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By Kaade Roberts

The name of the group itself means to deceive. Every few years the Bryan-College Station church, currently known as Fellowship Community Church (FCC)/A & M Christian Fellowship, but also known as Great Commission Church of College Station, changes its name. Perhaps its leaders would like to escape the attention paid to the organization of which FCC is a part, and from which the church derives its scriptural teachings and methods of indoctrination, Great Commission International (GCI). Founded by Jim McCotter and Dennis Clark in 1970, GCI along with its subsidiary, Great Commission Students, has been classified as a cult by the Cult-Awareness Network (CAN) and the American Family Foundation. Since the mid-seventies there have been complaints of GCI’s authoritarian forms of mind control leaving members at the point of suicide or in psychiatric wards.

Great Commission uses the method of first holding presentations on some relatively neutral subject (e.g., “Dating in the Nineties”) or a social event to attract people for membership, then they treat those who decide to become inductees with overwhelming friendship and praise in what is sometimes referred to as “love bombing,” a term coined originally to describe this same action within the Unification Church. Once the member converts, or is “born again,” the group tries to isolate the member from outside influences by having him/her work constantly with and for the group and, as is the case with many members of Fellowship Community Church who live together in groups separated by gender, often by housing with one another. Once the group becomes the only social contact with that person, it uses the threat of ostracization to control every possible factor of the person’s life. Jean Liverman, an ex-member of a Great Commission Church in Montgomery County, Maryland, reported that permission to “initiate” (i.e., approach a member of the opposite sex) required the permission of church elders.

For people to join groups such as GCI is completely within their rights. Hiding the real purpose of a group’s practices and destroying a person’s sense of identity for a social goal is, however, unethical and immoral. However, the leaders of these groups rationalize these practices as being for the members’ own good.

I believe the same justification is being used for Great Commission’s deception in endeavors to gain control of positions in government and the media: positions gained legally, but with the necessary support of a populace unaware of Great Commission’s hidden agenda.

In sermons by GCI’s founder, Jim McCotter, the political philosophy of Christian Reconstructionism is apparent. Reconstructionism concedes that governments should not only be run with “Christian” values in mind, but that our system of government should be based entirely on Biblical law.

McCotter asserts that national law should be based on scripture as it was in the time of King David. He would be the last to believe that formal religion should speak to the problems of its day. “Isn’t God the same yesterday, today, and forever,” he asks rhetorically. His examples suggest that “scriptural” law ought to eliminate certain undesirable persons because such action is God’s mandate. Here are his words (audiotape, “God’s Movement Through History #3,” Great Commission Student Conference, Washington, D.C., 1986) on God’s mandate for contemporary witch-hunts:

“With children, there’s a law that says if there’s juvenile delinquents, and that are rebellious, and immoral, and drunkards, and they go out, and they’re juveniles- God knew before they grew up they would be anarchists and destroy a country so He says they’re to be put to death when they’re juveniles.... And in Massachusetts, you saw where they took an application at least of that and did that in Massachusetts. Some of the witch hunts that your humanist professors have taught you to think bad of the Puritans, they were following the Bible in many ways. Some of these people were very wicked.”
He says that religious pluralism should not be allowed: “...When they finally started putting the squeeze hold on us and said “Look, if we let you preach, then we’ll have to let all these bad groups preach.’ I said, ‘Oh no. You stop them from preaching and let us preach.”

McCotter gives a reconstrucrionist’s redefinition of freedom: “When this country was set up, they set it up more like the Old Testament than King David did. They didn’t set this thing up to be a democracy to let every Tom, Dick, and Harry guru from any part of the world take over. They had planned that we were to get freedom and propel the Gospel to the world.”

Since that time, McCotter has left GCI to pursue some more profitable ventures. Many of the current leaders of GCI hail him as one of the “holiest” men they’ve ever known. McCotter became in the late eighties, by invitation, a member of the Council on National Policy, a right-wing political group which numbers such notables as Jack Kemp and Jesse Helms.

In attendance at the Washington, DC convention from which McCotter’s words are drawn, was Rodger Lewis, Program Director of KAMU-TV. Lewis is also an elder of FCC, Singles Minister for FCC, faculty advisor for A&M Christian Fellowship-and chairperson of the Brazos County Republican party.

We at the Touchstone believe that with Lewis’s influence in local politics and the media, citizens should be made aware of the political and social beliefs inherent in Great Commission’s vision for the world.

Lewis might claim “pro-family” values as a tenet of his religious, and thus political beliefs. Some of the practices of GCI’s churches towards children, however, are nothing short of sickening. McCotter tells parents: “When you discipline, this verse (Proverbs 20:30) indicates, as others do, that you want to do it with wounds. Now, when you say ‘wound’ it doesn’t mean that you have a bloody mess on your hands necessarily. (emphasis mine)... And he may, and often will be, black and blue. My children have been many times. And it cleans the evil from them.” An ex-member of a GCI church in Townson, Maryland, reported, “the elders’ wives would tell us to keep spanking the child, even if you left black and blue marks, until you break the spirit. Crying is called rebellion. The idea is that if the child is crying, you beat him, discipline him until he stops crying.” (from Sherry Ricchiardi, “McCotter Explains Views, Finances of Bible Group,” Des Moines Sunday Register, 11-26-79.)

It would be hard to believe that Lewis could support women’s rights as equal citizens when his own teachings as singles’ minister support the subordination of women. A “FAC-Sheet” entitled “Women and ‘Equal Rights’”, published by the Plymouth Rock Foundation, which Fellowship Christian Church (then GCC) distributed at their meetings, claims that, “According to God’s holy word, women are to be subordinate to men; not inferiorsubordinate.... Man’s authority comes from God, women’s authority comes via man.... The woman who despises or disobeys her husband, or who seeks to dominate him, violates divine law and thwarts divine judgment.... God’s word warns us against ‘feminists’; we are to turn away from them. The woman who disobeys God in this regard shall know His wrath. And, incidentally, one of the punishments God levied vs. the nation that disobeyed Him was to be ruled by women.”

Some of the other misinformation handed out at FCC meetings included sheets declaring “AIDS can even be spread by casual contact at public gatherings, etc.” and, “Sodomy (homosexual activity) promotes idolatry, invites false gods, nurtures apostasies.” With beliefs such as these, it is not surprising that A & M Christian Fellowship (at that time Great Commission Students) was a force behind the hate-mongering campaign against Gay and Lesbian Student Services during the early years of that organization in the eighties. According to an ex-member of the church, the leaders of Great Commission Church encouraged students to be among those on campus demanding that GLSS’s existence be put to a student referendum, and then playing on the prejudices of members of the student body. Great Commission’s beliefs concerning homosexuality may have influenced some of Lewis’s programming choices. As KAMU-TV programming director, Lewis has chosen not to air several programs and documentaries concerning homosexuality, specifically, Tongues Untied from the P.O.V. series and Andre’s Mother, which most public television stations have shown.

A program for Great Commission Church pictures U.S. Representative Joe Barton shaking Rodger Lewis’s hand. Barton has also spoken to A & M Christian Fellowship. Perhaps some of Barton’s legislative decisions should be reevaluated as to how they pander to right-wing religious groups or support the goals of Reconstructionism. For example, days after six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her fourteen year old daughter were murdered by a government death squad in El Salvador, of which over half of the nine soldiers had been trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, Barton signed a bill that would send still further military and economic aid to the Salvadoran government. This makes little sense from a human rights perspective, but U.S. aid would help the standing of right-wing missionaries there who support the Salvadoran government. Incidentally, Great Commission International has a church in San Salvador.

What we must do is to expose the strategies A & M Christian Fellowship and Fellowship Christian Church use to manipulate individuals, and the strategies which groups and individuals forwarding the Reconstructionist movement use in their attempts to establish a theocracy by abolishing women’s rights under law, sexual freedom for consenting adults, freedom of speech and press, and religious and philosophical plurality. Those who would destroy the individuality and creativity of a single person would destroy these things in every human being if given the chance.

Abridged bibliography:

“Bible Study Plays Role in Mental Breakdown”. Margaret Grove. Iowa State Daily. March 28, 1978.
“What is ISU Bible Study?”. Rosalie Yacknin. Ames Daily Tribune. December 8, 1979.
“ISU Bible Study Group: ‘Wonderful’ or ‘a Cult’?”. Jim Healy, Sherry Ricchiardi, D. Vance Hawthorne. Des Moines Sunday Register Iowa News. March 9, 1980.
“Ex-Members Say Religious Group Controls, Intimidates its Followers”. Glenn Sheller. The Lantern (The Ohio State University). 10-11-82
“Silver Springs Fundamentalists: Church or ‘Cult’?”. John Guerra. Montgomery County Sentinel. 2-6-86.
“Jean’s Story Why She Joined GCI, How She Was Deprogrammed.” John Guerra. Montgomery County Sentinel. 2-6-86
“Reconstructive Criticism”. Skipp Porteous. Free Inquiry. Spring 1991.
“Waging the Battle”. Skipp Porteous. Free Inquiry. Summer 1991.

The Touchstone, April 1992