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JAMES McCOTTER: How he brought GCI to Silver Spring

By JOHN GUERRA
Sentinel Correspondent



James D. McCotter spent his boyhood in a little Texas town, raised by a Methodist family. McCotter graduated from high school in Colorado Springs, where his family joined the Plymouth Brethren Church, a fundamentalist Christian church.

Marian Michaux, an elder at Plymouth, told The Des Moines Register in March 1980 that he had known McCotter since his high school days, saying he had talked to McCotter about being authoritarian to “warn him of the dangers of growing big without any checks and balances. I did this as friend to friend. I had no legal or religious authority over him … but he was very resistant to the idea of what I was saying,” Michaux told the Register.

According to Larry Pyle [sic: Pile], who wrote a history of the “Blitz,” as it was known before being renamed “Great Commission International,” was started when McCotter and William Taylor, a high school friend of McCotter’s, began evangelizing on the University of Northern Colorado campus in the mid-1960s.

McCotter’s evangelizing was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army in 1966. He was sent to Vietnam, where he served as a clerk from 1969-70, until his return to Colorado in 1970.

According to Pyle’s book, within a year McCotter had collected a number of other fundamentalists and toured the nation on an old school bus. Dubbed the “Blitz,” the tour of the South and Midwest ended in the fall of 1971 when McCotter and some of the bus passengers decided to stay in Ames, Iowa, and set up headquarters at Iowa State University campus in a house a few blocks off-campus.

The group began to call themselves “Alpha Omega” in early 1972. As the group expanded through open-air preaching and evangelizing, it’s number grew to 400 members by 1980.

During the years at Iowa State, McCotter preached that a goal of the church was to have the gospel heard throughout the world within a generation. In short, that God had given Christians a “Great Commission,” to do the bidding of Jesus in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

McCotter’s plan was this: he would send groups of his followers to college campuses around the nation and set up Bible studies wherein new converts would then join the efforts of the Great Commission. Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, McCotter’s “outreach teams,” as he called them, were highly successful in establishing assemblies around the country in Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, New Mexico, Oaklahoma [sic].

He also estabilshed [sic] for a short time, bible study groups at Montgomery County Community College, the University of Maryland, and Towson State University in Baltimore.

According to Pyle and Rick Harvey — who held a leadership position with GCI, before leaving because of disagreements with what he described as the level of GCI authority in members’ personal lives — McCotter moved to Maryland in April 1983. McCotter had lived the previous 15 months in Norman, Oaklahoma [sic], said Harvey.

Another ex-elder of GCI, Henry Hintermeister, said that McCotter set up headquarters in Hyattsville in December 1983. By the time McCotter moved his headquarters to suburban Maryland, he had a good membership base in the area, consisting of students who had joined GCI chapters at Montgomery College and the University of Maryland and their recruits.

Members of the GCI, say ex-members, are involved on most levels of the organization. Unmarried members are encouraged to join “home groups” where they live and have fellowship with other GCI members.

It is here where the greatest control is exerted over members, said Liverman and Delithia Gross, another ex-member from Towson, Md. The home group leaders are considered to be more spiritually mature than the younger members and regulate such activities as watching television, reading magazines, length of dresses, hair style, dating practices, and monitoring the amount of money their house members give to Great Commission.

The next largest groups are the Sunday home Bible study groups, where church members meet for fellowship dinners and Bible study. There are approximately nine of those studies in Montgomery County, in such towns as Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, and Bethesda. The small home groups, student assemblies and other church members meet every Sunday at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, just a few miles from McCotter’s home on Dilston Rd.

The Montgomery County Sentinel, February 6th, 1986