An update about the Geftakys assemblies

August 2003
By a former member

The assembly, founded by George Geftakys, was a chain of churches created over the past last thirty years. They were advertised as "simple New Testament gatherings where we seek simply to obey the Scriptures." However, ultimately the assemblies became a kind of family run religious empire.

George Geftakys and his family exercised rigid control over these groups. And Geftakys often worked through assistant leaders that he appointed. This is well documented in the books Churches that Abuse and Recovering from Churches that Abuse, by Ronald Enroth.

Between November of 2002 and January of 2003 it was discovered that one of George's sons had been abusing his wife. And that George himself, in addition to having covered up his son's abuse, had been involved in immoral relationships with several women within his assemblies. This behavior was apparently ongoing for decades.

I would like to thank The Cult Education Institute for this database of information about George Geftakys and the assemblies and the role it played in the exposure of this man's misdeeds and the organizational abuses he presided over.

Because of these revelations some assembly leaders of various groups Geftakys founded actually expelled George from the organization, while other assemblies disbanded.

I left an assembly in California early this year and have been enjoying my freedom ever since.

But there are still some assemblies meeting at various locations trying to recruit new members and I would like to offer some meaningful information for those who might be approached by one of these groups.

It is important to understand the background history and apparent status, as of this date, regarding these remaining groups.

Assemblies that still exist are in the following locations:

  • Fullerton, California. Meets Sunday, Tuesday night and Wednesday night at the Fullerton Senior Citizen's Center. The Fullerton assembly claimed it had renounced George, but George's son Timothy Geftakys still exerts considerable influence over it. And now it appears that Fullerton hopes to revive the Geftakys empire.
  • Placentia, California Meets Sunday at the Placentia Round Table. Wednesday and Thursday night meetings now take place 619 Shady Lane in Placentia. The leaders are Jack Hanson, Sterling Bennett, and Ron Womack, all long-time associates of George Geftakys. This group continues to aggressively recruit new members, especially young people. They have a club at El Dorado High School in Placentia, and they are working with the assembly in Fullerton to establish a bible study club at Fullerton College, where Tim Geftakys has been preaching.
  • West Los Angeles, California. This group continued to allow visits by George Geftakys until just recently. It is led by Bill Bradbury, Greg Brislawn, Mark Geiger and Selvin Sotelo, all long-time associates of George. Mr. Bradbury is also very close to Timothy Geftakys.
  • Riverside, California. This group, although currently consisting of only one family and a few individuals, continues to allow George Geftakys to visit and preach, despite ample evidence of his bad conduct. Mike Almanzor, a long-time associate of George's leads this assembly.
  • Goleta, California. This group has renounced George and refuses to have anything to do with him. The leaders are Wes Cohen, Mike Struven, and Randy Verhoeff. Wes and Mike are long-time associates of George Geftakys.
  • San Francisco, California. The leader is Scott Testa and his second in command is Jim Karditzas. Both men lived in George's home and were personally trained by him.
  • Sacramento, California. Dan Mattson-Bose and Carlos DeLeon, who report to Scott Testa, lead this group.
  • Hastings, Nebraska. The leader is Dave Zach, whose family has been closely tied to the Geftakys group for many years.
  • Seattle, Washington. Mike Glesesner and Russ Pittman lead this group. It has renounced George Geftakys, and says it is trying to reform They are a tiny group of essentially two families.
  • Pasadena, California. Jim McCallister, who once co-led the San Francisco group, along with Scott Testa, leads this group. Jim also lived in George's home, and was personally trained by him.
  • Annandale, Virginia. This group is continuing to be involved in close relationships with George's family. Little has changed in the way they gather, since George was excommunicated. Leaders are Steve Taylor and Dave Zorn.
  • The Ottawa, Canada, gathering continues to meet, but George is not welcome. All of his books are off the book table. There has been no change in the way they meet or counsel and have cut off fellowship with groups and individuals who are no longer meeting in a similar pattern as them. The leaders are Dina Dinakaren and Armand Cossette. Calgary and Estevan are no longer meeting.
  • Manchester, England. Still meeting under the leadership of Les Roberts. There was a Mini Teen Team here from the USA this summer (2003). More recently (2004), there are reports that the Manchester may have disbanded.
  • Cuernavaca, Mexico. Under the leadership of Marcos Velasco the group continues unchanged (2003). However, it appears that the assembly in Cuernavaca later disbanded during 2004. All who were serving under George Geftakys have apparently left.
  • China: The assemblies in Beijing, Changsha and Nanchang have not read George's letter of excommunication or informed the gathering of his unfaithfulness. They are continuing to gather without changing their ways.

Assemblies at Goleta, Annandale, and Seattle, have renounced George Geftakys and are trying to overcome the effects of his influence, but some of these groups still may have ties to the Geftakys family. More progress may occur, but the situation is fluctuating and fluid at present.

Goleta and Seattle do seem to be openly and honestly discussing the things that were wrong with their assemblies and are trying to fix them. They are hoping that by doing this they might have a new beginning as churches.

However, a new beginning for these groups may not be possible. For such a fresh start to succeed it will take a tremendous investment of time and energy. And above all, it will take absolute honesty on the part everyone involved.

It appears to be a rather different story with the assemblies in San Francisco, Riverside, Sacramento, and Pasadena. The leaders of these groups still allow George's influence. They discourage their members from asking critical questions and/or finding historical facts about their background. The leaders of these groups also still seem to exercise rigid control. This includes the practice of setting up communal "training homes," also called "brothers and sisters houses," where recruits are essentially trained to serve the group.

In my opinion the assemblies in Fullerton, San Francisco, Riverside, Sacramento and Pasadena remain potentially unsafe and still exhibit cult-like behavior.

The assemblies in Placentia and West Los Angeles deserve special mention. Their leaders have publicly renounced George, but they are unwilling to publicly discuss the history of their assemblies, especially with those who have newly joined. They are also unwilling to publicly admit that they need to change anything. And the leaders still maintain authoritarian control over members' lives. Most important decisions affecting these groups continue to be made in secret by leaders. This lack of openness is disturbing.

Placentia maintains its "training homes," where college-age residents are indoctrinated.

Both West Los Angeles and Placentia are actively reaching out to the community in an effort to recruit new members.

If you or someone you know is invited to one of these assemblies the leaders may try to keep you from learning their history. This would seem to preclude making a truly informed decision about further involvement.

Again, keep in mind that the Geftakys assemblies have a troubled history, which includes repeated allegations of abuse and charges of deeply dysfunctional behavior.

George Geftakys may have been removed from power, but some of the assemblies are trying to continue as churches. And it seems to me that for these groups to evolve into healthy places to worship and fellowship, much is required.

Jeff VanVonderen author of the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse has said, "Get honest or die!" This applies not only to historically abusive churches and leaders, but to individual members as well.

If a member of a former Geftakys assembly invites you to a meeting here are some questions that you might ask:

  1. How much meaningful interaction is there between the leaders of that group and other churches?
  2. Are they uncomfortable about anyone asking the leaders of other churches what they think of the assemblies and/or about the history of the assemblies?
  3. Do the leaders of the group openly invite members to ask questions about the history of the assembly?
  4. How are their finances handled? Does this include full and open disclosure of all spending, salaries and/or any other compensation? Is there a regularly published and independently audited financial statement?
  5. How is the leadership accountable to the regular members? Is there an elected board chosen democratically by the general membership? Can leaders be dismissed?

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself:

  1. Do the leaders give vague or pat answers to your questions?
  2. Do you get the feeling that if you ask certain questions regarding the history of the assembly the leaders will accuse you of being "suspicious" and/or use some other means to intimidate you and discourage inquiry?
  3. Do you sense that assembly history is a forbidden subject in the group, even when the leaders are not present?

You might also find these "warning signs" helpful generally.

Of course you can always say "No" if someone invites you to one of these assemblies, which might just save you a lot of grief in the long run.

Remember, overwhelmingly most churches don't pose any serious potential risk. And there are almost always safe places to worship and fellowship that exist in virtually every community.


Copyright © 2003 Rick Ross.

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