Personal account of ex-member of the General Assembly Church of Berkeley and Vallejo

By Carolyn Williams

Beware of someone who is too nice and kind, who invites you to a house meeting or church meeting. BEWARE if they isolate you from the outside influence, and intensely cram you with INFORMATION on why their group sounds good and correct…BEWARE!

BEWARE of anyone that claims to have a divine gift or calling to lead followers into perfect truth and salvation.

My name is Carolyn Williams, and I left a shepherding group in Berkeley known as GENERAL ASSEMBLY CHURCH OF BERKELEY AND VALLEJO. I encountered this group in 1974, and for 15 years of my life was not my own. Most of my actions were based on the teachings of the group or the personal counseling of the groups leader - LACY HAWKINS.

I was a junior in college when I was approached by my roommate's sister. During that summer's recess she recruited me into the group. Lacy Hawkins, the groups leader appeared honest and sincere. His teachings were idealistic - He spoke of love for all mankind, peace, and abstinence from many vices in life.

General Assembly Church is among the "Latter reign, Body of Christ" movement that has been mushrooming across the country over the past three decades. According to their doctrine, God has restored the 5-fold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers). Supposed that the men who hold these offices to perfect the followers for the 1,000 year reign provided they "stay in the fold" and be 100% obedient to their leader without any resistance.

These teachings initially seemed good to me and went along with my idealistic thoughts. Even though they boasted continuously of not being a part of a religion, I never suspected that I was a part of a cult or dangerous religious group.

TO make a long story short, I became a victim of mind-control. I submitted completely to Lacy Hawkins' leadership and teaching in order to attain this perfection and the reward of divine reign. For years I attended meetings designed to capture new recruits. Someone from a job, a neighbor, or even a stranger who expressed that they were "looking for something more out of life" were approached. Recruits would be invited to a house gathering where at least a half dozen other dedicated members would tell their story of how their unpleasant and trouble-filled life was changed triumphantly after coming to GENERAL ASSEMBLY CHURCH. Each meeting would last for several hours, usually mentally draining the recruit. And by the end of the meeting usually the recruits felt they needed to attend the next church service. When arriving at the church, recruits would be seated by the person who invited them, they were unsuspecting targets. The service would be directed at winning them into the group.

Popular Christian songs would be sung along with "BODY SONGS" - which expressed the groups teachings and beliefs. The King James Bible was used…a Christian front yyet in practice - cult like.

In order to become an official member of General Assembly the recruit would have to eventually "chant" as the other members during a service. I experienced all this, and "tongues" were nothing new to me since as a youngster, I attended Pentecostal Churches.

The things that I lost, along with other members in the group was our right to privacy - to have one's personal live and activities kept private. We were taught we were family and that there were "no secrets or private business" in the family. We had to seek counsel from the leadership for selecting a marriage partner, for pursuing a career or higher education. We had to have counsel with HAWKINS even before purchasing a car or home. We had to have his approval before leaving town on a vacation or job trip. He called it "having a covering." Inadherence to his counsel brought sure reprimand. We were told that submission and obedience on our part was required for our souls, that they were looking out for our souls.

When I joined the group in 1974, I had my own apartment. But I was soon persuaded to room with another group member. Over a three year period, I had five different roommates. Usually I got a new roommate after a previous roommate married within the group. There were guidelines set by HAWKINS to follow as roommates. The number one rule was to only socialize within the group. General Assembly Church was our true spiritual family, so all other outsiders were a part of the world destined for damnation.

We were discouraged from spending a lot of time with our own natural family. My family lived in Florida, so for me that was not difficult. We were to look out for each others as sisters and brothers. Many members occupied the same apartment complexes. Many worked for the same company, in the same department on the same shift. Engineers, firefighters, health professionals, educators and the like are dedicated members in this group. There was no such thing as 10% income contribution. The average member contribution was $300 per month. Besides money we had to give a lot of our time to the church. The three weekly services, that had about 95% attendance, totaled to about 16 hours/weekly. Then we were placed on teams to perform free labor such as cleaning, cooking, child-care. The men in the group did more strenuous tasks such as landscaping, building and re-modeling the church's and it's apartment building. Lacy Hawkins also used free labor of members to add hundreds of square feet to his Berkeley home. He and his wife had members who housecleaned and cooked for them, he even had personal chauffeur and "go for's." Many members have given him and his wife expensive gifts. Members commonly include Hawkins and his organization in their wills and life insurance policies.

Marriage or any intimate relationship outside of the group is forbidden. (termed "Damnable.") Doing so would mean disfellowship. There was no one in the group that I was attracted to. All the men that the leader or elders suggested to me were complete turn offs. About four years after I was in the group, one of my old college flames joined the group. Within a year, we were married.

Weddings in "The Body" is different also. There are no tuxedos, bridal veils or trains, and very little cosmetic is allowed. The ceremony is extremely short and sterile. Lacy Hawkins teaches that having children is a curse, that kids would hinder a member from reaching divine perfection. So, like 95% of all the other couples that married in my group, my husband and I opted for sterilization as a means of birth control. I under went a tubal-ligation at age 30. Only about a half dozen babies have been born to group members since 1974. All the other children at GENERAL ASSEMBLY CHURCH were born or conceived before their parents joined the group.

If a woman conceived in the group, she was looked down upon and referred to "not having her eyes open." She is coerced into ending the pregnancy. If her pregnancy is out of wedlock, or if the father is a non-member she must abort in order to remain a part of the group. So as you might suspect, there have been many abortions in General Assembly Church. Some women left the group in order to keep their unborn child.

After seven years, my marriage ended. My husband saw the fallacy and mind controlling tactics that were being used and refused to continue with the movement. He became quarrelsome and aggressive with me. I divorced him and remained with the group for two more years.

Speaking of children, the children at General Assembly are also controlled. Many infants and pre-school kids attend daycare operated by women in the group. This is done so that the children can grow up together and be protected from "the world and its bad influences". Teenagers who won't be controlled are told to leave the group so as not to inhibit the other submitting teenagers. School kids in the group who have academic problems are reported to Lacy Hawkins. These children become subjected to degrading actions by the leader. Some of the children are physically beaten. Others are called up before the group and told to recite their offenses. Their names are written down and placed in the monthly bulletin and posted on the announcement board. Hawkins tells the members to look at the names of the rebellious members on the bulletin and he restricts these individuals activities in the group. Lacy Hawkins claims to be the highest power in the cities of Berkeley and Vallejo. He does not call the police or public authorities in on disruptive or criminal incidences that occur in his churches. Incidents of child molestation were reported to Hawkins. He spoke privately with the parties involved and told parents of these children to keep silent about the incidents.

If a child's parent leaves the group, a divorce and custody battle is ignited. The child is told that the defecting parent is evil and of the devil. The parent who remains with the group is instructed by Hawkins to do whatever it takes to get 100% custody of the child. He sends the parent to the group's attorney and usually has "an elder" attend the court hearings with the member.

There has been a suicide in the group. The church held no funeral for the member. Life went on as if it never happened. The family of the man was instructed to remain silent about the incident.

Lacy Hawkins preaches joy and salvation as long as one remains with the group. He preaches destruction and damnation for any one who leaves the group or does not go along with his teaching.

Many people who left the group experience mental illness…Many fell victim to drugs and crime. One man, Reggie Mourmon, recently opened gunfire on a group in a Georgia mall killing four people. He had left the group only a year before the crime. While he was at General Assembly Church, Lacy Hawkins would often target him in his sermons. It was evident the young man needed help but Hawkins didn't believe in psychiatry. He said several times in his sermons that the young mans mental state was due to his rebellion against his leadership. He said that most of the mental cases in the group was just the devil and that these people had only to yield to his authority to get over it.

In 1989, I began to question a lot of things I saw going on at General Assembly Church. lacy Hawkins told me that if I continued such inquiries that I would be damned. I still continued to question the interference into members personal lives. I questioned the handling of monies collected from members and what they were used for. I questioned Hawkins purchase of expensive cars and the like.

I felt if I remained a part of the group that I would lose myself. I began to see the destructive effects that the movement had on me. I realized that I had practically cut off all interactions with other people outside the group. Over my 15 years in the group, I gave thousands and thousands of dollars, I felt it had all been a waste. I had become stunted in my professional career. I was paranoid - a nervous wreck.

I began to watch TV talk-shows about cults and mind controlling groups. Soon I realized that I was in a dangerous religious group. One day in 1989, I walked away from General Assembly Church. Members called and tried to get me to return. I just did not yield. I ran into an ex-member who directed me to a CAN meeting. I have been successfully recovering from the experience there ever since.

This is not a local movement. There are hundreds of "Latter-Reign Body of Christ" groups across the country. And expect the numbers to mushroom as the year 2000 approaches.

The public needs to be aware of the ear marks of mind control. Mind control is a form of slavery! We must treasure the gift of human freedom to think and choose for ourselves.

Thanks for listening to my story.

Carolyn Williams.

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