A Shepherding Group in our own back yard

An explanation of the leaders and their practice of the General Assembly Church at Berkeley and Vallejo 1521 Derby Street , Berkeley, California (est. 1974), 5 Spruce Street Valleo, California (est. 1986) 365 Leighland , Pittsburgh , California (est. 1990)

Leader: Lacy Hawkins

Started his own movement after his pastor (Dixon) died, a former member of Pilgrim Temple, Oakland, California. He left Pilgrim Temple three years after the overseers death. He claimed that the leaders there were prejudice against him because he was Black and had "more of the word of God than they." He and his tactlessly outspoken wife were "victimized and avoided" because they would not conform. Most of the fundamental biblical doctrine that he teaches in his churches are slightly altered from those taught to him by his late pastor Dixon, (eg. "the four major doctrines, 2 in the Godhead, 5-fold ministry, the Bride.)


Usually there are 3 services weekly. Two services are held mid-week; Sunday service usually starts in the afternoon and lasts for up to 4 hours. Most members stay to have a "free dinner after the service" and sit around until the Sunday night service which can last up to 2 ½ hours. There is no written program; the leader claims that "the Spirit will lead the service" It consists of mostly singing, "spiritual" dancing, confessional testimonies and very long sermons by the leader. The leader's sermons usually rallies around "submission to God's order." He also spends substantial amounts of time explaining "Biblically" why conventional religion (including Pentecostal) is wrong and why his way is "God's way."

This group openly and proudly proclaims that they "are not a part of religion," however, they do not consider themselves to be a cult "like Jim Jones." As of 1989, there is an estimated following of about 600 faithful and dedicated members under Lacy Hawkins. He claims affiliation with other "Ministries in this Body." Some include assemblies in Houston, Little Rock, Des Moines, Tracy and Sacramento in California. There are other smaller churches throughout the country that "look to these leaders for guidance." Most of them go by the name "Gospel Assembly." Lacy Hawkins is considered by many of the leaders to be extremely radical in his teachings and is always in controversy with leaders in his affiliation. There is no central headquarters and no general organization by-laws are

established. Hawkins' two churches consist of mostly low-income Blacks. The other churches are mostly White.

What usually happens to a person who comes into the group in Berkeley or Vallejo:

Phase I. Initiation.

They pick you according to a desired prototype person who will most likely conform to their way. They invite you to one of their services and tell you that "you did not come on your own, God lead you here." If you do not commit on your first visit they request that you come "seven times" until "God touches your eyes."

There is an initiation into the group in which you are supposedly "spirit filled" with the evidence of speaking in tongues. However, upon close examination and observation, it is noted that most of the "tongues" consists of rapid chanting of the words "da-da-da" and "oh-oh-oh." The prayer warriors who pray with the converts actually yell in their ear to repeat this. Later the converts are baptized in water. There is never a formal joining of the Church - membership. No membership roll is kept, only offering records, baptismal certificates, and a church telephone book which is circulated among members in good standing.

Phase II. Indoctrination.

The first step: Isolation and Regimentation. You are coerced into attending all services (approximately 16 hours weekly minimum.) Your absence is followed by an inquiring phone call from a "concerned" member. You are told to call ahead if you will be absent. You are informed of the danger of closeness to family, co-workers and friends who do not attend church. This is supported by scriptures proclaiming "come out from among them and be separate" and that your ultimate goal is to be a part of "God's Spiritual Family" and not the carnal "Family of Man."

Your social activities are scrutinized and censored. You are not to attend or participate in sports, movies/theater or social parties. These are replaced with more "spiritual" activities involving the church. (e.g. voluntary tasks around the church, cleaning, cooking, dish-washing, church security..) You are told to listen to church music and sermons and to watch videos of the services. You are told that it is a waste of time to visit other churches since they are steeped in ritualism and are void of the word and revelation of God. You are told that it is carnal to spend vacation time with family, on a trip (unless it is direction connected with Church activity). Lacy Hawkins also subliminally teaches that his church is the best among his affiliation and members have to ask permission from him to visit even these churches.

Even your association among church members are watched. You are rudely separated from members who are "weak" or "in a bad spirit." You are censored from close communication with former members. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend who do not join the group, you are aggressively coerced into ending the relationship. Even if you are married and your spouse does not join the group or drops out of the group, you are aggressively told that the relationship will fail and that in order to continue "with God" you eventually will have to end the marriage and re-marry in the church.

The second step: Loss of privacy and the Right to Exclusive Personal decision-making.

Your privacy is aggressively invaded. You are told that "there is no secrets in the Body" and that "you have no Business" that is private. Therefore, your intimate personal matters in which you have discussed innocently in private with the leader, and/or his elders, cunningly is exposed to church members. You are told that this may be part of "your Baptism by fire" and that it will help you to "overcome."

Your mate selection can only be another faithful church member and requires approval by the leader. You jeopardize excommunication if you marry someone who is not in the church or marry within the church without the knowledge or approval of the leader. When you marry in the church, you have to follow stringent guidelines for the ceremony which lasts about 15 minutes. The bride is not allowed to wear a veil or earrings. She can not be "painted up and looking like the world." The groom is not allowed to wear a tuxedo. Childbearing is discouraged. You are indoctrinated to believe that having children is part of the curse on man. Vasectomy, tubal ligations, and hysterectomies are above the "norm" in these two churches. Pregnancy outside of marriage not followed by abortion is grounds for disfellowship and excommunication. Fornication with non-members is outlawed. Fornication among members can be forgiven and may be followed by marriage. Marriage outside of the church one you've become a member is a "damnable sin" and may cause you to be "eternally judged." The leader decides which sins are forgivable.

You must get "covering" approval from the leader or elders before you purchase a home or a car, attend college, invest, start a business, etc. You are told that without guidance, your "salvation can be hindered" if you choose to do these things without counseling and that God doesn't have to bless you if you proceed on your own will.

You are aggressively discouraged to move out of the area of these two churches and if you want to attend another church in this affiliation, you have to get consent from Lacy Hawkins. You are told that the church is "your first priority." All of your financial planning should be aimed at giving "more" to the church, never give less willingly without "justifiable cause." Offerings generally exceed 10% of members income.

Questioning the Ministry

You are told to "be subject" to the ministry and disobedience constitutes rebellion - "the sin of witchcraft"…You can not question the ministry's judgments (your own or that of others, whether morally objectable or not.) "He has the divine guidance from God and God shows him what to do in each situation in order for that individual to be saved."

You can present Bible questions. However, this can only be done in services (and that only when he feels the spirit leads.) You can not ask doctrinal questions at private group gatherings. Once the leader has stated what is doctrine for the church, only he can change it. It can not be challenged. It is considered rebellion.

If you show any resistance, you are to be in a "bad-spirit" and "rebellious." Sermons are geared to induce fear in you and others if resistance is continued. You are said to be "working against the ministry." This can bring you the reward of "eternal judgment and damnation."

If you leave the group, you face the wrath of God. If you cause other members to leave or openly speak against the leader or the group, you are told to "sow discord" and "causes souls to be lost which is an unforgivable sin."

Unless you really have a personal love for God in heaven, you will leave the group discouraged and confused and bitter. Some members who have left and were victimized have gotten involved in self-destructive behaviors (such as drugs and crime.) One any bad news about former members gets to the leader, he informs his followers as this being God's judgment. He does not members of the positive growth and prosperity of former members.

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