08 General Trends in New Zealand society: Protest and Polarisation • E-Theses

08 General Trends in New Zealand society: Protest and Polarisation

Brett Knowles, , University of Otago, Dunedin

B. Knowles, History of the New Life Churches in New Zealand, Otago PhD.

Chapter 8. © 2003 - Brett Knowles,

An e-theses.webjournals.org article.


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8. Into the Eighties: Dynamism and Disillusionment

8.1. General Trends in New Zealand society: Protest and Polarisation

      The turbulence of the 1970s had lasting effects on many aspects of New Zealand life.[1] The economic downturn which followed the "oil shocks" of 1973 led to increasing inflation, higher public debt, and ultimately to unemployment, industrial unrest and rising emigration.[2] Economic decline was paralleled by social and political change, and the policies of the third Labour Government provided the catalyst for a period of political reorientation, particularly in foreign affairs, from 1972 on. Developments within New Zealand tended to reflect the fluid international situation, as well as the political and economic trends of the era. Although the Labour Government had no control over the effects of many of these trends,[3] the substantial electoral swing in 1975 represented a "backlash" against this process of change.

      The National Party attempted to turn this "backlash" to political advantage in the bitterly-fought 1975 General Election, and skilfully played on the fears of the average New Zealander.[4] In particular, Robert Muldoon, the Leader of the Opposition, sought to elicit support from the conservative element of the public, especially on what were perceived as "moral issues." Muldoon's "abrasive and public style"[5] and "harsh, intolerant and divisive attitude"[6] set the tone for the ethos of the era, and for much of the controversy over public issues which characterised it.[7] These public issues tended to have a private focus,[8] and


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matters of personal morality, such as abortion and homosexuality, attracted the most vociferous debate, which reached a climax with the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1985. However, in all of these controversies (as well as in that which surrounded the Springbok Rugby Tour in 1981) the significant factor was the vehemence with which differences of opinion were expressed. The effect of this vehemence, which reflected "the heightened intensity of social concern" in the late 1970s and early 1980s and "the passionate need of alarmed people to convert others to their convictions,"[9] was the polarisation of New Zealand opinion.

      This tendency to social and political polarisation was also evident in the churches. The failure of the Anglican/Methodist church union negotiations in England in 1969 had its counterpart in the rejection by New Zealand Anglicans of the Plan for Union in 1976. While this rejection and the failure of the Presbyterians and Methodists to achieve union in 1981 did not mark the end of ecumenical effort, these reversals did reflect the way in which differences between the churches were becoming more marked. This trend towards something of an ecclesiastical tribalism, and hence towards a polarisation of opinion, also lay behind the attempts of groups such as the New Life Churches to create a clearly defined polity and also the vigour with which they pursued their own agenda, especially vis-à-vis the wider society. This shrinking of horizons was also characteristic of the Charismatic renewal since, as Allan Davidson has observed, "in the eighties charismatic ecumenism diminished, as groups such as Anglican Renewal Ministries, the Presbyterian Paraclete Trust, the Methodist Aldersgate Fellowship and Catholic Charismatic Renewal gave a denominational focus [to the Charismatic movement]."[10] The changes in the churches


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(including the New Life Churches and other Pentecostal groups) therefore reflected the changes taking place in the wider society.

      Nevertheless, the 1970s were a "golden era" for many Pentecostal groups, including the New Life Churches. The rapid growth of the movement throughout the decade was paralleled by a sense of confidence which found expression in a new attitude of Pentecostal co-operation and in the beginnings of political activism on moralist issues. This expansion and the activism which accompanied it were both, to some extent, the product of trends in the wider society. These trends became more pronounced throughout the 1980s.

 8.2. Changes in the New Life Churches

8.2.1. The expansion of the movement

      Pentecostal growth in New Zealand in the 1970s was manifest in the proliferation and expansion of Pentecostal churches throughout the country and was paralleled by the spread of the Charismatic movement in the mainstream churches. The excitement of these years is captured in a "Newsletter" produced in early 1976 by one of the New Life churches, which reported that "during 10 nights of recent meetings in Auckland,[11] it is a conservative estimate that over 2000 people received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. In one meeting alone, over 700 people recieved [sic] the Holy Ghost. PRAISE THE LORD."[12] The "Newsletter" also commented that the New Life Churches were themselves experiencing vigorous growth:

Reaching out for new people....is the current theme among our churches. [The] Timaru Assembly has seen people come to Christ without fail every Sunday night since Christmas. Ashburton has seen 30 new people in the last 7 months. Motueka had 41 decisions last year, with new families being added again this year. They are planning another extension after their recent extension is completed....Bro. Ivan Gutschlag has baptised over 20 people in Arrowtown since Christmas.[13]

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      The reference to the numbers being baptised is significant, since these churches practised "Believers' Baptism."[14] These people represented converts to the movement, as did those added to the assemblies, and it is therefore evident that many of the New Life Churches were growing throughout this period. This expansion was most evident in Christchurch, where the New Life Centre was reported as having "two pastors and a congregation of about 600" in 1975[15]; by 1979, the congregation had grown to more than 1000.[16] However, Doug Allington comments that some of this increase was due to a migration of charismatic Christians, and cites the case of the Opawa Baptist Church, which lost one-third of its members to the Christchurch New Life Centre in 1976 and 1977.[17] This enlargement therefore appears to have been due as much to transfers of charismatic Christians from other churches, as to conversions de novo to the movement. Pentecostal growth in Christchurch was not unique to the New Life Centre, however. The Sydenham Assemblies of God also experienced something of a revival in the late 1960s and early 1970s, attracting many of the converts of the "Jesus People," and combined meetings of the Christchurch Pentecostal churches sometimes drew up to 3,000 participants.[18]

      This vigorous growth brought both change and dilemma to the New Life Churches. The small size of the movement in its early stages had some positive benefits, since it meant that many of the members of the various local assemblies were personally acquainted with their counterparts in other areas, and frequently worked and worshipped together with


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them.[19] This enabled the development of close bonds of fellowship, which were reinforced by the annual Conventions which brought the New Life Churches together. At ministry level, the pastors in both the North and South Islands had working relationships based upon personal friendship. Rob Wheeler described the early movement as "just...a bunch of ministers who are all buddies and...friends just sharing together. There was no sense of a `stream' of our own."[20] An example of this can be seen in the informal, yet close, bonds of fellowship cemented among the participants in the first South Island Pastors' Conference in Timaru in November 1964,[21] which was held up as a paradigm of unity during Ray Jackson's abortive "South Pacific Ministers' Conference" in Melbourne in June 1973. However, these close links became harder to maintain as the New Life Churches multiplied and became more "anonymous," and the dilemma of how to preserve this pastoral network of personal relationships without surrendering the movement's characteristic emphasis on the independence of the local assembly was a major one.      

      A second dilemma was the need for some efficient form of collective administration. The importance placed by the New Life Churches on the autonomy of the "sovereign" local assembly made co-operation difficult to achieve, and this situation was intensified by the increasing size and complexity of the movement. In the 1960s, collective action within the New Life Churches was almost always the product of individual initiative. Rob Wheeler commented that "up until the time in 1965 when our first [New Zealand-wide] Conference was [held] in Nelson...we didn't really elect anybody;...whoever had the biggest initiative [and] most enthusiasm took [the lead]."[22] In the early 1960s, much of this initiative and


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enthusiasm came from Ron Coady, the organiser of the 1965 Nelson Conference. However, Rob Wheeler and, following the departure of Coady for the United States in late 1967, Peter Morrow were tacitly acknowledged as "spokesmen" for the movement, and Rob Wheeler appeared in this capacity on the NZBC radio programme "I Believe" that year.[23] Since their role as "spokesmen" was to articulate the consensus of opinion from within, and on behalf of, the New Life Churches, this development provided something of a focal "reference point" for the movement, and, together with the publication of the short-lived "in-house" periodical Church Bells, helped to maintain some degree of cohesion in the late 1960s.

      A corollary of the numerical growth of the movement was its increasing complexity, This necessitated a greater degree of organisational administration, and led to the appointment of a National Secretary in the early 1970s to co-ordinate the movement's corporate activities. Rasik Ranchord was the first such appointee, and was later succeeded by Max Palmer, the present incumbent. There was also a move towards an informal system of "pooling" missionary support from the various New Life Churches, so that all funds for missionaries were remitted from a single point rather than from the individual assemblies, thus facilitating more accurate monitoring of missionary needs and enabling short-falls in support to be made up from undesignated funds.[24] One outcome of this united approach to missions was a publication entitled Global Vision which appeared in early 1975, and which publicised the work of those missionaries supported by the various New Life Churches. Eventually this informal consolidation took organisational shape at the 1976 Pastors' Conference in Nelson, when agreement was reached that "a committee be formed [out] of which a secretary[25] be appointed to look into the support of New Zealand missionaries


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overseas,"[26] and, for a short time at least, the administration of missionary support became more organised.

      This "Missions Committee" appears to have been short-lived, since the author could locate no references to it beyond 1976. However, given the individualism of the New Life Churches, its speedy demise was perhaps not surprising.[27] Neil Patterson, the secretary of the Committee, appears to have had a thankless task, since he complained in a circular letter to pastors in the movement that his report was "only as accurate as the information supplied to me in response to a letter sent to all Pastors requesting details of their missionaries and their missionary support on a monthly basis,"[28] and went on to observe that

as there are many gaps owing to information being withheld from some quarters, I come to the conclusion that perhaps some are a little hesitant, not being too sure as to where such a report as this is leading. Especially as it may hint to [sic] centralisation. Let me therefore mention the objectives put before you all at the Pastors' Conference.

      1. That the committee, and subsequent report, be on an informative and advisory capacity only, and not legislative.

      2. Thus in no way is the sovereignty of the local church jeopardised by centralisation.[29]

      Clearly, there was a fear of "centralisation" and some of the New Life churches needed reassurance that the formation of the "Missions Committee" was not the first step along


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the way to becoming a "denomination." It would appear that this fear was not successfully allayed and that the "Missions Committee" failed to gain the co-operation that it needed in order to operate and consequently went into recess.

      A third dilemma, again a corollary of the rapid growth of the New Life Churches, was the increasing diversity of the movement, which had expanded by the end of the 1970s

to the stage where it was no longer just a little family of ministers who all knew what was going on in each other's church. We were getting second-generation [churches]; we were getting almost `adopted' churches [in the movement].[30]

Many of the early New Life Churches had inherited the Bethel Temple/Latter Rain emphasis on the sovereign independence and autonomy of the local assembly, and consequently had strong misgivings over any moves towards "centralisation," which was seen as opening the door to "denominationalism." However, by the end of the 1970s, there was also a growing number of pastors, particularly in the North Island, who had come into the movement from other backgrounds (such as Baptist or Brethren), and who did not share these "independent" views to the same extent. These young pastors were, as Rob Wheeler remarked, uneasy about the "unrelatedness of our fellowships," and exerted pressure on him for "a closer structural organising of our Indigenous Churches."[31] This increasing diversity of opinion provided the context for many of the developments in the movement throughout the 1980s.

      A fourth consequence of the rapid growth of the New Life Churches was a changing perception of the role of the pastor.[32] Several factors combined to produce this change. These churches were initially the product of charismatic revivalism, in which the role of the revivalist/pastor as the "anointed" leader through whom the Spirit was mediated was counter-balanced by the authority of the Spirit in and through the congregational members,


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any of whom might be a vehicle for the Spirit. This opportunity to minister was not restricted to the operation of the gifts of the Spirit, such as prophecy or tongues. A feature of the movement in the 1960s was the practice known as "Body Ministry,"[33] when any member of the congregation was free, as the Spirit moved them, to share a scripture or to preach a short, usually extempore, message around the communion table on Sunday morning. This practice was most effective in small groups, where each person was known and where trust could be maintained. However, it fell into general desuetude as the movement grew and the local assemblies became larger. The result was that the charismatic authority of the Spirit increasingly became channelled and moderated by the pastor and the right to speak was restricted to those who were "recognised" by the leadership as "having a ministry." While the gifts of the Spirit continued to feature in the worship of the New Life Churches, the effect of this regulatory function was to replace the charismatic freedom of the Spirit with an "official" mode of leadership and to make the pastor, as the God-appointed leader of the congregation, the source of authority within the local assembly.

      Secondly, the numerical growth of the movement was paralleled by an upward social mobility. This was reflected in the higher socio-economic status of the congregation, members of which in the 1970s and 1980s often included professional and semi-professional people, as well as university graduates. This had a "spin-off" effect on the status of the pastoral ministry. The higher socio-economic and educational levels of the congregation, from which trainee pastors were recruited, meant a gradual rise in the social status of the pastorate as these new pastors entered the ministry. This upward mobility was also reflected in the increasing number of New Life pastors with professional qualifications or university degrees in the secular field (including, in some cases, doctorates).[34] The perception that these pastors possessed a certain standing vis-à-vis the secular world which their less qualified brethren did not have was one of the reasons for the attempts of a


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number of pastors in the movement to gain "qualifications" from an American organisation, represented in New Zealand by Pastor Kevin Dyson, which granted degrees to pastors on the basis of the pastor's own studies and sermon materials.[35] Various pastors, particularly in the Auckland area, took advantage of this offer, and the result was a growing number of pastors with "paper" qualifications. However this practice attracted some severe criticism from other pastors in the movement,[36] and the trend has now shifted towards the obtaining of a more genuine qualification.[37]

      Thirdly, the increasing polarisation of New Zealand society also had significant effects on perceptions of the pastoral role. The movement's concern for moralist issues reflected its inherent authoritarianism, which had some attractive power in an age of social uncertainty. This authority, however, was more than just "the Bible says." The growth of the movement enabled it to speak with institutional authority in its own right[38] and this enhanced the role of the pastor as spokesman for that authority. The perception of the pastor as the "authority figure" in the movement was legitimated by the "covering" teaching of David Ellis, and, to a lesser extent, by the discipleship teachings of Ortiz and Mumford, discussed in the previous chapter. The effect of this was to invest the pastor's role with a definite status vis-à-vis the congregation and, as Bryan Wilson has observed in the case of the Elim churches in Great Britain, to produce a hierarchy within the movement in place of the original charismatic freedom which had characterised it.[39]


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      To summarise: the growth of the New Life Churches, together with other Pentecostal groups, in the 1960s and 1970s had both a beneficial and a detrimental effect upon the movement. On the one hand, the proliferation and expansion of these churches (often at the expense of mainstream denominations, from whom they attracted charismatic Christians transferring their membership to a Pentecostal church) contributed to a sense of confidence and to a new co-operation which found organisational form in the APCNZ.. On the other hand, this growth also created problems for the movement. It produced a growing "anonymity" as links of personal fellowship between the various New Life churches became harder to maintain, and the increasing complexity and diversity of the movement demonstrated the need for some efficient form of corporate administration. Furthermore, the role of the pastor in the New Life Churches was also changing. The shift from a "charismatic" to a more "official" form of authority was reinforced by the upward social mobility of the movement and by the acquisition of institutional authority as the pastors acted as "spokespersons" for the movement. It was apparent that the movement's insistence on the autonomy of the local church was becoming increasingly dysfunctional, and that a new collective polity was needed. However, it remained unclear as to what form this structure should take.[40]

8.2.2. Perspectives on Polity

      The increasing diversity of the New Life Churches made it difficult to reach consensus on matters of collective polity. While there was no doubt in the minds of most pastors in the movement that "relationship"[41] was crucial in maintaining the cohesive bonds of fellowship, it was becoming evident that some form of structural integration was also necessary. Opinion on the issue tended to reflect four or five main points of view.


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      The first of these was that of Rob Wheeler, who argued for what he called a "closer structural organising" in the movement.[42] Wheeler believed that the polity of the New Life Churches was too informal and that the multiplicity of "fathers" in the movement had necessitated some type of "official" structure.[43] He observed that despite the tacit recognition of Peter Morrow and himself as "national leaders" in the early 1980s, the movement had experienced

disciplinary problems, which drove us together into a national form of leadership without the teeth. Not [an] "eldership," because we were trying to maintain the sense that we were essentially a fellowship of pastors, but circumstances were pushing us...into the recognition that....now we are not just a fellowship of ministers, we are a fellowship of churches. And therefore, churches can call on any of us to come in and help in a time of problems. So we have evolved with the circumstances.[44]

      Wheeler's reasoning appeared to be that in a fellowship of pastors, the bonds of "relationship" were sufficient to maintain cohesion and unity. However, in a fellowship of churches, not all of which had been established by the original "fathers" of the movement, some form of authoritative leadership (i.e. "eldership") was necessary. He was therefore strongly in favour of some element of formal organisation, as was demonstrated by the interchange of letters between himself and Peter Morrow and Max Palmer in 1979 on the issue of Ian Clark's proposals for Pentecostal church union. Nevertheless, Wheeler recognised that any such "structure" must be built upon the relationships that already existed. In his view, the New Life Churches

were polarising two things: relationship or structure. And, up until this year [1987], we have never realised that structure comes out of relationship....Now we are coming to the agreement where we realised that structure can only come by working through relationship.[45]

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      Wheeler therefore advocated the setting up of a "national eldership" of "senior brethren" who would have the organisational and disciplinary oversight of the New Life Churches. These "senior brethren" were already recognised as such by virtue of their experience in the movement and their relationships with the younger pastors, many of whom had received pastoral training at their hands.[46] For Wheeler, it was simply a matter of formalising these relationships into an "official" organisational structure.[47] However, his views did not gain universal acceptance in the movement, and his call for a "national eldership" encountered some strong resistance.

      The opposite point of view was represented by Ross Davies, pastor of the Alive Christian Fellowship in Whangarei, who adamantly resisted the idea of an official structure and earnestly argued for

relationship rather than legislation. [I] believe in relating and building strong personal feeling with people; relating to them on a very friendly basis....I have always been strong on autonomy....I believe a local church structure, and a relationship with other local churches can work, and should work. Biblically it worked.[48]

      Davies's emphasis was on what he termed "fatherhood," i.e. the responsibility of a "father-pastor" to train up young ministers, to launch them into their pastorates and to have a continuing personal pastoral relationship with them throughout the course of their ministries. That Davies practised what he preached was demonstrated during the course of the author's interview with him, when, without a question being addressed to him on the subject, he launched into an extensive recital of his ministry "children," detailing how, when and where they had each come into the ministry and how their churches had been established and were presently growing. There was obviously a strong ongoing pastoral and personal relationship between Davies and his spiritual "children." In sociological terms, his


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approach was strongly "charismatic," in that the bonds of fellowship were personal, rather than organisational. For him, this "fathering" relationship was of paramount importance and could not be achieved by a bureaucratic structure such as that advocated by Rob Wheeler.

      However, a third group of pastors concurred with Wheeler to some extent. Ken Wright, for example, commented that

I don't really have any problem with [the increasing centralisation of the New Life Churches] because of the fact [that] the brethren who came to see the need for it were motivated really to try and take a more `pastoral' position over the...problems that had and are emerging in the life of the movement, and to accept responsibility pastorally for those kind of tensions. I don't see that they set out in any way to `theologically crimp' or even `governmentally control' [the pastors in the movement]. And while that kind of spirit and attitude remains, I feel that the structure of the New Life Churches will blossom and prosper, because as I see it, the major emphasis is really a relationship one, not a structural or a governmental one.[49]

      Wright's reaction was perhaps typical of those who had come into the movement from the Charismatic Renewal. His background in the Presbyterian church enabled him to accept the idea of "centralisation" much more readily than could those who espoused the New Life Churches' traditional views on the autonomy of the local church. Wright therefore held something of a "middle of the road" position on the issue, seeing a degree of "centralisation" as inevitable because of the problems which the movement faced. He believed that this development was not to be feared since the "spirit and attitude" of those calling for such a move to be implemented was based on a genuine pastoral concern.

      A fourth group of pastors (and Peter Morrow in particular) stressed a spiritual, rather than organisational, unity. For them, the bonding factor was "unity in the Spirit," based on mutual respect for one another's ministries and activated by corporate worship. This spiritual unity did not necessarily imply uniformity of belief, since, as Peter Morrow put it,

the foundation for fellowship isn't based on, say, `Second Coming truths,' or other [doctrines] that are not `First Principles.'[50] But there is a common bonding through, I believe, our desire for `praise and worship,' and...our belief in the final `coming together' of the Body of Christ.[51]

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Nor did this unity presuppose an organised structure, although Morrow did recognise that the New Life Churches

needed to come to closer relationships in a local area....As a larger body, we needed to have roots that were going down deeper. These roots, I think, are...our fellowship with one another, our relationship...and greater bonds [with one another].[52]

      Morrow appears to have acquiesced in the setting up of regional meetings as a means of deepening fellowship and obtaining these closer relationships,[53] although he remained opposed to the idea of a "nationally-structured church."[54] In this respect, his views were essentially a reiteration of Bethel Temple/Latter Rain ecclesial polity, and differed little from the "anti-structural" convictions of Ross Davies. The views of Morrow and Davies represented a continuation of the historical mainstream of thinking in the New Life Churches.[55] However, they approached the question from dissimilar suppositions,[56] since, for Davies, "relationship" was the product of the links between a "father-pastor" and his "children" in the ministry; for Morrow, this was the product of a unity in the Spirit with one another.

      John Tiplady's pragmatic approach reflected the views of many of the younger pastors in the movement. As he saw it:


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A lot of young men were looking for a structure they could hang on to, because, perhaps, of the indefiniteness of the Indigenous stream's structure at that point. It was very hard to point to a particular structure, because every church was autonomous. There was a `relational' structure, I think, that was there, but...`young ministry' coming into the Lord were wanting something more defined....Any structure [in order] to work has got to be on the basis of relationship. But you have to have structure as well; you just can't have relationship without defined guidelines. What people were looking for to emerge from it was [for] the relationships that had been established and recognised to be formalised, and those that were new ministry could slot into that and feel comfortable and secure in that.[57]

Tiplady appears to mean that the relationships between the older, more experienced pastors and the younger "new ministry" in the movement should be "formalised," i.e. become the basis of a corporate organisational structure.

      Two final comments should be made on the debate over polity. Firstly, at no stage were the congregations of the New Life Churches brought into the discussion. This reflected the view that since the debate was essentially about the formalising of relationships between pastors, it should therefore be confined to that level. It also demonstrated the penchant of the movement for discussing matters in camera and its perception of the role of the pastor as the institutional authority over the congregation.

      Secondly, it is evident that, although there was much common ground between the various points of view, there were also some significant differences. To some extent, these differences reflected the personalities of the proponents. For example, Ross Davies's energetic and outgoing personality enabled people to relate to him with ease, and his emphasis on "fatherhood" was effectively an extension of his own personal style. Conversely, Peter Morrow's emphasis on a spiritual unity reflected his own prophetic calling and artistic temperament.[58] In the case of Rob Wheeler, his involvement with the movement from its earliest days had given him a strong sense of collective identity, which he wished to preserve and consolidate by means of an organised structure. The resolution of these diverse perspectives and the evolution of a corporate polity were important tasks for the New Life Churches throughout the 1980s.


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8.2.3. The evolution of "regional leadership"

      The essence of the problem which the New Life Churches faced was that their cardinal principle of "undenominational" local autonomy had been rendered dysfunctional by their rapid growth. The increasing size and diversity of the movement made it necessary to modify the basis of its collective polity. Rasik Ranchord commented that

the churches were growing and whereas previously...people [in] local churches would know one another...[this] was not possible with [such] a remarkable level of growth, and so the need became obvious that we needed to be a little bit more organized....There needed to be some gathering on a local level to bring our people together more, to make our ministries available to them, [and] to have [a] point where they could bring their questions and discussions.[59]

      The idea of a "gathering on a local level" had originated with Ross Davies, who proposed that "area meetings" be set up so that pastors and leaders in each region could meet together periodically for fellowship, encouragement and the building of relationships.[60] As Davies envisaged them, these "area meetings" were not forums for collective business or for organisational procedures; the primary purpose was the facilitation of fellowship. Nevertheless, his proposals were transmuted into the basis of a new organisational structure, set up at the New Life Churches' annual Conference at Christchurch in 1982.[61] The format of these regional groups was considerably different from that proposed by Davies, who recalls that

the Lord spoke to me about gathering areas together [with] the least of the brethren co-ordinating [them], and [to] relate [with] the least, the youngest [of the pastors]. They did the opposite: they got together at [the] Conference... [and] got people to submit the names of those who they felt should be the area representative or leader, and so that happened, and I was chosen from here [i.e. Northland]. It didn't give me great joy.[62]

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      The consequence of this decision was a network of regional groups of New Life churches, each headed by an elected "regional representative" or, as they were later called, "regional leader." These groups had a dual purpose: to promote a greater depth of fellowship between the local New Life pastors in each region, and to facilitate the discussion of business. This latter function was important, since although the power of collective decision was vested in the "Business Meeting" of the annual Pastors' Conference, in practice this was not an efficient organisational format. As Ranchord ruefully observed, the New Life Churches

were never very good at handling...business issues at our [annual] Conferences. It was a big free-for-all..., and it never achieved very much.... There was not enough opportunity to share and to discuss things....We thought [that] by decentralizing..., and by having regional groups, it may produce more meaningful in-depth discussion at that level, and...that then there could come a feed-back from the regions to the main Conference. It would have provided a much more intelligent debate.[63]

      The area network was therefore intended to provide adequate opportunity for discussion of issues at regional level, with "things of national importance...be[ing] discussed at the [Pastors'] Conference"[64] from a national perspective. However, because the Pastors' Conference only took place once each year, it became necessary for the regional representatives, together with Rob Wheeler and Peter Morrow, who were tacitly recognised as senior leaders in the movement, to meet more frequently (usually three or four times a year) in Wellington to discuss the conclusions of their respective regions and to integrate these into a national "consensus."


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      In theory, the regional format safeguarded the autonomy of the local assemblies, since this collective consensus was reached by consolidating the resolutions of the various regions, with the final power of decision being vested in the annual Pastors' Conference. In practice, however, it reinforced the movement's tendency to in camera decisions and elevated and enhanced the role of the regional representatives. By 1984, these representatives were becoming known as "Regional Leaders," and the quarterly meeting was beginning to take on the status of a national "Council." This development provoked vigorous discussion the following year, both within the regional gatherings and at the 1985 annual Conference, where the development was finally ratified, although with considerable caution and subject to the approval of the individual regional meetings.[65] Since several of the regions protested strongly at the decision, this approval was not forthcoming. Consequently the ratification by the Conference was rescinded at the Regional Representatives' meeting in February 1986, where "it was agreed that in future we would use the term regional representative."[66] Nevertheless, this issue again came up for discussion nineteen months later at the 1987 Conference, where it was voted that the office revert to that of regional leadership. Attempts to define the role of the regional leaders have continued, and still featured on the agenda for discussion at the annual Conference as late as 1991.[67]


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      This caution was, to some extent, justified. Ranchord explained that

we started off by calling them `representatives,' for fear...that to some extent we might undermine or compromise the autonomy of the local churches....[The idea] was that [they were] simply somebody appointed by the people from the region to act the part of a mediator or a link-man between the...[regional] groups and the national leaders to...assist them in that work.[68]

Nevertheless, the appointment of these representatives and the subsequent elevation of their role to that of regional leaders marked the formation of an incipient "hierarchy" of pastoral status in the movement, with national leaders such as Rob Wheeler and Peter Morrow forming the apex of the pyramid, and the regional leaders ranking next in seniority. This differentiation of status was also evident within the individual New Life churches, since many of these had now grown to the point where they were led by a pastoral team comprising a "Senior Pastor" and one or more "junior" or "assistant" pastors. In this way the movement's leadership pattern began to move away from a theoretically egalitarian model to a tacit acknowledgment of "seniority" both within the local churches and in the movement as a whole.[69] A corollary of this was the gradual shift of the decision-making process away from a consensus among the pastors of equal and autonomous churches to the decisions being made by the Regional Representatives/Leaders Council. This shift led to a sense within some sections of the movement that it was more and more being "directed from Wellington," i.e. from the quarterly meetings of the regional leaders.

      Two further factors exacerbated this sense of unease. The first was that by 1984 the Auckland pastors had appointed two additional representative/leaders for the region in order "to relieve the pressure upon Bro. Rob Wheeler (currently representing 16 churches in the Stream with [a] further 3 applying for membership)."[70] This appointment was followed in 1985 by the "co-option" by the regional leaders themselves of three "senior"


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men from other areas to the regional leaders' meetings.[71] The way in which these additional leaders could be appointed without reference to the rest of the pastors of the movement (although advised by means of the regional leaders' meeting Minutes) was viewed with some misgivings. Since these appointments were presented as a fait accompli which the pastors were expected to ratify at the annual Conference, this was perceived as consolidating the power of the regional leaders over against the rest of the movement.

      The second factor was that the central link in the flow of information to the local pastors was the regional leader himself.[72] Much depended on the openness of communication between the leader and his region. Although minutes were kept of the national gatherings of regional leaders, initially these were distributed to the pastors via, and at the discretion of, the area leaders. Since some of the discussions at these gatherings dealt with sensitive topics, this was probably a wise practice, but it had the effect of further consolidating the position of the regional leader and isolating the local pastors from the decision-making process.

      Not all the regions viewed these developments in the same light and some differences of opinion were inevitable. The Northland region, for example, sent a strongly worded memo to the other regional representatives in October 1985 in response to the adoption of "regional leadership" at the annual Conference two weeks previously. This memo reported the decisions of their own regional meeting, at which they "keenly support[ed] the existence of regional gatherings" and the "gathering of appointed representatives for each region" as well as and the appointment of Peter Morrow and Rob Wheeler to "represent us at the APC, Government and other NZ-wide organisations." However, they also protested


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vigorously at the "attempt...to ratify a wide ranging change to the above without warning at the last conference forum session" and alleged that

the scheme originally accepted by conference has already been changed:
a) by the creating of at least three new regions, two of which contain only one church! We're concerned that this sets a precedent, not originally embraced by the `stream.' It defeats the purpose of `flowing together' in local regions.... and shows partiality....
b) by the co-opting of brethren who are not regional representatives to the Wellington meeting. This can only be accepted given the presumption that this meeting is becoming, or should be, a type of `stream' eldership.[73]....Our objection is not to the men [co-opted]...but to the presumption itself![74]

The memo concluded by saying that:

We support the original scheme of `stream' organisation.
We oppose the development of regional representatives to regional leaders.
We oppose `creeping' changes to our organisation beyond the original scheme.
We encourage patience to wait for the raising up of true spiritual fathers; men in heart relationship with `sons' in the gospel and with one another.[75]

      These views were endorsed by the "North of the South" region,[76] who stated that "the concerns of the northern region...expresses [sic] our concern and therefore was endorsed by our regional conference" and urged that "regional representation at this time should remain as originally decided on four years ago at the conference in Christchurch."[77]


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Considerable debate followed these objections and it was not until the Pastors' Conference in September 1987 that a final decision was made on the issue.

      In part, the indecisiveness of the New Life Churches over "regional leadership" may have been due to their increasing diversity since, in contrast to the Northland and Northern South Island regions, the Auckland churches seem to have been solidly behind the changes in the movement's polity. The New Life Churches were experiencing continued and vigorous growth in Auckland,[78] with the result that there was a strong concentration of New Life Churches in the region, and their numbers carried some weight in the ongoing debate. This expansion was adduced as evidence of the need to appoint several additional regional representatives in Auckland.

      However, vigorous growth was not a universal characteristic of the movement in the 1980s, and decisions such as these appointments added to the sense of unease felt by some of the New Life Churches in other areas. Significantly, references to "disillusionment" and "discouragement" had begun to appear in the minutes of the regional leaders' meetings and in the Majestic House Correspondence Files by the mid-1980s.[79] This despondency was, to some extent, a product of the sense of "let-down" which followed the "peaking" of the movement at the end of the 1970s.[80] A more significant factor was the deaths of two young pastors from leukaemia, Pastor David Ellis of Ashburton in late 1977 and Pastor Brian Strong of Auckland in August 1980. Given that the movement believed strongly in divine healing, and had prayed fervently for the healing of these two men, their deaths were devastating to its morale.[81] This depression was reinforced by the trauma which the


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New Life Churches experienced as a result of several instances of pastoral immorality (euphemistically called "moral issues") within their ranks, which added to the difficulty of achieving a consensus on the movement's polity. However, the necessity of formulating disciplinary procedures to deal with these "moral issues" added a new urgency to the task.

 8.2.4. Failure and Frustration: "Moral Issues" within the New Life Churches

      The discouragement of the New Life Churches was intensified during a traumatic period from 1982 to 1986, when the movement was racked by a succession of what came to be known as "moral issues." These episodes, which involved the disciplining of pastors for moral (usually sexual) indiscretions, were acutely embarrassing for these churches, given their declared concern over the declining moral standards of society, and had disastrous effects on their corporate morale.[82] An example of this loss of confidence may be seen in a letter, notifying all pastors of a "School of the Prophets" Conference organised by the Associated Pentecostal Churches of New Zealand, which advised that one of the discussion topics at the Conference would be "the role of the prophet in the Church today with regards to dealing with the increasing avalanche of sin (immorality) in the pastoral ministry."[83] While the use of the word "avalanche" seems somewhat emotive,[84] several significant inferences can be drawn from this statement.


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      Firstly, the fact that this subject was to be discussed at an APCNZ Conference is evidence that the New Life Churches were not the only New Zealand Pentecostal group which had to deal with such situations. Nor were these matters limited to the Pentecostal movement or to the New Zealand context. "Moral issues" were, in fact, a problem for churches around the world, and were not confined to any geographical area or denominational group.[85] Secondly, the hyperbole of the statement was indicative of the very real sense of pain which was felt at all levels of the Pentecostal movement. Thirdly, and most importantly, the statement demonstrated that the loss of confidence in the ministry was two-fold. As was to be expected, these incidents led to congregational disenchantment with the pastoral ministry, and this was reflected in membership losses to other churches. However, the prophetic ministry also came under question, since the Pentecostal movement in general believed that part of the role of a "prophet" was to discern and to rebuke hidden sin, usually in a private setting, after the pattern of the message of Nathan the prophet to


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King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-14. These "moral issues" raised the problem of the apparent inability of the prophetic ministry to uncover and expose the sin.[86] The faith of the Pentecostal movement in the charismatic insight of its prophetic ministry, as well as in the moral character of its pastoral ministry, was therefore severely shaken.
      These disciplinary matters, and the question of how to deal with them, had marked effects on the development of the New Life Churches in the later 1980s. They reinforced and accelerated the process of change resulting from the growth of the movement, added urgency to the trend towards structural organisation and helped to consolidate the role of the regional meetings, which were seen as playing a vital role in the exercising of discipline. Rasik Ranchord commented that "moral issues"

became a rationale for the smaller [regional] group because people were on the scene close to a delinquent minister...[and] could make input into that person, and then if there was a need to, they could get ministers [i.e. pastors] from outside [the region] to handle the issue. But people who were close at hand would have a better way of seeing what had taken place, as well as for the follow-through of any discipline that was imposed.[87]

      However, there were problems with this approach. The place given to the regional groups meant that there was a tendency to deal with each case on an ad hoc basis, with little attention being given to consistency of discipline on a national basis. The pastors in the Canterbury region drew attention to this, and

expressed concern that there was no uniform expression of Church Discipline shown throughout our Churches and that while some attempt had been made in the area of sexual morality there were many other areas which have been left unaddressed.[88]....[They further argued that] there should be a consistency of information to ministry regarding ministers who have sinned and/or are under Church discipline.[89]

 


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     This concern was recognised as a valid one by most pastors in the movement. Nevertheless, in spite of the presentation of a number of papers on the subjects of church discipline and ministerial ethics at various annual Pastors' Conferences by Rasik Ranchord and others,[90] as well as considerable pastoral discussion on the issue, this piece-meal approach persisted. Ranchord believes that part of the reason for the failure to take collective action was that the New Life Churches

left [out] the mechanism of moving things from one stage to another stage, so the business side of things was still very much ad hoc.....A topic is brought up and then nothing happens; there is no alternative [organisational mechanism] to...implement it....That is why a matter might have come up for [discussion at the annual Conference] two or three times; especially the matter of dealing with discipline. [That particular issue was] one of those things people could see, where everybody wanted [to] have a say. We need to have worked out some way of dealing with that without compounding it.[91]

The struggle of the movement to find a consistent mode of church discipline therefore added urgency to the search for a more efficient organisational format. The progress of these inter-related issues may be charted by reference to two specific instances.

      The first of these occurred in 1982, and involved a pastor who had been for some years part of Peter Morrow's ministry team in Christchurch, but who had recently transferred to another city. When allegations of misconduct were brought against this pastor, these were dealt with in Christchurch at a meeting of most of the South Island New Life pastors, together with the individual thus accused. At no stage was the congregation consulted. Dr. Jane Simpson, then a member of the Christchurch New Life Centre, was highly critical of the "secretiveness" of the decisions and recalled that although the congregation in Christchurch was simply told to pray concerning the situation, which was by then common knowledge within the congregation,[92] no report was ever made.[93]


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      The rulings of the pastoral hearing were draconian. The pastor and his wife were "disfellowshipped" and sent to a farm in Central Otago for a period of twelve months to work through the situation with a view towards "restoration.." During this time, no fellowship was permitted with other members of the New Life Churches. This restriction, according to Simpson, was carried to ridiculous lengths: people would drive past the gate of the farm and "throw gifts out the car windows in order to show love, but not `fellowshipping.'"[94] In theory, this severe approach was intended to bring about repentance and eventual "restoration" to ministry. In practice, however, this did not happen. The pastor went into secular employment after the end of the twelve-month period, and has not been reinstated, either to the New Life Churches or to ministry in New Zealand.

      Since this was the first of several such cases in the 1980s, it was important as a basis for the thinking of the movement throughout the rest of the decade on the subject of "discipline." The objective was "restoration," with discipline being imposed so that the pastor might be brought to repentance and ultimately restored to ministry in his congregation again.[95] However, the focus of this process was almost exclusively on the fallen pastor; little, if any, attention appeared to be directed towards restoration of the congregation's trust and confidence in the ministry.

      Several similar episodes occurred in 1985 and 1986. One of these involved a senior pastor (who was also a regional representative) in the movement, who admitted to having had a long-term adulterous relationship with his secretary some years previously. Rob Wheeler and John Walton were brought in to deal with the situation and a congregational meeting was held at which the pastor publicly confessed his guilt. However, although Wheeler and Walton had made themselves available to members of the church for them to express their feelings (more than a hundred of whom had done so), there was no consultation with the congregation, nor with the office-bearers of the church (apart from the assistant pastor, who took over the pastorate) as to the course of action to be taken.


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      Consequently, when it was publicly announced by Wheeler that, because of the seniority and long experience of the minister concerned and his value to the movement, he would simply be stood down from ministry for a period of up to twelve months (with the situation to be reviewed at six months) and would then resume the pastorate of the church, the result was a spontaneous growl of anger from the congregation, who felt that the whole issue had been pre-judged, without their own feelings being taken into account. Nevertheless, the offending pastor was removed from the pastorate of this church and was given twelve months' "discipline" in another centre, under the care of another pastor who was to oversee his restoration to the ministry. At the end of the period, the pastor was to be "released to ministry to the Body of Christ" (i.e. as an itinerant minister) rather than to return to his local congregation. Although this restriction was lifted less than eight months later,[96] it was later re-imposed, since further, more damning, facts concerning the matter came to light. This resulted in the expulsion of the pastor from the movement.[97] After a brief period of ministry in another group of Pentecostal churches, he is now semi-retired.

      Why should these "moral issues" have occurred within the New Life Churches? Although a generalised loss of spiritual fervour may have been the ultimate cause,[98] several specific factors appear to have combined to increase the potential for such episodes within the movement. The first of these was the authoritative role of the pastor over the local congregation, which, together with the movement's emphasis on the "autonomy of the local church," provided an almost unlimited freedom of action, with little accountability, either to the congregation or to ministry peers.[99] A second factor was that the "charismatic" nature of


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ministry in the movement made the personality of the pastor an important factor, and this increased the possibility of personal relationships being exploited for unworthy ends. It must be emphasised, however, that those pastors who fell constituted a very small minority,[100] and as such, their misconduct does not impugn the integrity of the other pastors in the movement. Nevertheless, the traditional "autonomy" of the New Life Churches appears to have played a part in creating the conditions for these moral failures to occur.. The need to establish some basis for consistent corporate discipline in such cases exposed the dysfunctionality of the "autonomy principle" and accelerated the development of organisational structures in the movement.

      It is therefore evident that the four years from 1982 to 1986 were traumatic ones for the New Life Churches. The "moral issues" within their ranks were devastating to their collective morale, and the draconian discipline of the 1982 incident may have been to some extent a reaction to the sense of shock felt within the movement. Although there does appear to be an uniform pattern of a twelve-month period of discipline in most cases, there was also some inconsistency of application.[101] The severity with which the 1982 case was handled contrasts markedly with the reduction of the term of discipline in the 1986 instance. This inconsistency led to protests from some sections of the movement over the lack of communication and of uniform standards of discipline.[102] There was obviously considerable difference of opinion on the issue, and this lack of consensus reinforced the case of those who argued for some form of "official" oversight for the movement.

 8.3. Summary and Conclusion


      The proliferation and expansion of the New Life Churches in the 1970s was paralleled by an increasing diversity. By the 1980s, however, the dynamism and euphoria of this "golden era" was giving way to a sense of "let-down" which deepened as the decade


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progressed. While this sense of depression was primarily due to the perception that the "hey-day" of growth was over, it was aggravated by the disciplinary issues that the New Life Churches had to resolve within their own midst. These "moral issues" were profoundly disheartening and added to the feeling of disillusionment within the movement.

      The increasing diversity and complexity of the New Life Churches demonstrated the need for an organisational format which would facilitate collective administration within the movement. However, the regional gatherings of pastors, set up in an attempt to meet this need without compromising the traditional "autonomy of the local church," had the effect of elevating the role of the regional leaders. The development of this embryonic hierarchy was accelerated by the disillusionment and discouragement of the 1980s and by the lack of a consistent disciplinary structure to deal with the pastoral misconduct which had taken place.

      This incipient organisational structure was considerably at variance with the characteristic emphasis of the New Life Churches on the autonomy and independence of the local assembly. Much energy was expended in debate throughout the decade in attempting to arrive at a leadership format which would allow efficient administration of the movement without sacrificing the principle of local autonomy. The spectrum of views ranged from that of Ross Davies, who advocated a "charismatic" mode of leadership based on pastoral "relationships" between the churches, to Rob Wheeler, who argued for an "official" leadership and organisational structure. Debate on the issue came to a head in 1987 with the appointment of Peter Morrow and Rob Wheeler as "apostles" at the annual Conference, and the subsequent secession of the "South Pacific" churches in protest at this decision. These developments will be discussed in the next chapter.




Notes:


[1]       Sir Keith Sinclair has dubbed the decade "the uncertain seventies" (Sinclair, History of New Zealand [1984], pp.308ff.)

[2]       Since many of those who emigrated were skilled young people in search of a better life overseas, this exodus was nicknamed the "brain drain."

[3]       For example, Britain's entry into the European Economic Community and the resultant loss of New Zealand's traditional markets for its primary produce.

[4]       The most notorious example of this strategy was the "dancing cossacks" television advertisement shown during the Election campaign.

[5]       Sinclair, History of New Zealand [1984], p.315.

[6]       Rowe, "Clergy for Rowling," p.31, cited in Davidson, Christianity in Aotearoa, p.174.

[7]       In addition to controversies over specifically moralist concerns, which have been discussed in previous chapters, other public issues included the visits of nuclear warships from 1976 to 1984; the Bastion Point protest in 1977 and 1978; and the tour of New Zealand by the Springbok Rugby team in 1981, which sparked almost unprecedented scenes of militant social protest.

[8]       Oliver, "The Awakening Imagination," in Oxford History of New Zealand, p.456, refers to "the altered character of the 1970s - a turning inwards to the private, the secluded, the self-contained," commenting that "more intimate issues became dominant" during the decade with a "deepening concern for the condition of personal and intimate relationships" (Ibid., p.457). Oliver argues that "domesticity...[was] central to many acute present-day issues ‑ abortion, censorship, sexual education, women's rights, and...Maori identity" (Ibid.) and notes the "narrowing of horizons, the inward shift of vision" which accompanied it (Ibid.., p.458). However, the author would argue that "domesticity" was a symptom, rather than a cause, of the changing attitudes of the 1970s. Conservatism, and particularly religious conservatism, rather than domesticity, fuelled the engine of protest in the 1970s.

[9]       Ibid., p.458.

[10]     Davidson, Christianity in Aotearoa, p.171.

[11]     The reference is to the Jesus '76 campaign, organised by Bob Horton and the Auckland chapter of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (Bluck, "Jesus 75 - a mixed blessing," p.5).

[12]     Kindah Greening, "From the Pastor's Desk," in Bethel Chapel, Invercargill, "Newsletter," Invercargill, n.d. (Mimeographed.) Emphasis as cited. This newsletter appears to date from the end of February 1976, since it refers to the death of Catherine Kulman [sic: faith-healer Kathryn Kuhlman] in the United States "last week," i.e. 20 February 1976.

[13]     Ibid.

[14]     I.e. baptism of believers by immersion, rather than the christening of infants.

[15]     Rasik Ranchord to Daniel Manjam, 30 September 1975, MHCF.. The two pastors referred to were Peter Morrow and Ranchord himself. By 1991, the pastoral staff had grown to 15, and Peter Morrow had been joined by Steve Blackmore as an Associate Senior Pastor (New Life Churches of New Zealand, "Directory," 1991, p.6)..

[16]     Max Palmer to Chuck Lynch, 12 March 1979, MHCF.

[17]     Doug Allington, Comment to author, Christchurch, 4 October 1991. Allington was a student during 1991 at the International School of Ministry, conducted under the auspices of the Christchurch New Life Centre.

[18]     Rasik Ranchord to Tony Wiltshire, 11 October 1976, MHCF.. According to this letter, this was the attendance at the final meeting of a "Festival of Faith" campaign with Frank Houston, sponsored by the Christchurch Pentecostal churches, and conducted for eight days from 19 to 27 September 1976. The campaign was so successful that the organisers felt obliged to extend it for a further week to 3 October.

[19]     For example, when the Dunedin assembly (the "Word of Life Tabernacle") purchased a church building in the late 1960s, several car-loads of young people from the Timaru assembly came down for the weekend to assist with the painting of the building, and to share together in ministry.

[20]     Wheeler, Interview. Although this informal relationship of friendship was characteristic of the earlier participants in the New Life Churches, it also attracted some of the later arrivals in the movement. Ken Wright, for example, comments that "when we [the Palmerston North Christian Centre; formerly the Awapuni Baptist Church] became an open Christian Fellowship ourselves, we felt the need to associate or identify with a particular group of churches...on the basis of friendship and relationship with these dear folks. We brought our church into an affiliation with them and have remained in that state since, and continue to enjoy that relationship with the wider representation of the New life Churches in New Zealand" (Wright, Interview).

[21]     "Great Pastoral Conference held in Timaru," Gospel Truth, February 1965, p.1.

[22]     Wheeler, Interview.

[23]     The text of Wheeler's address on that occasion is be found in R.B. Wheeler, "Indigenous Full Gospel Assemblies," Church Bells, July 1968, pp.32-33, and in idem, "I Believe," Church Bells, September 1968, pp.33-34. This address was an account of the beliefs and practices of the movement. The New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation later published the series of addresses as New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, I Believe: A series of talks broadcast over NZBC stations in 1967 (n.p. [Wellington]: New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, n.d. [1968]), in which Wheeler's contribution appears alongside those of groups such as Moral Re-Armament, the Baha'i faith and Spiritualism.

[24]     Rasik Ranchord to Dave Shaw, 3 April 1973, MHCF.

[25]     Ranchord commented at the time that the role of the Secretary was an essential one in enabling the committee to work efficiently: "human nature being what it is, and especially in the Independent Churches, anything can start off in a promising way and lapse back into the old unreliability pattern! Remember the reports about `Church Bells'?" (Rasik Ranchord to Neil Patterson, 26 July 1976, MHCF). Ranchord is referring to the demise of the movement's in-house magazine Church Bells in the late 1960s, mainly through the lack of news and articles being contributed from the local New Life churches.

[26]     Neil Patterson, circular letter to pastors, 28 September 1976, MHCF.

[27]     For example, the Christchurch New Life Centre had, by December 1977, formulated their own "Missionary Guidelines" which "now, to a great extent, determine our financial support practices" (Max Palmer to Rasik Ranchord, 14 December 1977, MHCF). It would seem that the "Missions Committee" was now defunct, and that the Christchurch assembly had reverted to "our missionary support becoming more defined and concentrating on ones sent forth from here," i.e. supporting missionaries from within their own local congregation (Ibid.).

[28]     Patterson, circular letter to pastors, 28 September 1976, MHCF.

[29]     Ibid.

[30]     Wheeler, Interview. By "adopted churches," Wheeler meant those churches (such as the Palmerston North Christian Centre and Fairlie New Life Centre) which had affiliated with the New Life Churches from the Charismatic Renewal.

[31]     Rob Wheeler to Max Palmer and Peter Morrow, 18 July 1979, MHCF.

[32]     Bryan Wilson has analysed the ways in which the role of a Pentecostalist minister changes as the movement grows. Although Wilson's discussion is based on his observation of the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance of Great Britain, which differs from the New Life Churches of New Zealand in having a centralised organisation, much of his analysis is applicable to these latter churches (B.R. Wilson, "The Pentecostalist Minister: Role Conflicts and Contradictions of Status," in Wilson, Patterns of Sectarianism, pp.138-157).

[33]     So called because the members of the Body of Christ (i.e. the congregation) had the opportunity to minister. The practice shows marked similarities to that of the Brethren movement (Peter L. Embley, "The Early Development of the Plymouth Brethren," in Ibid., p.218).

[34]     An example of the latter was Mike Fitzpatrick, youth pastor of the Dunedin Word of Life Tabernacle until mid-1992, who held a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Otago. However, degrees or academic qualifications in theological subjects were conspicuous by their absence in the movement. This reflected the general Pentecostal scepticism towards theological education, particularly in those institutions which were seen as "modernist."

[35]     Although the standards have since risen somewhat, it was possible to gain a doctorate from this institution after seven years of pastoral experience, as evidenced by the pastor's collected sermon materials, and the submission of a 3000-word essay.

[36]     This criticism was directed at the falsity of these "qualifications," rather than at the narrowness of the "education" which such a process produced.

[37]     As an example of this, the International School of Ministry [ISOM] may be cited. This Bible School was set up by the Christchurch New Life Centre in 1971 and offers a full-time two-year course of ministry training, which may count for up to two years' credit towards a four-year B.A. degree from the International Correspondence Institute (formerly based in Belgium and now conducted under the auspices of the Assemblies of God in the United States). ISOM is now formally registered with the New Zealand Qualifications authority.

[38]     As has already been observed in chapter 7, recognition of this factor led to the formation of the APCNZ.

[39]     "The bureaucratisation of the movement...has replaced the early simple charismatic revivalism, [and] has resulted in the creation of a hierarchy" (Wilson, "The Pentecostalist Minister," in Wilson, Patterns of Sectarianism, p.141, note 2).

[40]     The author's analysis of the various views within the New Life Churches on the shape of their polity is based on interviews with pastors in the movement. Since the earliest of these is that of Rob Wheeler, recorded in September 1987 at the annual Pastors' Conference at Waikanae which formally "recognised" Wheeler and Peter Morrow as "apostles," there is a danger that these interviewees are reading back later developments into the early 1980s. Nevertheless, the overall perspectives reflected in these interviews appear to be borne out by documentary materials in the Majestic House Correspondence Files. These include pastoral newsletters and correspondence, as well as minutes from the quarterly meetings of the regional representatives.

[41]     As will be noted, there was no agreement as to what the basis of this relationship was.

[42]     Rob Wheeler to Max Palmer and Peter Morrow, 18 July 1979, MHCF.

[43]     Wheeler, Interview. Wheeler explains his reference to the multiplicity of "fathers" by observing that while the initial wing of the movement had been founded by one "father" (i.e. Ray Jackson), there were sections of the movement which owed their existence to other "fathers," such as Ron Coady, Alan Thrift, Ross Davies, Les Garrett and (although he does not say so) Wheeler himself. Wheeler identifies five such groups, saying that "we had five streams within a stream." As well as this, there were also the churches which had been "adopted" from the Charismatic Renewal.

[44]     Ibid. Emphasis as cited.

[45]     Wheeler, Interview.

[46]     It is significant that both Wheeler and Morrow had set up Bible Schools and that a number of pastors in the movement had entered the ministry after training at these schools. The prestige accorded to these senior pastors was therefore, to some extent, based on a teacher-pupil relationship. As well as this, the establishment of outreaches by some of the New Life Churches added to the prestige of the pastors of these "mother" churches, who sometimes exercised an episcopal function over the "daughter" churches and their pastors. The result was the beginnings of a trend towards an hierarchical network of relationships within the New Life Churches.

[47]     In sociological terms, this represented a transition from a charismatic to a bureaucratic form of polity.

[48]     Ross Davies, Interview, Whangarei, 1 March 1990.

[49]     Wright, Interview.

[50]     Morrow's reference is to the "principles of the doctrine of Christ" set out in Hebrews 6:1-3.

[51]     Morrow, Interview [1988]. Morrow viewed this "final `coming together'" of all Spirit-filled Christians in unity as being the raison d'être of all charismatic ministry in the Church. He based this belief on Ephesians 4:11-16, seeing this as the "bringing to perfection" of the Body of Christ.

[52]     Ibid.. Morrow was speaking in hindsight, and referring back to the setting up of the regional pastoral gatherings in 1982.

[53]     Although Morrow's views are cited from the author's interviews with him in 1988 and 1990, they do appear to reflect those expressed in his 1979 letter, in which he asserted that recognition of ministry (which, in his view, provided the basis for fellowship) could only be effective at a local, rather than a national, level (Max Palmer to Rob Wheeler, 23 July 1979, MHCF).

[54]     Ibid.

[55]     In sociological terms, these views were "charismatic," as opposed to "bureaucratic."

[56]     This difference of approach lay behind Davies's criticism that Morrow had "perhaps not been the father he should have been...he didn't get around the guys like he should have" (Davies, Interview). However, in fairness to Morrow, it should be observed that he was in constant demand as an international Conference speaker, and was frequently out of the country for extended periods.

[57]     Tiplady, Interview.

[58]     Morrow had been an art teacher in Australia before entering the ministry (Wheeler, Interview).

[59]     Ranchord, Interview.

[60]     Davies, Interview. Rob Wheeler confirms that Davies was the author of this idea, but adds Dave Shaw of Dunedin as the co-proposer (Wheeler, Interview).

[61]     There appears to be some uncertainty as to the year in which these regional groups were established. Rasik Ranchord was unclear, at the time of the author's interview with him in 1989, as to whether this decision was taken at the Pastors' Conference in 1981 or the following year (Ranchord, Interview). Documentary evidence also appears to be ambiguous. On the one hand, a circular letter to the Indigenous Churches of New Zealand [hereafter cited as ICNZ] pastors in 1985 makes reference to the appointment of Area Representatives "four years ago," thus supporting the earlier date (ICNZ letter to pastors, 9 October 1985, MHCF). On the other hand, Murray Darroch specifically refers to the recognition of "regional co-ordinators" in 1982 (Darroch, Everything you ever wanted to know about Protestants, p.138). Since Darroch's book was based on informed sources from within the movement and was written in 1983 (i.e. less than two years after the events to which it refers), it seems likely to be correct. The author has therefore taken 1982, rather than 1981, as being the correct date.

[62]     Davies, Interview. Davies intended that these gatherings should be solely for the facilitation of fellowship and the deepening of relationships. His somewhat novel idea of their co-ordination by the most junior of the local pastors was intended to ensure that the chairmanship of these gatherings did not develop into any form of "official" leadership. The appointment of "regional representatives" by the Pastors' Conference therefore represented an inversion of his proposals. It is questionable, however, to what extent these proposals were practicable in the form in which he had raised them.

[63]     Ranchord, Interview. Ranchord says that the idea of a "feed-back" from the regional meetings to the annual Conference represented "my own thinking at that time....I vigorously promoted that" (Ibid.).

[64]     ICNZ Newsletter, 12 May 1983, MHCF.

[65]     ICNZ letter to pastors, 9 October 1985, MHCF.. This letter summarised the discussion which had taken place during the "Business Meeting" at the annual Conference the previous month. It noted that there had been numerous regional leaders' meetings since these were set up and that a "Council" format was now emerging. This development needed the ratification of the 1985 Conference: "in order to maintain our autonomy, each area must decide if the present regional leader should be part of this body of men." After discussion, "it was resolved by a show of hands at the Conference that initial approval be acknowledged [sic] of the body of Regional Leaders; however, the matter was to be taken back to each Regional meeting and a report given to the next regional leaders' meeting in Wellington, February 1986" (Ibid.. Emphasis as cited). The letter also listed "the present Regional Leaders": these included Ross Davies (Northland), Rob Wheeler (Auckland Central), David McCracken (Auckland South), John Steele (Auckland), George Armitage (Bay of Plenty), Claude Warner (Taupo), David Shearer (Taranaki), Mike Connell (Hawkes Bay), John Walton (Palmerston North), Bill Stephen (Northern South Island), Peter Morrow (Central South Island) and David Shaw (Otago and Southland). The dominance of the North Island (and of Auckland in particular) is clearly evident.

[66]     "Minutes of the I.C.N.Z. Regional Representatives Meeting held at Wallis House - 20/21 February 1986," MHCF.. Emphasis as cited.

[67]     New Life Churches of New Zealand, "Minutes of Business Meeting, 1991 National Conference, 18 September 1991," Brett Knowles Research Papers, Dunedin [hereafter cited as BKRP].

[68]     Ranchord, Interview.

[69]     However, not all the New Life churches adopted this hierarchical format. Several churches, such as the Palmerston North Christian Centre and the Fairlie New Life Centre, were governed by a "plural eldership," i.e. a corporate team of elders, each having equal authority. These churches were essentially ex-charismatic groups which had affiliated with the New Life Churches.

[70]     ICNZ Regional Leaders' Conference, "Minutes," Wellington, 23 to 27 September 1984, MHCF.

[71]     These men were Barclay Miller (Nelson), Barry Buckley (Napier) and David Ravenhill (Christchurch). Their "co-option" was a response to "the concern that there are senior men within the stream who are without opportunity to input into the stream at a senior level whose contribution would be invaluable" ("Minutes of Leader's [sic] Conference of the Indigenous Churches of N.Z. held at Wallace [sic: Wallis] House, 15 - 16 August 1985," MHCF).

[72]     To date, no female regional representatives have been appointed, although Anne Morrow (wife of Peter Morrow) and Yvonne Walton (wife of John Walton) attended the regional leaders' meetings throughout 1991 in connection with the movement's examination of their proposed "Women's Ministry Portfolio." However "there was strong support for their attendance to continue beyond the finalising of this particular paper" (New Life Churches of New Zealand, "Minutes of Business Meeting, 1991 National Conference, 18 September 1991," BKRP).

[73]     The "stream" comprised those churches and pastors who were in fellowship under the collective title of "Indigenous Churches of New Zealand" (later "New Life Churches of New Zealand"). This was initially a fellowship of pastors, rather than an association of churches. As the movement grew, however, this "stream" became more "channelled," and charismatic, personal bonds of fellowship were increasingly superseded by an "official" organisational structure. The tacit recognition of Peter Morrow and Rob Wheeler as senior leaders represented the first step in the denominationization of the movement; the appointment of regional leaders accelerated this process. The pastors of the Northland region saw this appointment as the introduction of an "eldership" over the movement, and hence, as the formation of a "denomination" with centralised control.

[74]     Northland Region of ICNZ to Regional Representatives of ICNZ, 9 October 1985, MHCF. Emphasis as cited.

[75]     Ibid.. The last clause strongly reflects Ross Davies' views, as does the remainder of the memo.

[76]     I.e. the churches in the Nelson, Marlborough, Buller and Westland areas.

[77]     North of the South Island Region of the ICNZ to Regional Representatives of ICNZ, 17 January 1986, MHCF.

[78]     See Leigh, "Getting Religion," pp.59-62.

[79]     For example, "the discouragement and failing of ministries in this present hour" (ICNZ Regional Leaders' Conference, "Minutes," Wellington, 23 to 27 September 1984, MHCF); "there is disillusionment on the direction we are taking as a stream" (John Walton, cited in "Minutes of Leader's [sic] Conference of the Indigenous Churches of N.Z. held at Wallace [sic: Wallis] House, 15 - 16 August 1985," MHCF); "a lot of what was, seems to have stagnated" (Peter Morrow to Phil Pringle, 4 August 1986, MHCF).

[80]     See Battley, "Charismatic Renewal": 49.

[81]     Alex and Janet Webster, former pastors in the New Life Churches and presently students in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Otago, recalled that the movement as a whole was "stunned" by the deaths of these pastors. Janet Webster further commented that the New Life Churches tended to believe that they were "invincible" in matters of faith and consequently had not developed theological resources to explain failures such as this (Alex and Janet Webster, Comment to author, Dunedin, 14 May 1993).

[82]     The minutes of the Regional Leaders' Conference, for example, record the "shock and sorrow" of the regional leaders at the news of one such incident ("Minutes of Leader's [sic] Conference of the Indigenous Churches of N.Z. held at Wallace [sic: Wallis] House, 15 - 16 August 1985," MHCF).

[83]     Ian Diprose, on behalf of the sponsoring committee, to "All Associated Pentecostal Pastors of New Zealand," 10 July 1987, BKRP. This topic was suggested by a New Life pastor, Barry Buckley of the Napier Christian Fellowship.

[84]     Rasik Ranchord, for example, considered it a "slightly exaggerated" assessment of the situation. Nevertheless, he did concede that there "seemed to be quite a number of cases that appeared to come to the surface at the same time. I wouldn't necessarily say there was an `avalanche'" (Ranchord, Interview). Ian Clark commented, from an Assemblies of God perspective, that the problem was not new, nor necessarily more prevalent: "The church has always had `moral problems'; starting [with] Ananias and Sapphira [the reference is to Acts 5:1-11]....I don't know that proportionally...[the problem] has increased percentage-wise, but probably in numbers, because of the sheer size of the movement..., there is more of it" (Clark, Interview).

[85]     In the United States, for example, the misconduct of Pentecostal evangelists Jimmy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart were widely publicised in both the secular and religious press in 1987 and 1988. However, such incidents were not peculiar to Pentecostal or Charismatic churches, since mainstream denominations also faced similar disciplinary problems. These included cases of immorality among Catholic clergy (reported in "Religion: All for Love," Time, 13 August 1990, p.46; Anastasia Toufexis, "What to do when priests stray," Idem, 24 September 1990, p.45; and Barbara Dolan, "Sins of the Fathers," Idem, 19 August 1991, p.49), the Greek Orthodox church ("Events and People: Clergy Troubles," Christian Century, 4 November 1987, pp.961-962) and the Presbyterian church (Randy Frame, "A Bar-room Ministry Runs Amuck," Christianity Today, 19 November 1990, pp.62 and 64). Perhaps more indicative of how widespread such episodes had become was the fact that both the evangelical Christianity Today and its more liberal counterpart Christian Century deemed it necessary to run articles discussing the issue of immorality among ministers (see Ann-Janine Morey, "Blaming Women for the Sexually Abusive Male Pastor," Christian Century, 5 October 1988, pp.866-869; William H. Willimon, "`Heard About the Pastor Who...?' Gossip as an Ethical Activity," Idem, 31 October 1990, pp.994-996; and Kenneth S. Kantzer, "The Road to Restoration: How should the church treat its fallen leaders?" Christianity Today, 20 November 1987, pp.19-22; David Augsberger, "The Private Lives of Public Leaders," Idem, pp.23-24; and Lyn Cryderman, "Bad News Bearers," Idem, 21 April 1989, p.12). It is evident that the problem was widespread. An article in a journal published by the Uniting Church in Australia quantified the problem, stating that "in recent times incidents and public awareness of pastoral sexual misconduct have dramatically risen. One leading church insurance company states that from 1980 to 1984 there was only one case of pastoral misconduct handled. From 1984 to the present [1992] there have been over 400" (Donald R. Hands, "Towards liberation from shamed sexuality," Ministry, Autumn 1992, p.24). Another figure was given by an Australian television documentary, Ultimate Betrayal, which created some controversy in 1992 by claiming that about 3,000 (or 15%) of Australian clergymen had sexually abused women members of their congregations. However, both the Anglican and Catholic churches disputed these figures, with a Catholic spokesman saying that a more accurate figure would be around 6%, rather than 15% of the clergy ("Large-scale pastoral abuse denied," Otago Daily Times, 17 March 1992, p.7). However, neither church denied that there was some substance to the documentary's allegations.

[86]     However, the emphasis of the movement on the authority of the pastor in the local congregation made a prophetic confrontation such as this extremely unlikely. A further factor was that if sin such as this had been "exposed" by the prophetic ministry, could this exposure have been considered libellous or slanderous?

[87]     Ranchord, Interview.

[88]     Although attention was also drawn to the need for disciplinary action in the case of financial irregularity, the emphasis of discipline in the movement remained focused on issues of sexual immorality. This reflected the tendency of the New Life Churches to deal with present emergencies on an ad hoc basis, rather than to create guidelines for dealing with hypothetical situations in the future.

[89]     Canterbury Regional Minister's Meeting to ICNZ Regional Representatives, 9 April 1986, BKRP.

[90]     Ranchord presented a paper on "Ministerial Ethics" to the 1984 Conference; the following year there was a panel discussion on the "Restoration of a Minister"; in 1986, Ranchord presented an elective paper on "Integrity and Ethics in the Ministry" with a video entitled "Ministry Snares" providing the subject of another elective seminar. A further paper by Ranchord on "Procedure for administering discipline to offending pastors" was enclosed with the programme material for the 1987 Conference, but not actually presented at the Conference.

[91]     Ranchord, Interview.

[92]     Fortunately for the movement, this episode was not reported in the secular Press.

[93]     Jane Simpson, Interview, Dunedin, 18 September 1987.

[94]     Ibid.

[95]     This intention is well expressed in a report concerning a pastor who had been "disciplined" in Australia, which describes him as "cleared, disciplined and recommended for ministry again" (cited in "Minutes of the I.C.N.Z. Regional Representatives Meeting held at Wallis House - 20/21 February 1986," MHCF).

[96]     Rob Wheeler to The Pastors, Indigenous Pentecostal Churches of New Zealand, 1 October 1986, BKRP.

[97]     Peter Morrow and John Walton to all ICNZ Pastors, 4 August 1987, BKRP.

[98]     Pastoral "burn-out" appears to have been a factor. Ross Davies, for example, attributes the moral failure of pastors to loneliness and pressure in the ministry. He comments that "there's been some good men go, but not because they were immoral. I've never seen a brother I consider to be a moral man fall for that reason. Its always been pressure, its always been loneliness and lack of trust of other brethren in the ministry; its always been the main cause" (Davies, Interview. Emphasis as cited.)

[99]     Because strong structures of pastoral authority usually existed within the local assemblies, congregational members did not have the same freedom from accountability, and those who strayed were usually disciplined by their pastors.

[100]    The four cases which occurred between 1982 and 1986 represented less than 3% of the total of 144 pastors in the movement (vide supra, footnote 22).

[101]    This inconsistency was even more marked in the case of misconduct by congregational members, who were usually severely disciplined by the local pastor. By comparison, the discipline of pastors by their peers was rather more lenient.

[102]    For example, the resolution of the Canterbury regional meeting in May 1986 (vide supra, p.279).


© SCC and the author, 2004.

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