you think [as you pointed out to me back then] about the fact that other people in the Assembly were allowed to marry who came from different nations.
If I could take back what I said, I would do so, but obviously the damage is done. Please accept my sincerest apology. Please do not conclude from what I said to you back then that I personally was prejudiced towards you, although it certainly looks like it on the face of it. I always liked you as a person and looked upon you as a beloved brother in Christ. I hope you can believe me.
March 2004, Marcia M.: "Steve, I was touched by your apology. It is refreshing to see repentance in action.
"On January 4th, 2004 I sent Delila's Ottawa experience story to Armand Cossette along with an personal email. Among other things, I felt he needed to know that his story had been posted on public forum. I received the silent treatment, once again, and Delila has not received an apology to date. I fully understand that most leaders/workers promoted the Geftakys agenda sincerely believing that it was God's will for them to do so. However, upon declaring that they have repented from their association with George Geftakys, I would have expected that they would have asked for forgiveness, even as Steve has, when issues were/are brought to their attention. The Ottawa leaders have not done so to date, but have made vague declarations that some things were wrong and they are attempting to change it, like lightening the meeting load e.g."
March 2004, Clarence: "Steve, I accept and thank you for your apology. You are truly showing yourself to be a man of character. I too have had to make difficult apologies during this past year. Once again, thank you."