Assembly Marriages

Assembly Marriages Were Controlled

In the Assemblies marriages were shaped and controlled to release husbands for 'the Work of the Lord'. This is a sampling of Betty's instructions to wives.

Most women get married to find companionship, and find out there's nobody lonelier in the world than a wife. You got married to get your needs met, and here you are with more needs to meet. Praise lifts the horrendous burden off of you. It engages your spirit with God.

The Lord had you get married so that you deny yourself. You need to start being a helpmeet instead of a ball and chain.... What more would you hope for in a marriage than that you get out of it the salvation of your soul?...Expect nothing from your husband, expect everything from Christ.

Being a helpmeet means doing all the crummy things he doesn't want to do. If you have a priority and he comes along and wants to change it, it doesn't bother you to change it.

If you were in your casket you wouldn't be irritated, because you would be dead to your feelings, your plans, your wishes. Self is very, very tenacious and strong, and only death will deal with it. Crawl in your casket, and be at rest, and be entreated. Do it his way, please him, meet him wherever he has a need.

There isn't open communication in marriages because wives have been more verbal, have put their husbands in their place so many times that there isn't openness any more. Repent. Ask what he thinks. What is open communication? It is each one knowing his and her place, and functioning together beautifuly. If you don't do it in your marriage, you won't be able to do it in the Work.

George said things like this:

You honor God in domestic things, and God will honor you in cosmic destiny. He will get a heavenly ladder in your life. He says, "I have destined you little ones for throne and for empire and for kingdom--you sheep, you dirty animals." And that kingdom is based upon and estblished upon marriage and the family.

When you stop your fussing, fretting and fuming, and you have peace, then you're going to be able to go out to others, Heb. 12:12. You've laid aside your private life, made all your life and resources available to minister to others. God is doing something singular this year, and we've got to have this kind of community.

"He's teaching you how to walk by faith and take eveything from His hand. Maintain a simple, balanced walk with God, saying, "Let the Lord's will be done." Make the commitment to be available, but don't predispose what that means.

These detailed notes from Betty's talk at a Workers Seminar in 1984 show some of the elements of Assembly mind control: a wife is to be a servant to her husband, obedient, willing to be inconvenienced, accountable to him. In a word, wives were to be dead to their own feelings, plans and wishes.

How the Instruction was Implemented

The men were taught to step into this opening created by wifely submission, and take control. It was called 'excercising headship'. Virginia Fugate's book, On the Other Side of the Garden, was the recommended handbook on marriage. Brent T. told about how he was trained at the beginning of his relationship with Suzie.

I like to surf. There was this one beach where the shore was always littered with tons of kelp. The flies were like fog on this beach. But the waves were excellent, and there were no flies about 15 yards offshore. Suzie had a hard time watching me surf, because I was so far away and the flies were so thick. It smelled of rotting kelp, too. She hated that beach, and told me not to take her there again.

David's advice was, "You don't want to marry a woman who won't follow you. She needs to do what you want to do. If you do what she wants, then she is going to lead you around like you have a ring in your nose." When I asked him about "Fly Beach," his response was, "Tell her to build a fire."

Another time David was thrilled with me when I ended a date with Suzie after ten minutes. She and I were in the car, and I told her we were going to such and such a place. She said, "Oh, can we go somewhere else?" I immediately turned the car around and took her home. Date over. Why? Because she wasn't content to be with me, where I wanted to go. I was training her. David (Geftakys) and Jeff (Lemkuhl) were totally pumped about this. I was learning to be a real man. Suzie was confused and hurt.

Brent was beginning to be taught how to communicate properly to a wife by using these verbal methods:

  • Ordering and commanding - Obvious displays of power and control
  • Judging and criticizing - Putting down the partner's thoughts, actions or feelings
  • Countering - Disputing the partner's thoughts, feelings, perceptions, experiences; arguing any point or idea
  • Trivializing - Pretending that the partner's opinions, actions, thoughts or concerns don't count or are trivial
  • Discounting - Minimizing the partner's accomplishments or experiences
  • Accusing and blaming - Blaming the partner for the abuse, which excuses the abuser's actions
  • Blocking and diverting - Creating verbal barriers to the partner's efforts to communicate; changing the conversation to gain control
  • Withholding - Refusing to share ideas, feelings, intimacy, thoughts, dreams
  • Abusive jokes - Telling jokes about the partner that humiliate and embarrass her
  • Name calling - Stripping away the partner's identity and replacing it with a minimizing or degrading epithet - "the wife", "the nag"
  • Chronic forgetting - Forgets appointments, special days, agreements, incidents
  • Denial of his anger and abusiveness and the partner's reality
  • Abusive anger - Aggressive outbursts that are threatening, and may escalate to physical violence.
  • Threatening - Implying harm to the partner's well-being or the well-being of the children

These verbal tactics are harmful to the relationship and to the well-being of the wives, but they enable the husband to gain complete control, i.e, 'headship'. This training was intended as an instrument to implement the husband's complete control over the wife. This behavior is generally regarded as domestic abuse. In the Assembly it was considered admirable.

  • He can make all plans, neither inquiring as to his wife's desires nor gathering input from her.
  • He can make unilateral decisions for the family, and exclude his wife from planning and decision-making.
  • He can take control over his wife's contacts with friends, family, and/or finances.
  • He can dictate his wife's schedule and activities
  • He can be inexplicably moody, making it difficult for his wife to predict what the next encounter with him will be like.
  • He can set the sexual pace, initiating all contacts and rejecting any of his wife's sexual approaches.

Some couples did not take things to the extreme. They duly practiced the training routines as instructed, but did not change the structure of their relationship to complete dictatorship. Many husbands, however, were eager "true believers", or they lived in a 'training home' where compliance was enforced.

Dr, Weitzman gives a profile of a typical "upscale abuser." The following male characteristics were modeled and encouraged in the Asembly.

  • He believes he is entitled.
  • He believes that he has the power and leverage to do what he wants.
  • He feels no regret or remorse, no need to apologize. In fact he feels like the wronged one.
  • He tends to blame his wife for any mishap, or any bad feelings he may feel about himself.
  • He has a grandiose sense of self-importance and the kind of treatment he deserves.
  • He is charming but interpersonally exploitative.
  • He is self-absorbed and lacks empathy for others.
  • He needs to be in control his wife in every situation.
  • He requires excessive admiration and recognition.
  • His demands about how his wife should look or behave are not necessarily clear, and usually impossible to meet.

Hear is a reader's comment on Amazon about the effects of Fugate's book on her marriage. In the Assembly it was couched as 'God's government' in every aspect of Assembly functioning, from Sunday worship to Workers Meetings, from child-training to wife training. But the relational effects were damaging, nonetheless, and spiritual abuse was added to it.

Verbal abuse is addressed in more depth in this series of articles:

A totally different perspective on marriage was discussed on the AssemblyBoard.

The guy who wrote the book on spiritual abuse also wrote a book on marriage. After some time in the Assembly, chances are very good that your marriage will need some repair.

Harsher Measures

Beginning in 1989 harsher measures were introduced. Just before Steve and I left the Assembly, a couples' Meeting at George and Betty's house introduced the concept of 'wife training'. Like the child-training, it was geared toward instilling "first time obedience". Danny and Kimber Edwards demonstrated the husband issuing commands, and then giving consequences to the wife when she didn't perform the way he wanted.

Tom Maddux had already left the Assembly at that point. He posted this on the Assemblyboard in 2007:

This week, as I was talking with one of my daughters, she told me that in her teen-age years, essentially the late 1980's, there was talk about men in leadership who hit their wives!...Yesterday, I ran into a long-time Assembly member, one who was around during my time and for many years after my departure. I asked him if he had ever heard anything like this. He said yes!!! What he told me was that there had been talk of "spanking" wives as part of "training" them!!!  I would like to place a few questions before the readers. During your tenure in the Assemblies, did you ever:

  • Hear this taught or recommended in any of the public meetings?
  • Receive counsel from anyone that you were to participate in this activity?
  • Experience it, witness it or hear of it directly from anyone who was involved either as a perpetrator or a victim?
  • Hear of it being done from someone who did not claim to have witnessed or participated in it?

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This is really sad, and I take no pleasure in discussing it. However, if it really happened I feel it should be brought to light. The past cannot be altered, but at least it can serve as an example of just how evil and dangerous the George Geftakys Assemblies were. It can also serve as a warning to others who are in or considering involvement in similar groups.

Discussion from the Assemblyboard bears on these questions.

Reflections on Marriage and Children after the Cult draws out some of the causes of family problems stemming from involvement in a high-demand group, and shows how they can be tackled in counseling. Bill and Lorna Goldberg are therapists who specialize in cult issues.

Domestic Violence in the Assembly

"High-demand groups that are authoritarian, legalistic, and sanction-oriented create conditions for abuse and violence within families." In the Assembly, marriage mirrored the structure of the high-demand group: they were authoritarian, legalistic, and sanction-oriented, and domestic violence did occur.  Judy Geftakys and Rachel Geftakys, and Susan M. have written about their experiences of domestic violence and child abuse in their homes. Susan followed up her story with an explanation about why, at the time, she did not disclose her home situation to the Leading Brothers. It is a very telling description of how the Assembly functioned.

In Susan M.'s situation the leaders were unaware of the domestic violence. In Judy and Rachel's case, many people knew and colluded to allow David G.'s domestic violence to go unchecked for 25 years. Dee Ann Miller, who specializes in collusion regarding abuse in the 'faith community' uses this definition: "Collusion is the conscious or unconscious collaboration of two or more individuals to protect those engaged in unethical practices". Here are three informative articles on her website:

• Basic Facts about Domestic Violence & Collusion
• Collusion - Just a Symptom
• Parallels with Family Dynamics of Addicts

Parallels with the behavior of addicts and some Assembly members was tackled by Mark Campbell.

The Domestic Violence Sourcebook by Dawn Bradley Berry, J. D. is an excellent resource. Here are some excerpts.

If you wonder about the situation in your own marriage, you can take this domestic abuse screening questionnaire.

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