A thesis: Subsequence, Prophecy and Church Order in the Apostolic Church, New Zealand

by W. Luke Worsfold 2004

ABSTRACT

SUBSEQUENCE, PROPHECY AND CHURCH ORDER IN THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH, NEW ZEALAND

The Apostolic Church of New Zealand forms a distinct group within the pentecostal movement on account of its practice of “divine government.” The revelation of the restoration of apostle and prophet ministry, which originally came to the founders in the UK, served to establish a denomination which espoused prophetic guidance in matters of praxis and doctrine.

The purpose of this thesis has been to critique the Apostolic Church’s understanding of not only the doctrine of subsequence (i.e. Spirit-baptism is logically distinct from and subsequent to salvation) but the function of the prophetic and its effect on the organisational structure and operation of the church. A major focus of the early Apostolic churchmen was a defence of subsequence.

Widespread mainstream opposition ensured pentecostals endured an isolation which served to reinforce their determination to validate the empowerment that they had experienced. As the need for polemic reduced, the emphasis shifted to promoting the gift of the Spirit as a missionary endowment.

Methodist-Holiness teaching formed the basis for the early influences on pentecostal theology and as such promoted a verifiable work of the Spirit given in response to seeking. The challenge and influence from the Latter Rain and Charismatic movements saw the bestowal of the gift without an attendant period of tarrying. While this brought a universality to the experience, it did so at the expense of depth or intensity, with a resulting weakening in the expression of prophecy.

An assessment of the view of prophecy held by the early Apostolic churchmen shows that too high a level of inspiration was often credited to prophetic utterance. The possibility of human frailty corrupting the purposes of God was not countenanced to any great degree, with the result that flawed or outright erroneous decisions proceeded unchallenged: in this the role of the apostle was under-exercised.

The combination of a high view of prophecy and a decreasing quality of utterance over time affected the level of guidance available to the movement. The operation of the apostle necessarily changed: previously concerned with outworking the “Word of the Lord,” the function of the apostle became limited to that of superintendent minister.

The inability of the first and second generation Apostolics to recognise their schismatic origins perpetuated the rigid adherence to centralism, believing it to be the divine pattern. Centralised control manifested in two spheres: finance and personnel. Initially, when the movement was small, centralism was an expedient philosophy; however, its usefulness was soon outgrown. A retarding factor for the Apostolic Church has been the lack of autonomy afforded local assemblies and the ineptitude of the centralised government, which frequently mismatched men and their roles.

Currently, there exists a trend towards relationship-based apostleship, utilising the concept of networks. A particular subset of this system is the church plant where a natural line of authority exists between it and the parent church. Prophecy operating in this situation confines itself to expansion, and avoids the problem, evident in previous years, of centralised revelation initiating the relocation of personnel.

The Apostolic Church will survive the 21st century by allowing greater autonomy, with the apostolic function and the prophetic voice finding expression primarily through the local assembly.

Acknowledgements: thanks to our reader I Flemming NZ making us aware of this document

 

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