To the Islands of the Sea:
The 1991 Mission to Newcastle
A Short History of the New Covenant in Great Britain
The New Covenant Church of God was formally organised in Oxford, England on 6 April 1988, its members being roughly equally divided between English and Norwegians. But it was not long to remain in the United Kingdom. On 16 August 1988 a revelation was received instructing the Church to transplant itself to Norway and make that nation the centre of missionary work. One of the explanations given was that Scandinavia contained the greatest concentration of the Israelite (ten tribes) diaspora and that one of the missions of the Church was to commence gathering in this remnant. Accordingly the Church set up its new headquarters in Oslo, Norway in late August, 1988. The Church in England effectively disappeared, the Oxford congregation being disorganised for wont of any Priesthood.
Numerous requests were made by this writer to the Lord for information on the work in England, why it had been abruptly terminated there, and what the future of the Church was in England. The answer was given:
Though content to labour in Scandinavia the question of Great Britain still rested heavily upon my mind and my soul was often drawn out in prayer that I might know the time when missionaries might be sent. Since I would be returning often to England to visit my family, who live in the south, I was also anxious to know what witnessing work I should do, and where. The direction received was:
Thou hast wondered in thy heart, O My son, why I have taken thee out of the land of thy fathers (England) and into the land of the north (Scandinavia), and why thy ministry was not received in Oxford...Behold, My son, thou wast not prepared nor properly endowed, and this was not thy hour (to minister in England)..I have set thee in the north countries to prepare thee and to give thy labours unto the building (up spiritually) of the northern tribes of Ephraim who are ready to receive My Gospel. Therefore, do not despair, My son, for I shall send thee back into the land of thy forefathers, even the Isles of the Sea which are called Great Britain, and it shall be when thy time cometh. And thy people shall receive thee and thou shalt build up My Church in that land, even as I have purposed. Thou shalt publish the revelations (Covenants & Commandments) and then take them across the (North) sea unto thy country, for they testify of Me (Jesus Christ); and those of Israel shall recognise My Voice and receive the New Covenant. And thus My work shall arise in the Isles of the Sea (HOC 41:1-6, uncanonised).
No more instruction was received on England until the summer of 1990 by which time some 400 hundred revelations had been received, the Second Book of Abraham retranslated, and part of the Gospel of Thomas retranslated. As a "southerner" (my father's family is from Surrey, though my mother's family is from Coventry in the Midlands and Northern Ireland) from Surrey, though also having affection for Oxford in the Midlands because of the fifteen years I lived there, I was most anxious to start missionary work in the south where I knew people and where my parents lived. There were inactive members of the Church in Oxford as well as many friends, and numerous contacts in London and the south-east. I knew nobody north of Birmingham where I had had fellowship with former RLDS brethren though I had had a Restorationist friend in Newcastle for some years with whom I had maintained contact by mail. His interest in us was of an historical nature and his leaning was more towards the RLDS Church. And therefore the revelation to go to the north-east came as somewhat of a surprise:
Behold, thus saith the Lord unto His servant: the time for the gathering of thy people in the lands of Great Britain hath not come (December 1988) for there is yet an incomplete division of the wheat from the tares. And if the reapers were to go forth now, My son, they would destroy the good as well as the bad, for Light and darkness are too greatly mixed. Therefore thou shalt not proclaim the Word now, even as I have spoken unto thee (HOC 41), but thou shalt use thy time in the islands of the sea to rest and complete those revelations that have not been recorded (it was during this time that the huge Cosmic Principle I -- HOC 148 -- was received). Thou canst not force the course of the river but must wait in patience for the appointed hour...Return unto the land of the north after thy rest and put thy hand to the plough once more..." (NC&C 89:1-6).
Let the first missionaries to England be sent unto the north-east from the land of Norway... But do not send until I command you, for this is not the hour. If ye begin in the south ye will not prosper, for their hour cometh later. Begin in the city of Newcastle and preach in the cities by the sea, neglecting not Scotland, for many of My people are there. And by the by ye will go into all of Britain and Ireland, gathering in the souls of the Covenant. So no more for now. Amen (HOC 429, uncanonised).
Newcastle-upon-Tyne is on the main ferry route between England and Norway. Located in an economically depressed area in the north of England, it is nevertheless one of the largest commercial cities in the European Community, boasting the largest shopping centre in Europe and the finest city transport system in the U.K. All of this was unknown to us when our small missionary team of four (plus one holidaying member) arrived on 6 July 1991. Neither had we any inkling of the spiritual forces at work in that city and how the Lord had prepared a small segment of its people for this Restoration work.
Accompanied by Apostle Vågen, Eldress Pallesen, and Deaconess Enger, I set up the Church's witnessing stand containing hundreds of pamphlets, the General Church banner, and Johanan's missionary banner in Eldon Square, the commercial and social heart of the city, and we started distributing literature.
The Divided Body of Christ in England
Eldon Square has a reputation for being the gathering place of "lunatic Christians", as one citizen told me, and I was soon to understand how this unfortunate label had become attached to the name of Christ's people. During the week we witnessed there we saw every kind of "Christian" imaginable, from genuine lunatics to those of a more sober and thoughtful disposition. The lunatic fringe did great damage to the testimony of Christ and not a few were obviously possessed by devils. Many self-appointed evangelists screamed and ranted through microphones and though thousands of people were going by, noone was listening to them. They had heard it all before. I was shocked by the darkness I saw for there was no discernment of the Spirit and little or no consciousness of what the people needed. The spirit of intolerance and judgment was shocking and more than once I heard "Christians" telling atheists that they would go to hell if they didn't accept their "Christ". Not surprisingly the atheists remained atheists.
One Penetecostalist preacher, who set up a table with literature each day with a small witnessing team, was of a more sober disposition and, when he addressed, spoke more conscientiously, though few listened to him. Some of his helpers were possessed of a spirit of fanaticism and ranted and raved. I felt ashamed and sorrowful that the Name of Christ was being so misrepresented. The Pentecostalists, initially curious as to who we were, remained suspicious of us, and made little effort to fellowship with us after they learned we believed in contemporary revelation. They would occasionally shout to an indpendent evangelist from Sunderland called Fredrick who had befriended us, warning him of us. But he would not be brow-beaten by them and whilst he did not agree in everything we taught was nevertheles a good friend to us and displayed the true virtues of Christian charity. To him we are most grateful. Only one from the Pentecostal team befriended us, a young female convert whose love of Christ had not been overshadowed by the spirit of sectarianism.
Blessings of the Mission Field
The mission field is one of the best educators and teaches you more than any textbook can. In the field you learn the difference between Christian love and doctrinal dogma masquerading as love. I was greatly suprised by many people. One day I was witnessing when a poorly dressed man with an enormous shock of red hair came up to me. Since he had come from amongst the numerous drunks and drug addicts who also shared the Square with us, I committed the sin of "judging according to the appearance" and assumed that he was a drunk. Thinking that he was approaching me for money to buy alcohol with, I braced myself for my reflex discourse of: "No, I'll not give you money to buy alcohol with, but if you're hungry, I'll gladly buy you a sandwich or a hot meal." But he wasn't a drunk. He had the warmest smile I have seen in many years. He suffered from a speech impediment and his language was simple but there was a genuineness and lovingness that made my heart melt. And as he spoke he kept on hugging me with real affection even though I was a stranger to him. He told me his story, of how he had been an aircraft mechanic, become mentally ill and was then locked up in a mental hospital. For years and years he had prayed to God for delivery from his illness and then, quite suddenly, out of the blue, he was healed. When he told me of his love for Jesus, tears welled up in his eyes. The gratitude in his heart, the total unpretentiousness of his testimony, the honesty and holiness of his soul, testified to me in unmistakable terms that this man was going to heaven. There wasn't the slightest doubt in my mind. A more loving man I did not meet whilst in Newcastle, and even though he was unemployed, homeless, and a vagabond, this man was IN CHRIST. "How true," I thought to myself, "that in the last days the Lord would call beggars off the street." I met him two or three times, the last time with Apostle Vågen as he was helping me repair my car, and every time he was filled with that loving spirit I have just spoken about. That is the kind of person I want to be with in the Kingdom, for he had two qualities that I prize above all else: honesty and love.
But there are many kinds of soul in the Kingdom of Heaven and we need not suppose that everyone is the same. Variety is one of the hallmarks of the creativity of God. I even met an old Oxford man, from Balliol College, very formal and proper, raised in my own public school middle-class background (I hasten to add that class means nothing to me since I became a Christian), and a committed Anglican. There was warmth and sincerity in him also and I had an interesting conversation with him and we parted mutually respectful of each other even if we did not agree in everything. I spoke with militant socialist revolutionaries who were full of bitterness but who taught me a thing or two about tolerance. There was a pop artist who wanted to witness of Christ in his music and was trying his hand at composing and who came to our first meeting. There was a young man who was a missionary in Romania who was possessed of a pure and honest spirit through whom the Lord was evidently working, who taught me a little more about humility. I think I was taught as much as I taught, perhaps more, whilst in Newcastle!
And then there was Spike, the charismatic Catholic, who spent many hours patiently telling me the history of evangelical Christianity in England over the past thirty years, thus giving me a clearer vision of what the Lord was doing in the several Christian churches. From our long discussions I learned how the Lord was opening up the minds of Christians beyond the traditional gifts of the Pentecostal movement (tongues, etc.) to the gifts of prophecy and apostleship, thus laying the groundwork for the New Covenant. Revelations were being received and published that were called by them a "Word of God". They were only one step away from acknowledging that there is more scripture than the Bible but because of their tradition could not admit that there was any "Word of God" equal in authority to the Bible. I had many long conversations with those who were of this spiritual stream who also, incidentally, call them themselves "Restorationists" though sometimes with a different meaning to our own. And I became aware that something special was happening in the north-east of England, and especially in Newcastle, that hadn't properly reached the rest of the U.K.
One young Baptist man approached Apostle Vågen and I who was a part of this "Restorationist" movement and was keen to discover who we were and to "discern us". He claimed to be an "apostle". Trying to imitate the apostolic spirit he attempted to pass judgment on us but was repeatedly confused, sometimes thinking we were from God, sometimes not. He prayed with us a number of times out on the street (we prayed alot on the street) and even went away several times to return. Something was bothering him but he could never quite put his finger on it. The propblem was that he was not teachable and thought that he had been called by God to pass judgment on us. I don't think he learned anything, save that his "apostolic" witnesses fell far short of the mark of an Apostle.
There was alot of passing of judgment, as I have said, which is typical of people who are either immature in the Spirit of God or insecure about their own beliefs. After the mission I took my family down south to my parents but before we returned to Norway we decided to witness one more day on Eldon Square. One "Christian" woman came up to me and said:" You're from the cranky unorthodox church from Norway, aren't you?" To which I replied: "Madam, if I had said to you: 'You're from the cranky orthodox church from Newcastle, aren't you?', what would you have replied?" I don't know if she got the point but she left without a further word.
The Problem of Judgment in the Body
Judgment. This is one word that kept cropping up in my mind over and over again. And I am in convinced, more than ever before, that those who are truly in Christ, and who know His peace and saving grace, do not need to pass judgment, at least not of the kind that drives people away, destroys bridge-building, and brings a bad reputation to the Name of Christ. If we do pass judgment, then we must (a) do it righteously ("judge righteous judgment"), and (b) be prepared to be judged in the same way ("judge as ye would wish to be judged"). That is why I now habitually turn people's false judgment back on themselves, as I did with the woman who thought we were "cranky Norwegians" so that they can simultaneously pass judgment on themselves.
There were some amusing episodes and one is at least worth telling. Whilst witnessing outside the Mormon Church on our first Sunday, a holidaying member and I were approached by two missionaries who asked us about our mission. When I told one of these young Americans that we were from Norway, he said to me: "Yes, I could tell that you were Norwegian from the way you spoke!" I must say I was rather flattered for I have never been mistaken for a Norwegian before and since I did not wish to expose the young man's ignorance (and/or possibly boastfulness) I allowed the illusion to remain intact and did my best to be the best Norwegian I could be!
We met many Mormons in Newcastle and on the whole our reception was met with warmth and friendliness. I am, however, under no illusions for we had the advantage of being unknown, and people tend to reserve judgment and hostility until they know what they are dealing with. On one occasion three Christians got into a stormy debate on Eldon Square about the Godhead and how to define it. It wasn't long before such sentiments as "you're going to hell in you believe that, brother" and "that's heretical" began to be flung around. One Mormon, who came several times, kept saying, "Three separate persons but one in purpose" but none of them listened to him (and he wouldn't listen to them). And that remains the problem. People are eager to launch into their own scriptural interpretations but won't admit to the possibility of alternative points-of-view.
A Planting Season
We did not go to Newcastle believing people would come in throngs to us. We knew that this was a planting season. Some people were very deeply moved by the message and have since made further enquiries. But as Spike the charismatic Catholic told me, the Christian community in Newcastle would never be the same again because of our visit. Most will probably hope we never come back again, content to rest in the illusion that Norway is "far away", but they would be wrong. The seeds have most certainly been planted and the Christian community has certainly been made to think, as have we also. And as Fredrick, the independent evangelist remarked once, we have shaken their cosy world and they will be forced to allow a new voice in the Christian forum in Newcastle, that of the apostolic witness of the New Covenant.
Jesus is God: A Powerful Witness
I can but select a few incidents in a long and varied witnessing experience. Shortly after our arrival in Newcastle the Lord spoke directly to me in a dream and said: "Tell the people that I, Jesus Christ, am God, and then I shall justify thee and endow thee with the power of the Holy Spirit" (NC&C 321:4). Obedient to that command I centred all my talks in our evening meetings on the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The concluding evening meeting, held in a community hall in east Newcastle, was for me the most memorable. It was attended by Mormons, Baptists, Penetcostalists, a Methodist and an independent. Words cannot describe the joy I felt at being able to preach in my own language without having to stop at the end of each phrase for a Norwegian translation. Obedient to the dream, I preached on the deity of Christ and enjoyed a wonderful endowmewnt of the Holy Spirit. The miracle of the meeting was that when it came to singing the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross" at the end, I could sense that the denominational barriers were momentarily dissolved and the people in attendance sang with a vigour typical of our own meetings. At the end of the meeting a Pentecostal woman came up to me and said: "Now I know that the accusations made by the local churches are false and that you (people) are truly in Christ." And whilst she probably won't join us (though who knows) she will certainly testify to other Newcastle Christians that we are Christians. And that will be an important step in our getting known and accepted in the city.
This is my story. I know that Tommy, Irén and Kari will have their own tales and experiences to tell for they were all active missionaries. My thanks go out to them for their witness.
We Shall Return
We shall return to Newcastle and the work will grow. I am certain of that because I believe in the promises. It is now a matter of dedicated missionaries to volunteer for the work and to make themselves available. Combining holidays with missionary work can work well if it is properly organised, as happened in our Stavanger witnessing week (which is another story) and this should be encouraged in the future. I would like to end by thanking John Atkinson, a Methodist, who repeatedly offered us the hospitality of his home and assisted us in setting up our meeting. Please pray for him for he lost his wife and sweetheart only a few weeks before we arrived and yet, despite the fact that he was in deep mourning, reached out to bless and serve us for the Lord's sake. There are others whom I would like to thank who know who they are but whose names I am not publishing for their own protection (from their own churches).
It is my belief that missionary calls will, for the most part from now on, come not through the General Church but through the saints individually.
If any saint feels a call to missionary work he/she should speak with the local apostle for local service, or with the Patriarchate for foreign service. This year we have crossed over to the "isles of the sea" but there are many other places of harvest that must be visited too. Either at the end of this year, or early next year, we shall be visiting the Western Ukraine, and specifically the city of L'viv (L'vov/Lwów/Lemberg). Other places are calling too -- who will stand up and offer themselves for the Lord?
From the Newcastle Evening Chronicle
WEDNESDAY JULY 10 1991, p.13
Six members of the Oslo congregation of the Independent Church of Jesus Christ  which believes in prophecy, are in Newcastle this week to preach their doctrine. The Norwegian visitors, who say their church knew about current strife in Yugoslavia a year ago and the unification of Germany three years before it happened, are meeting the public at Grey's Monument and holding evening lectures at the Ouseburn House community centre near the City Stadium.
Thank you very much for the literature you sent -- reading it has been like emerging from a dark, confusing tunnel and suddenly discovering Light! ...May God bless you and the Independent Church of Jesus Christ for the wonderful scriptures you are distributing. Having said that, could I request some more?...We feel drawn to this Church very strongly by the Spirit and will be supporting your work...From reading these new scriptures I am more than aware of how much more we need to grow in Jesus -- and we greatly desire to serve Him completely -- and prepare ourselves for the coming deceptions and tribulations. I have many questions -- but I'm sure God will answer them in His time...Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faithfulness and love, which God will, and is, blessing. Yours in Christ, (T.C., Sunderland, 17 August 1991)
Thank you for coming to Newcastle to bring your witness of Christ. Please thank the other members of the team on my behalf for taking the trouble to come to us with their witness...Hopefully the time will come when we will be able to meet again...With best wishes, (J.D., Newcastle, 5 August 1991)
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