New Zealand United Church of God gets full-time elder

The writer is a member of the United Church of God and distributor of The Journal for New Zealand.

By Bruce Porteous

AUCKLAND, New Zealand--The New Zealand membership of the United Church of God, an International Association, is happy that Jeff Caudle has obtained immigration approval to take up residence in the country as a full-time minister. It is expected that Mr. and Mrs. Caudle and family will move here before the end of the year.

Since the UCG began in New Zealand after the Feast in 1995, the New Zealand members have come under the responsibility of ministers based in overseas countries. The first minister appointed by the council of elders (based near Cincinnati, Ohio) was the late David House, who traveled from the United Kingdom to assist with establishing the first elected board (there had been a transitional board set up earlier by UCG Australia).

Mr. House traveled around the country, answering questions from those who had left the Worldwide Church of God about the UCG and the doctrinal changes that the WCG had introduced.

Mr. House's responsibilities were taken over by South African­based UCG minister Peter Hawkins, who was appointed by the council of elders as the New Zealand pastor after the Feast of Tabernacles in 1996. The Hawkinses had planned to migrate to New Zealand, but their application to migrate was rejected by New Zealand immigration authorities after a drawn-out process.

It was then decided in 1998 by the council to have Sydney, Australia­based UCG pastor Bruce Dean take over the pastoral responsibilities of the New Zealand church, until a full-time pastor could be found. This would enable more ministerial visits from Australia.

Over the last 18 months Mr. Dean has made several visits to New Zealand from Sydney to attend board meetings and see to the pastoral needs of the New Zealand church.

With the help of Mr. Dean and its ministerial-services department, the UCG-AIA advertised for a full-time pastor for the New Zealand church. The only application for the position was Texas-based UCG minister Jeff Caudle.

Mr. Caudle has considerable international experience, having spent several years in Thailand while in the WCG.

The New Zealand church has been unusual in that there were no ministers who left the WCG over the apostate teachings.

Members became scattered into many of the Church of God groups. The UCG came together with a few former WCG New Zealand members and several new immigrants to the country.

The church has remained stable and has been fortunate in having a number of older members and five Ambassador graduates as members.

An opinion has been expressed among some of those who have left the WCG in other countries that there is no need for a church pastor.

Here in New Zealand we have not had a resident minister since United began. We have a board with a majority of lay members.

From our experience, being in a church without a minister is like a society without a doctor, a lawyer or a dentist, but even more so.

The pastor is the glue that holds the congregation together.

He is the person whom individual members can confide in, to counsel with, to arbitrate differences between members, to provide spiritual guidance.

The local church pastor should be the most important person in any God-fearing society and held in respect by all. We would all acknowledge the need for having a doctor, dentist accountant or motor mechanic to enable society to function properly, yet the most important office of any society for its spiritual well-being is its pastor.

As society at large has rejected the need for spiritual guidance from a trained ministry, are we in danger of doing the same thing?

Now we have the opportunity of having our own pastor. Without a local pastor, we as a congregation would not grow either individually or as a body. We have been like a school without a teacher.

Yes, you can learn from tapes and videos, personal study, etc., but this is not the same as having a local pastor. We might even be able to remain individually spiritually faithful till the return of Jesus or to our death, but I doubt that we would have grown to become like our Savior.

The New Zealand church has continued doing the work, building up the Good News mailing list to approaching 2,000 subscribers and developing an increasing interest in the church and what it stands for.

We are receiving requests for more information about where people can attend for services, and we need a full-time pastor to follow up on these new inquiries.

It will take time for the New Zealand brethren to regain the trust and confidence in a local pastor, after their experiences with the willingness of the WCG ministry here to embrace the new teachings.

There may be some who may have difficulty in submitting to the authority of the office of church pastor.

Yet, without a pastor we as a church were going nowhere and would eventually wither and die as a group.

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