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    194
    From Independent Church
    to New Covenant

    A Brief History of the Development
    of the New Covenant Church of God

    Key Historical Dates

    • 1984: The 27 June Revelation Received by the founder to begin a new Church
    • 1986: Beginning of the Independent Church
    • 1988: Official organisation of the Holy Order
    • 1992: Disbandment of the Independent Church

    • 1992: Establishment of the NCCFs -- New Covenant Christian Fellowships
    • 1995: Disbandment of the NCCFs

    • 1996: Organisation of the New Covenant Church of God (B'rit Chadashah)

    To undertake an historical analysis of a Church and the events surrounding its origins and progress is complex because a Church is its people and their individual experiences and personalities. History, if it is not propaganda, is at least subjective because it involves the analysis of personalities. It is possible to record events, but understanding the forces that led to those events is probably, in the final analysis, impossible in human terms. This short essay is, then, to a certain extent subjective, though it attempts to be as objective as possible. It is written as a sequel to the pamphlet produced in 1992 entitled, A History of the Independent Church of Jesus Christ, following the dissolution of that Church.

    Sren Kirkegaard once wrote: "Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." With the experience gained with time and greater spiritual maturity, we therefore look back at the old Independent Church and forwards to the future of the New Covenant Church of God.

    1. Beginnings

    All Church movements begin either with single men (e.g. Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russel, Ellen White, Martin Luther) or groups of men (e.g. the Wesley brothers). To understand the religions they established it is necessary to know something about the people who shaped them and the tunnel of circumstances which forced them to walk the way they did.

    Each religious tradition emerges out of a unique historical background. There is, if you like, only one season which allows them to blossom. Protestantism in general arose in a period of history conducive to its rise -- it was a "protest" or a rebel movement, its success guaranteed by an environment of spiritual immorality and spiritual repression in the Catholic Church.

    The Independent Church, which was the precursor to the New Covenant Church of God, was a church in transition. Suspended between two worlds it looked back to the old and yet moved forwards to the new. It was, in many respects, therefore, a reverse "King Saul", a man suspended between the old tribal confederacy and the emerging Israelite monarchy. Saul was a man of inner contradictions forced to be in neither the old nor the new world he was called to lead Israel into. New systems take time to evolve.

    The early Independent Church was formed by Latter Day Saints seeking to move in the direction of evangelical Christianity without abandoning the good in the former. In fact, unknown to them at the beginning, God was moving them in a completely new direction altogether, speaking to them within the context of their own theological understanding and tradition whilst the whole time edging them out of the spheres of influence of their former church affiliations. The result was a Church with considerable inward tension as it sought to redefine itself and understand its mission to the world. None of the founding members at that time properly understood what was to come.

    It would be a mistake, in analyzing the New Covenant Church of God, to conclude that it is a hybrid between Latter Day Saintism and Evangelical Christianity. Though it contains elements of both, it is quite independent of both of them, being a wholly new entity.

    The Independent Church, however, was quite different. Influenced strongly by both Mormonism and Reorganized Latter Day Saintism (conservative and liberal denominations of the Restoration Movement, respectively), it tended to pursue a middle course between these two whilst exploring and syncretising many of the doctrinal tenets of orthodox Christianity. Throughout its six year existence (1986-92) it oscillated between these two poles whilst at the same time being drawn in the direction ordained for it by God.

    A Church is its people. And its people underwent enormous theological and practical change. God reveals His mystery line upon line, precept upon precept (Isa.28:1013), until all is revealed. He must work with the raw materials of human beings -- their hopes, expectations, successes and failures, constantly correcting and adjusting their spiritual perceptions. Had the Independent Church survived it would have been a rare species indeed, and doubtless would have been bound for extinction in the end. A fountain cannot bring forth both sweetness and bitterness. It required a unified theology and practice. Two's company, three's a crowd. To be pulled in three directions is a non-starter because you end up either going around in circles or become totally stationary.

    2. The New Birth

    In 1992 the Independent Church finally cut the strings holding it to its Latter Day Saint past and allowed itself to be fully pulled in the direction ordained by God. This was a painful change and not all the members of the old Independent Church were willing to let go of the imagined securities of the old Gospel paradigm. Traditions and old dreams die hard.

    In April 1992 the Independent Church was quietly laid to rest and the New Covenant Church of God organised -- not all at once but gradually, beginning with the neo-evangelical New Covenant Christian Fellowships (NCCFs). Taking with it all the truths learned in the old Independent Church, it discarded its history and many scriptures in favour of a new start -- a new birth.

    The change that accompanied the new birth astonished the members who have found a unity, peace and love that eluded them in the old church. A new Spirit is among the people, fresh and pregnant with possibility. The people have matured and are beginning to understand the need for collective responsibility in matters affecting both the government and organisation of Zion. They are experiencing miracles, as was promised them.

    3. Understanding the New Covenant Church

    The New Covenant Church of God is neither Protestant, Catholic, Mormon or anything else. It is a wholly new creation. It is not a break-off of any of these major Christian churches, unlike the old Independent Church which was, in some respects, birthed out of the Restoration Movement.

    The first Israelites were "Egyptians", as the first members of the Independent Church were "Latter Day Saints". The first "Egyptian" Israelites died off in the wilderness and the new generation became truly "Israelite". Similarly, the first Independent Latter Day Saints "died" in 1992 and a new spiritual generation of New Covenant Christians was born.

    It is very hard for us to explain to people that the New Covenant Church is not a "sect" or a "break-off" of another church. The Independent Church was, to be sure, but not the New Covenant Church. Similarly, the first Christians were a "sect" or "break-off" of Judaism (see Acts 24:14; 28:22, NIV/ASV). It took at least another generation before the first New Covenant Christians came into existence as a fellowship apart from the Talmudic Judaism of Jesus' day.

    The New Covenant Church is a new covenant -- a new agreement between born-again disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and God. Break-off groups are not strictly speaking "new", but a continuation and reformation of older groups. If you look at any modern Protestant group today you will be able to trace its roots back to the original reform doctrines of Luther, Calvin or Zwingli, and thence to Catholicism. The remains of Catholicism still linger on in the Protestant churches, no matter how much they would "protest" otherwise. Many break-off groups do insist that they are not "Protestant" but when their doctrines and practices are closely examined it is usually possible to find some Catholic or Protestant dogma that has hung on, such as one or more of the Creeds. The first New Covenant Church had no creeds and no closed canon of scripture.

    The New Covenant Church of God is apostolic, like the first Christian Church. It has only one creed, the Apostles' Creed, and no closed canon of scripture, even though the local Colonies are limited to the Protestant Bible as Primary Canon in order not to place a stumbling block for their brethren in Christ in the other churches. Most importantly, it is an apostolic Church.

    The Latter Day Saint churches of course claim to be an apostolic church too but their doctrine and structure is very different from the New Testament Church of God. Not only do Mormons have twelve apostles but three others in addition, making a total of fifteen, and they are led by a "prophet". By contrast, the New Testament Church of God was led by 12 apostles and knew nothing of a "first presidency" of three arch-apostles, nor primal leadership by a "prophet, seer and revelator" [N.B. Mormon "prophets, seers, and revelators" rarely prophesy, have visions, or reveal any spiritual mystery]. Indeed, the kind of prophetic leadership characterised by the Old Testament is replaced in the New: "In days gone by, God spoke in many and varied ways to the Fathers through the prophets. But now, in the acharit-hayamim [End Times], He has spoken to us through His Son..." (Heb.1:1, Jewish New Testament).

    The New Testament Church of God was never led by prophets and neither is the New Covenant Church of God. Rather, "in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets..." (1 Cor.12:28, NIV). Mormonism has reversed this rle, exalting the prophets above the apostles. Mistakenly thinking that Peter, James and John constituted a special "first presidency" of the twelve apostles (making a total of fifteen), they have effectively quenched the apostolic spirit and created a quasi-Mosaic dictatorial system. They have also effectively closed their canon of scripture, hardly adding anything to it in a century.

    The Latter Day Saint movement was the first serious attempt to re-establish the New Testament Church but quickly became hijacked by occultic doctrines and practices and evolved into a totally new religious tradition -- what someone has euphemistically termed "Christianity plus". It has its own exclusive attitude to authority and possesses its own "spirit" which is disjunctive with the spirit of the wider "Body of Christ", thus forcing it into isolation and competition rather than co-operation.

    "For he that is not against us is for us" (Mk.9:40, ASV) has been interpreted by Mormons to mean "the Church" rather than Christ. Even the apostle Paul knew no such Church entity as conceived by the Mormons (one which is absolutely true and with authority, and all other churches being absolutely wrong and without authority), for he said: "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will....But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, CHRIST IS PREACHED" (Phil.1:16,18, NIV). Not a Church...people were not preaching a Church but Christ. And Christ was the head prophet, not a man (Deut.18:18).

    Although we as New Covenant Christians are less than happy about the "gospel" many churches are preaching, we do at least rejoice -- in the apostolic spirit -- that Christ is preached, no matter what the motives of the preachers. Mormons would rather they, and they alone, were preaching, and tend to view other preachers as competitors.

    It is for this, and other reasons, that the Independent Church had to be laid aside, for the assumptions of Mormonism are at root wrong, corrupting even those principles which are correct in that religion.

    The New Covenant Church of God is led by a council of twelve apostles when fully organised, with three of the twelve having a special leadership or executive position over the three priesthood orders of the Church. It does not consider itself in competition with true Bible-believing churches, nor does it see itself as the stone/rock seen by Daniel in vision -- the stone that will crush all the kingdoms of this world. It is a part of that stone (Dan.2).

    And yet it is not just "one of many" church routes to salvation. It claims, like the Mormons, to be proclaiming the fullness, but unlike Mormons does not believe others cannot validly do the same. It claims (as far as it knows) to minister the most potent form of the Gospel as well as claiming a unique call to gather a specially-called group of Christian men and women to establish twelve cities of refuge around the world that will pass through the great Tribulation. It will also train up theocratic rulers for the Millennial reign.

    4. By Their Fruits

    Throughout the twenty centuries of the Christian dispensation God has sought to raise up a true and faithful people. He has used reformers like Luther, Calvin, and the Wesley brothers; Restorationists like Joseph Smith, Jr. and Joseph Smith III; Sabbatarians like Ellen White and Herbert Armstrong; evangelicals like Billy Graham. Though in many instances preaching wrong doctrines, the Lord has attempted to kindle light in fallible human beings in the midst of spiritual darkness. When the fire has dimmed or gone out, He has turned to other humble, teachable men and women. Many times the Lord has said: "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (Matt.21:43). And He is still doing it today. New churches arise, flourish for a while, and then atrophy. From these God withdraws the Spirit of the Kingdom and gives it -- in whole or in part -- to another group. He is no respecter of persons or churches (Acts 10:34).

    The Independent Church was given its chance and failed. Wisely, and in obedience to God's command, it was dissolved by the Holy Order. It was man's last attempt to resuscitate the Restoration Movement. Now God has moved us on, choosing a new vessel -- the New Covenant Church of God -- as small as a mustard seed today but one day to become a great and glorious tree if the people remain true.

    You are invited to investigate and discover, through earnest study and prayer, whether or not you have been called to be a part of this great work and wonder (Isa.29:14). If you are, do not delay, for the hour is late and there is much to be done.


    Historical Addendum

    A year after the article above was written, the New Covenant Church of God made a major paradigm shift which virtually severed it completely from its old Independent Church roots, when it became a Hebrew-roots or Messianic (as distinct from 'Messianic Jewish') Movement. Beginning with the adoption of the seventh-day Sabbath, it soon after adopted the 7 annual Hebrew festivals, began using the Divine Hebrew Names instead of the Anglo-Greek ones (e.g. Yahweh, Yah'shua, Ruach - instead of 'Jehovah', 'Jesus', 'Spirit', etc.), and became fully New Covenant Torah-observant. Though it had always been pointing in this direction, it did not fully realise the change until 1999-2000 and experienced, as a result, enormous spiritual and temporal change, as congregations around the world began queuing up for membership. It's simple proto-Trinitarian position on the Godhead was finally refined into the fuller Echad Doctrine which very much became the main theme tune of the new paradigm. A reflection of these major changes was the adoption of the Hebrew name for the New Covenant Church of God (NCCG), viz. B'rit Chadashah Assembly of Yahweh (BCAY), which is today used alongside the older and more familiar name.

    Though NCCG/BCAY is most firmly a Hebrew-roots family of believers, it is not 'Messianic Jewish' and differs markedly from the vast majority of assemblies that go under this designation. Whereas it would be true to say that nearly all Messianic Jewish congregations closely resemble the assemblies of Jewish believers who accepted Christ in New Testament times (and there was much diversity even then, as history attests), it would not be true to say that NCCG resembles the 'Gentile' equivalents raised by the Apostle Paul. It is our contention that historically the Gentile and Jewish churches/assemblies diverged, the Gentile at length attaining ascendency and evolving into a neo-pagan monster hybrid and the Jewish becoming extinct, but that this was not at all the Divine Plan. Rather, the New Testament period ends with Gentile Churches moving in the direction of full Torah observance by gradual increments (of which the first were the stipulations made by the Jerusalem Council), and the Jewish Assembles towards a fullness of the New Covenant paradigm. At some point the two would have converged had historical processes, mediated by Satan, not intervened, to form something akin to what we, as New Covenant Christians, are attempting to reconstruct as NCCG/BCAY. This Church/Assembly would have been Torah-observant without the various additions which constituted Talmudic Judaism at the time and which newly converted Jews (like modern Messianic Jews) want to retain as part of their "cultural heritage", and without all the shadows and types that were the whole Levitical system with its Priesthood and ordinances which pointed to the sacrifice of Yah'shua (Jesus). It would, for instance, like NCCG/BCAY, have abandoned circumcision (which Paul said was worthless, but which most contemporary Messianic Jews still insist on) in favour of water baptism and other New Covenant ordinances as the visible signs of this renewed or 'New' Covenant. We do not believe, as most Messianic Jews do, that there are two believing communities - 'Messianic' and 'Gentile', but one. And we believe that single community is akin to what we are trying to build.

    The materials published by NCCG/BCAY after 1999 are in many respect different from those which came before because the Church at that time changed considerably. What happened in the 1999-2000 period was every bit as dramatic as the change made in 1992 when the tiny handfull of early members put aside all the ghosts of Restorationism and moved into new and uncharted spiritual waters. Of those who were a part of the old Independent Church, only a handful survived into the new NCCG world whose members today come from every conceivable Christian, Messianic and non-Christian background. NCCG has finally come of age.

    3 January 2003

    This page was created on 31 May 1998
    Last updated on 31 May 1998

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