Monday, December 29, 2008

Who is Geoffrey Botkin? A Vision Forum Recruit from the Cult of the Great Commission


Revised 02Feb13
Revised Introduction, 14Feb2019

A few days ago, I received a registered, restricted access letter from the daughters of Geoffrey Botkin (GB).  They allege that I have profited somehow by hijacking their family name, and while I never dreamed that I was so powerful, they claim that I all but destroyed their family’s ability to support themselves.

Of notable mention in the letter was a reference to this “Who Is GB?” post..  If you find broken links in this and other material, please note that I’ve put my entire blog into draft to provide myself time to prayerfully consider the family’s claims about specific matters that they found painfully difficult.  I was willing to pend everything here for careful review in a spirit of cooperation and empathy, and I do because I don’t believe that these daughters have any true agency under the system that the family advocates.  I attest to the veracity of the core information.


Blog posts at No Longer Quivering (NLQ) features the letter as well as a rough draft of this introduction.  As long as I’m welcome to do so, I will use that public forum and this venue to communicate with the Botkins to expand upon the problems and fringe group subterfuge that their letter highlights.

I was asked in the discussion that followed whether I am willing to reconcile with the family. Before that can even be a consideration, the daughters need to understand my own perspective as well as the discrepancies between our respective views about the nature of forgiveness itself.  I also welcome the reader to consider my initial reaction when I first received the letter and how my decisions unfolded.  In the comment threads following each post at NLQ, I offer ideas about the role of forgiveness and my concerns about abuse of the concept upon which I will expound in the future.  Please note therein that because of the questions of agency and bounded choice, I hold GB and other patriarchy leaders accountable for modeling the only behavior they understand as appropriate through the modeling they observed within the tightly controlled milieu within their (fringe) subculture.

In order to reconcile with me in the event that such is possible, the family needs to understand my perspective.  I have many subjects in mind to offer for their consideration —  what I think of as prerequisites to help them deal with their own expressed beliefs about and feelings towards me.  I relish the opportunity to help broaden the family’s perspective about my writings, for there are many misconceptions.

Though this post has stood unaltered for a decade, soon after I posted it for the first time, I received feedback from others including the extended family of the Botkins and friends from college.  Some former “Saints” maintained intermittent contact with Geoff and “Vicky” (her preferred name at GCM) , and many maintain relationships with Greg (GB’s elder brother).  Some of the initial text became sloppy and confusing because it changed over time as I learned more information.  To shorten this tome, I invite the reader to seek additional information about sources in this NLQ posting.

In an attempt to be accountable, as one can follow by checking the internet archive, if I changed information in this post (or any post on this blog), I allowed the error remain, added strike throughs and such, and I left all intact for months so that people could witness and note the measures that I took to own any mistakes or twists on things that I changed when I gained more insight and contact with original sources who could attest to their own histories involving GB.  Please refer to these writings for more background as I endeavor to limit things to as many salient facts as possible.

Now, for a more concise history of Geoffrey Botkin.  I continue to welcome contact from those who have known and interacted with the family prior to the family’s notable presence in the now defunct Vision Forum (VF).  VF was a lifestyle resource organization for homeschoolers within Evangelical Christianity

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Geoffrey Botkin came from one of the most spiritually abusive cultic Evangelical Christian groups around: the shepherding/discipleship "submission doctrine" touting Great Commission Ministries (GC). Following this narrative, I’ve prepared a timeline in the form of a table that maps out a brief history of the Great Commission group, also noting Geoff Botkin’s activities and references to him in the media (embedded links noted in the table).

Geoff Botkin, his brother, Gregory, and both of their spouses were recruits of the Great Commission Ministries (GCM), a group which Larry Pile has dubbed a TACO., recruited heavily on college campuses.  GCM recruited all of them on the campus of the  University of Oklahoma in Norman during the ‘70s. The GCM group called themselves by a host of names but primarily referred to themselves as “The Saints,” encouraging group members to work at local businesses that they had founded which also bore the name. 

Please note that like many of the groups now affiliated with, GB’s familythey followed a very strict arranged courtship process (forbidding traditional dating and punishing “factious/fractious” group members who pursued unapproved romantic interests), a process ordered and overseen by GCM group leadership. At these OU affiliated GCM groups, women were not permitted to speak at gatherings that integrated them with men (save to sing), and they were also required to wear head coverings.

It is curious to note that in his capacity as a mouthpiece for Vision Forum, GB boasts that he was raised as a committed Marxist, but those who are familiar with the Christian family from  the town in the northeastern region of Oklahoma (where Tulsa is located)..  If you are family or friends of Geoff's parents, please realize that these are claims that Geoffrey has made, not me. Former group members have speculated that Geoff Botkin may have absorbed aspects of the testimony of another former member of the Norman group in order to embellish his own. Like many members of the Oklahoma group, former  members do not recall that Geoff Botkin completed his degree program at OU. Many of the active members in the OU group also followed Jim McCotter to the Washington, DC area in the ‘80s, just as Geoff did.

The newspaper in Montgomery County, Maryland calls GB an administrative assistant for the Silver Spring church in 1986. His mysterious consulting in Washington, DC seems to describes his work for the Great Commission’s political lobby group known as Americans for Biblical Government (ABG) that existed only during 1986, lobbying for the Nicaragua Contras on the steps of the US Capitol. On his NZ employer’s website, he states that he was a “former chairman of an American policy think tank” which I assume  and infer makes reference to the GC’s ABG. In this interview, Botkin says that he took his son to Capitol Hill and to college campuses to show him how America’s youth were being deceived and defiled.

History of GCM did do much very aggressive recruitment on the campuses of University of Maryland at College Park and Towson State University at this time. Geoff Botkin took his son to these campuses to do recruiting into the cultic Great Commission. His church also organized 19 GC church members’ campaigns for civil government in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1986, in an attempt to take dominion over the county government.
Several sources document the history Jim McCotter (member of the Council for National Policy), the founder of the cultic shepherding/discipleship group. 

They went off to NZ and purchased an ailing newspaper and television station to continue what McCotter called the “Media Mandate.” McCotter bought a seaside mansion in Christchurch, and Botkin named his Quiverfull home “Seven Arrows Ranch.” Botkin became CEO for this ‘multi-media organization’ which also eventually acquired a magazine, one that which the Western Conservatory (Botkin’s current business venture) calls an “international media conglomerate.” They published a newspaper that  published three times per week and aired Christian programming at the TV station.  Within two years, all but the fashion and style magazine failed financially.  McCotter left New Zealand, and Botkin resigned his position in 2002. Though the archive for the New Zealand Media Group states that the Botkins emigrated to NZ, Botkin returned with his family to the US to soon appear among the reigning ranks at Vision Forum.

Vision Forum recruited for themselves a former business partner, political activist and a zealot who wants to take over the media for Christianity for optimum milieu control.  Most who remember VF know nothing about GB’s GCM history or that GB worked for a well-known, well-documented shepherding/discipleship/submission doctrine TACO (Totalist Aberrant Christian Organization).  Ronald Enroth’s “Churches That Abuse,”  Paul Martin’s “Cult Proofing Your Kids,” Lawrence Pile’s “Marching to Zion,”  more than 25 other newspapers all over North America , and the Washington Post make note of GCM’s activities.  Read about the group HERE or on other sites like GCM Warning.


Botkin – Great Commission Timeline


1965 Jim McCotter moves to Greeley, CO, starts activism on University of Northern Colorado campus *link
1967 McCotter drops out of college for full-time ministry but gets drafted; Discharged in 1970. *link
1970 Starts “The Blitz” evangelical movement on college campuses *link  *link
Geoffrey Botkin, his brother Gregory and both of their spouses were recruited into the Great Commission group on the campus of The University of Oklahoma at Norman. Botkin participated in the authoritarian religious group and their communal homes operated by "The Saints" as they were most commonly known.

1972 The Blitz culminates in Ames, Iowa on the campus of Iowa State University; ten years of efforts there serve as a model for CGI strategy *link
1978 Iowa student hospitalized for lengthy and repeated psychiatric treatment after leaving a GCI group *link
1980 GC operations moved to San Clemente, California. *link
1983 GC base of operations moved to Silver Spring, MD near College Park (U of MD) and gains tax exempt status as “Great Commission International” Also very active on campus of Towson State Univ *link *link

Shares an address with “Valley Brook Community Church” with a reported attendance of up to 800 *link

Conducts summer long leadership training in discipleship *link *link
1983 “Media Mandate” preached at GCI conference

Christians must secure the media to reach every home via the “US Press” newspaper; provide neutral material of interest to general consumers, in order to draw them in and make them available for indoctrination with the religious and political viewpoints of GCI

Uses the analogy of programming a computer to convey his notion of how the media operates on consumers. *link
1985 Major expansion with efforts on 50 college campuses *link
1985 Former members establish an inpatient cult recovery center *link
1986 Forms “Americans for Biblical Government” (ABG) lobbyist group; rally on Capitol steps in support of Nicaragua Contras; disappears that same year (ABG never incorporated nor registered as tax exempt) *link *link
1986
Nineteen GCI members in Mongomery County (12 from the Silver Spring church; Seven from the Damascus church) decided, almost simultaneously, to run for election to the Maryland Republican and Democratic Central Committees. Thereafter, political activities confined to distributing “media kits” on political topics *link *link *link *link *link
Geoffry Botkin, an administrative assistant at Great Commission said, “Great Commission doesn’t endorse, or sponsor, or contribute to any candidate.” *link
1986 Alpha Capital Corporation (ACC) formed, a for-profit publishing group in Maryland; GCI owned 100% of stock *link

Purchases and sells multiple radio stations

Allegations made that donations to GCI by membership channeled into ACC *link *link
1987 McCotter resigns from GCI to pursue entrepreneurial efforts in order to influence the secular media in accordance with the “Media Mandate.”

(One report states “McCotter has been sent away by the church to conduct church business incognito”) *link

Relocates to Orlando, FL

Questions and accusations of diversion of funds and other financial improprieties reported *link *link
1989 Changes name of to Great Commission Association of Churches (“GCAC” or “GCC”) *link *link *link
1989 CG activity banned from Univ of Guleph, Ontario, Canada *link *link
2000 Jim McCotter and “business partner” Geoff Botkin move to Christchurch New Zealand *link *link *link

Set up a media group (NZMG), bought ailing regional station Canterbury Television (CTV), registered 14 new media-related companies and launched newspaper and a weekly magazine *link


Christ church publishers: Waterford Press, Metros Publishing Group and Academy Publishing confirm they were all approached by McCotter and/or Geoff Botkin early in 2001, with various business propositions. *link


Late in 2001, McCotter returns to the US and does not return to NZ *link *link
2001 6,900 GC members active on college campuses *link
Jan/Feb
2002
Geoff Botkin resigned as CEO* of McCotter's New Zealand Media Group *link *link

“Personnel lists show 26 out of 58 staff disappeared off the payroll between September 2001 and February 2002 and of the 17 editorial staff working a week after the launch, only seven remain” *Comment 1 link  *link


“McCotter and his henchmen have the audacity to claim this country and our city as their own and yet talk of getting rid of our government, etc. They talk of destroying certain businesses and engineering the destruction of people’s lives.
“Do they work for or are they being funded by a christian organisation? There is obviously a lot of cash in-volved as these men and their families stay in expensive hotels and recently McCotter has bought a very expen-sive home in Christchurch.
“They live the lives of the very wealthy, and talk in terms of money being the great reward.
“Please, who are the people behind them?
“The men who are involved locally are; Jim McCotter (American), Roland Ripamonti (American Italian) and his 15 year old son, Andrew and wife Marizia, Geoff Botkin (American) and his son, David, Louis de Beer (South African), Shannon Hunt (McCotter’s daughter), Jonathon Hunt (English)(Shannon’s husband), Simon Hunt (Jona-thon Hunt’s brother and his wife), Holly LeFors (American). *Comment 4
2005 60 GCC churches in the US with 40,000 members *link
2009 And the saga continues; GC is still very much alive and dysfunctional