On January 19, 2003, George Geftakys was excommunicated by the elders of the Fullerton Assembly for sexual immorality and for failure to discipline his son, David, for decades of domestic violence. This event marked the end of the "Assembly movement," and most of the Assemblies began to disband. We call this section the "final weeks" because the events center around the tumultuous weeks before and after George's excommunication. The timelines also include a record of events surrounding his immorality and David Geftakys' domestic violence reaching back decades.
Johns Hopkins University professor, Dr. Azar Nafisi, writing about her life in Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini*, makes this comment about history:
"In retrospect, when historical events are gathered up, analyzed and categorized into articles and books, their messiness disappears and they gain a certain logic and clarity that one never feels at the time."
In order to accurately report the original messiness of the collapse of the Assembly system, we have preserved as many of the original letters, documents, and first-person accounts as possible.
We publish several timelines because they each provide their own needed perspective on how and why the Geftakys ministry collapsed. The first timeline shows Brent T.'s perspective from San Luis Obispo. As a concerned former Assembly member, he was raising a hue and cry about David Geftakys' long-running domestic violence, and the cover-up.
The second timeline shows the actions of the elders and leading brothers in Fullerton. It explains why the leadership in Fullerton finally did the right thing in disciplining George Geftakys. Number one, George allowed his son, David, to remain a leader in the "work" the whole time he was abusing his family and the sheep in the Assembly in San Luis Obispo. And number two, George took sexual advantage of several of young women throughout the course of his ministry.
The third timeline shows the chronology of issues and events in Omaha, Nebraska.
When we, Steve and Margaret Irons, left George's ministry in 1990, we contacted one of the Plymouth Brethren Assemblies where George was formerly involved. We learned that he was a problem among them as well. If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gotten involved with him nor commended him. Those who formerly knew George did not warn anyone about him, and as a result great injury was done to many precious souls.
For this reason we believe it is important to publish these articles: We need to warn others about George and Betty Geftakys. We have in mind many whose faith has been severely damaged and who are to this day robbed of the comfort of trust God, and especially the young women George devastated with his sexual advances.
As leaders in the Assembly, we betrayed our sacred trust to those we shepherded by failing to have discernment and and courage, and blindly supporting this ministry. The number of people who have been devastated by the "Assembly system" is huge and our awareness of the damage done is very painful. We offer our deepest apologies and regrets for our part in establishing and supporting this spiritually abusive ministry. We hope this website will be a resource for understanding and recovery, and in this way help to make amends.
*from Reading Lolita in Tehran
The hymn that follows is based on Isaiah 53:4, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted." This reminds us that God smote his Son in payment for our sins, sparing us from judgment. In order to satisfy His justice, God slaked His sword on Christ instead of us.
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended, that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended? By foes derided, by thine own rejected, O most afflicted.
Who was the guilty who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hast undone thee. 'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.
Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered; the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered; for man's atonement, while he nothing heedeth, God intercedeth.
For me, kind Jesus, was thine incarnation, thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation; thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion, for my salvation.
Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee, I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee, think on thy pity and thy love unswerving, not my deserving.
Comments from Readers
April 18, 2007, Gail (Raucci) Frudakis: This is truly amazing. My maiden name is Gail Raucci. My brother, sister and I were members of the Assembly from 1971 till about 1979. I do remember hearing in the later days of my attendance about nervous breakdowns and such, and when my brother sent e-mails regarding the Assembly, I really was not very surprised. The book Toxic Churches really helped me understood what had happened to me during those years.
What a horrible disgrace! I am very thankful that I've held tight to all the 'heaven taught' ministry I received before 'all hell broke loose'. I am now 54 years old, married for over 22 years, with four daughters, ages 22 through 11. To see a man who I once held in such high esteem fall so far truly humbles me.
October 30, 2007, Chaplain Steve Lowe, Orange County Juvenile Hall: Can you imagine the pain of watching a beloved group of brothers and sisters in Christ struggling with the deception of egotistical leadership that promoted a form of works righteousness. I did my best to intersect in the lives of those deceived in my capacity as the Supervising Protestant Chaplain for the Orange County Probation Department. I made each Assembly probation volunteer study Charles Solomon's Handbook to Happiness in an attempt to help them understand their position in Christ and the finality of the cross. I struggled and hurt when Mark Wheel and Beth Alex went under the spell of George and came against me. What a sad time. I have counseled ex-members of the assembly from as far a way as Kansas. I prayed the Assembly away from my beloved incarcerated youth and God heard my prayer. When the annual Christmas pageant occurs (began by Joe Bush and me) I rejoice that the ex-Assembly folks coming in have been set free by the cruel taskmaster of toxic leadership. It is a new day and God rules in the lives of His children.
Editor's response to Chaplain Lowe: It's great to hear from you!.... We had no idea you have been involved in counseling ex-Assembly folks. I'm so glad. I assume you are in touch with Joe Bush in planning the upcoming Christmas pageant. As you must know, Joe is not an ex-Assembly member; he is involved in the continuing Assembly in Placentia. As far back as 1989, when we were still involved in the Assembly, the Handbook to Happiness was brought in, and was adapted and twisted to support the legalism, perfectionism and tight control taught by the Assembly, bringing folks into even heavier bondage. I would love to hear evidence from you that Placentia has repudiated this works righteousness over the last four years!
Chaplain Lowe's response to the editor:I can tell my the tone of your final comments that you are still stinging from the hurt caused by the Fellowship (since you guys did not have a church name I gave you the name "the Fellowship" so when I talked with my staff they knew who I was referring to--an old habit). Sorry for your pain over all of this.
I am baffled how anyone could make identification truths into a form of legalism. The entire reason Chuck wrote the book in the first place was to free Christians from any "selfism" in regards to acceptance before God. If ALL my righteousness is simply imputed then I have nothing to bring to God except my faith in the Person and work of Christ. That kills works-righteousness and legalism (religiosity). I was pleased years ago when the effect of identification became extensive enough that it trickled throughout the Assembly. I am disheartened to hear that it was perverted for some personal reason on the part of leadership.
[This email discussion on Handbook to Happiness is continued in "Assembly Teaching and Practice".]