Introduction. This article has been made for concerned people who may have read or heard about NCCG in an unfriendly newspaper, a web-site not produced by NCCG, or scare stories from someone else, and would like some factual information and reassurance. The following does not claim to be an exhaustive statement of NCCG beliefs and was prepared at the request of a Swedish newspaper to state the 'fundamentals' of what we currently stand for, practice and believe in. The emphases have been laid in certain areas in response to a series of questions that were asked us. The purpose of this has been to give a general overview of both our history and current activities within that framework.
A. Origins. NCCG initially began, under the name 'Restoration Christian Fellowship' (RCF), as a single congregation in Oxford, England, in 1986 to help people coming out of Mormonism and into Biblical Christianity. The current NCCG is all but unrecognisable when compared to the early RCF, having undergone enormous theological changes, the largest and latest taking place in 1999 when it became a Hebraic-Roots association of congregations. The church it most closely resembles today is the United Church of God (UCG). We recommend that isolated NCCG members, or those who do not want to join NCCG, for now fellowship at UCG.
B. The Scope. NCCG is a small international fellowship of believers numbering upwards of about three to five thousand members. The majority of the congregations are located in Andhra Pradesh (AP) State, India, with congregations in other parts of India including Mumbai (Bombay) and the south. Members and investigators are currently (2006) to be found in every continent of the world except South America.
C. Humanitarian Work. NCCG runs a number of orphanages as part of our work to alleviate poverty and sickness in AP, and previously operated an AIDS clinic and medical centre in Chenai (Madras), south India, in cooperation with another denomination, the Church of Christ, under the late physician and pastor, Dr. Monei. Though primarily concerned with rescuing and looking after unwanted and discarded babies, latterly the orphanage received some refugee Tamil children from the civil war in Sri Lanka. No distinction was made between religious affinity and the orphanages received and looked after Hindus, Moslems and Christians. The work was recognised by the local authorities in Tamil Nadu who provided land for the planned new AIDS clinic. With the death of Dr.Monei and his wife, management of the orphanage and medical centre passed back to the local Church of Christ board of directors and NCCG redirected its efforts to its own newly forming congregations and orphanages in AP. Funding of these comes mainly through the Indian Rotary Clubs (at least in Tamil Nadu State), our own fund raising efforts on the internet, donations from members, and other concerned benefactors and well-wishers. Funds usually go direct to the place of need from source.
D. Organisation, Places of Worship and Evangelism. NCCG as a denomination began as a very centralised organisation but in later years has become almost totally decentralised with individuals, house groups, congregations and national churches operating independently of headquarters and one another. Only in Africa and India have we actually constructed simple makeshift houses of worship where the size of congregations warrants such. We are otherwise small house groups. The church buildings often become victims of seasonal monsoons, floods, and other violent acts of nature. Congregations, when fully organised, are led by a Pastor and Pastress (who serve as the spiritual father and mother of the congregation) assisted by two men and two women counsellors.
E. International Location, Recruitment and Local Practice. NCCG-India is run autonomously by an elected board of pastors from the 50 or so congregations there under the overseership of Bishop Vara Prasad. Evangelism in India is conducted by means of outdoor preaching in rural districts as is the tradition there, and the same is also true of the work in Africa and Asia. Most recruiting in America and Europe is, for the time being, done through the Internet for lack of resources and a large enough missionary force. Small groups and individuals are to be found in the USA, Africa (mostly Rwanda and Kenya), Asia (mostly the Philippines and Australia) and elsewhere in Europe. There is one small congregation in Arvika, Sweden, where our international office is located, with a few members and friends in west and south Sweden and Norway. Membership is given to anyone who accepts Yah'shua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) as their personal Lord and Saviour, and accepts and understands the Apostles' Creed (see below). After a year of studying the Bible and being satisfied that they accept the doctrines and practices of NCCG, and living the Christian life wherever they happen to be located, baptised members may become full members through the ordinance of Confirmation (Chrism) which involves the the laying on of hands and prayer common to many other churches. Confirmed members may partake of the Lord's Supper and become candidates for Priesthood ordination if they choose. Baptised members who decide they do not want to become full members are encouraged to find other churches in which to fellowship. We accept the validity of baptisms into Christ performed by other churches.
F. Headquarters. The office in Sweden is primarily concerned with publications and providing online fellowship and education using the internet for scattered members and investigators, training prospective pastors, and holding small group-conferences throughout the year. Occasionally baptisms are performed for visitors. NCCG was originally headquartered in Norway (from 1988) but moved to Sweden (in 1997) for a number of reasons, chief of which was the location of a suitably large building for our international office and conferences at an affordable price. Headquarters is organised as a cooperative of several families and some senior citizens (old age pensioners) and serves as a small congregation in its own right. Currently there are three single-parent families and one single adult who form the core of the community, who manage the office, take care of the old people (until recently three, now only one owing to illness and death), manage conferences and training, look after the grounds, and homeschool their children. A variety of visitors - singe and married, members and non-members - come to stay at headquarters for shorter or longer periods of time to voluntarily assist in the work or just to visit, especially in the busy spring, summer and autumn periods. They come and go as they please and are restricted only by the availablity of accommodation. With the expansion of international evangelism more families are expected to come and settle to assist in the work.
G. Finances. The work of NCCG is financed by voluntary donations at home and abroad in the form of tithes or free will offerings. Because the bulk of the membership is poor and rural, and because we believe in a simple lifestyle augmented by the growing of our own food when possible, the membership internationally generally lives frugally and unostentatiously. We disdain and are repelled by the decadence of many of the TV evangelists. Headquarters, being a cooperative, has joint finances and was funded (until 1999) by salaries and the sale of more expensive properties owned in the cities prior to relocation, and since then additionally by the pensions and small incomes of its members. We encourage congregations to work cooperatively like NCCG headquarters, farm wherever possible, and until recently assist the poorer congregations by investing in Green Planet International (GPI) which supported agricultural projects in Third World countries until it ceased operations. When many people share resources, it is possible to live inexpensively as well as enjoy good fellowship. It is up to members to choose whether they live cooperatively or separately or to enjoy the benefits of both.
H. Bible and Creed. NCCG is a fellowship of believers who accept the Protestant Canon of Scripture (the Bible) and the Apostles' Creed common to all Christendom (the only formal creed we have) with whom we share a common identity in the basics of faith. We have no favoured Bible translation and use a variety of those commonly published. The New King James Version (NKJV) and the Hebraic-Roots Version (HRV) are currently the most popular though the New International Version (NIV), the Institute for Scripture Research Version (ISRV) and Restoration Scriptures True Name Edition (RSTNE) are also much used.
I. Theology. NCCG theology has evolved considerably over the years as the result of the study and input of its members, as typically happens in most denominations. Though it is always difficult and not always desirable to apply commonly used labels, it is probably true to say in the 'broad sweep' that we now steer a course midway between evangelical Christianity and the Messianic movement. If one were to draw a line representing a theological spectrum, with two end points and a mid one, and using other denominations as illustrations, then at the one theological end you would fine something akin to the Methodist Church, at the other end Two House Messianic Israelism (though we reject Zionism and do not believe the modern-day Republic of Israel is biblical 'Israel'), and in the middle a blend of Seventh-Day Adventism (SDA) and the beliefs and practices of the United Church of God (UCG). In a nutshell, we believe in salvation by faith (not works) with a fruit of this being obedience to the commandments (New Covenant Torah) including the seventh-day Sabbath, eating kosher food, and observing the seven annual festivals of Yahweh (God). We believe that all true believers constitute 'Israel' and that we belong to a nation (Israel), currently without territory or borders, which will come into existence when Yah'shua (Jesus) returns and sets up His Millennium Kingdom. In the meantime, we regard ourselves as a diaspora in the nations of the world.
J. Salvation and Truth. A person is saved and goes to heaven purely on the basis of a personal committment to Christ. Salvation is therefore independent of churches or groups. NCCG rejects the need for a church or sacraments (as in Roman Catholicism or Greek Orthodoxy) for a soul to be saved, and does not accept therefore that there is such a thing as a "one and only true church". Obviously we believe we are the most accurate representation of Christianity otherwise we would belong to other churches, just as Social Democrats believe that the best politics is to be found in their own party and not another one. People come and go to NCCG as they do to all churches based on free choice and personal conviction based on what they believe the truth to be. We bless them whether they stay or go since we believe that salvation is in a Divine Person (Christ), not an organisation.
K. The Olive Branch. As a contemporary prophetic community, NCCG believes in continuing inspiration and has recorded many of its experiences in a volume called the Olive Branch. Acceptance of the book is not required to be a baptised member of NCCG. It is regarded by full members as secondary scripture (in the form of conceptual revelation) for the guidance of the ministry but in a fully secondary position to the Bible (which is regarded as verbal-plenary and primary revelation in the original autographs). The Olive Branch is essentially an amplification of biblical principles and contains an extensive biblical dictionary. Acceptance of the Olive Branch is not required for salvation.
L. The Family. We believe that the family unit is the cornerstone not only of New Covenant Messianic Israel but also of society. As such, then, we preach the centrality of the nuclear family with monogamy as the normative lifestyle. We believe that men and women are equal in the reception of salvation but that Yahweh (God) has given men and women different biological and spiritual rôles (as in fathering and mothering). When people join NCCG they do so on the basis of accepting these scriptural rôles which includes headship of the father and husband in the home. Those who do not believe in this are free to join other churches which teach other models.
M. Agency and Change. We believe in the absolute necessity of human free agency, freedom of speech and the right to practice one's own religious beliefs, including the right to criticise other people's beliefs in a spirit of mutual respect. As a spiritual community we encourage free enquiry within the framework in which our community has been founded (the Bible and the Apostles' Creed), as is true of every religious, political and secular society or organisation. The fact that NCCG has changed so much over the years is reflective of this principle of free enquiry, and doubtless it will continue to change. The move from a central administration to autonomy of local congregations is one such practical change. The ordination of women is another. And finally, our theological belief that the Godhead consists of both male (Father and Son) and female (Ruach haQodesh/Holy Spirit) Deity which has shaped much of our latest theology revealing that man and woman are made in the image of the respective male and female components of the Godhead. We are very different from what we were when we first began 20 years ago.
N. Marriage. We believe that men and women should be free to choose their own marriage partners, that parents have the duty to guide their children, but the final choice is the children's. We accept that people not of our religious society are free to choose the lifestyle they want, biblical and non-biblical. We do not believe in forced, arranged, under-age or child marriages. In those countries where we make converts where such practices are cultually accepted, we give the converts the right to separate if they have been compelled to marry under duress and against their free will. We do not believe in circumcision, male or female (clitorectomy), and whilst we leave male cicumcision as a choice for male converts, we forbid clitorectomy which we consider to be mutilation and an abuse of women. We believe circumcision belongs to the Old Covenant and not the New and in this respect are fundamentally different from Messianic Jews. Because the Bible accepts polygamy, we have accepted polygamous families into membership in countries such as Kenya where we have a number of autonomous congregations where this lifestyle is commonly practiced. If the polygamous marriage was arranged or forced, we give the women the choice to leave if they so choose because we do not believe in any kind of marriage by force. Some of our initial polygamous congregations left our association because of our insistance that the practice of cliterectomy be stopped. Our policy is not dissimilar to that of the Swedish State which some years ago allowed a native Swede to marry two East Africans because this was the desire of the parties concerned and because this was an accepted part of that culture. Even though polygamy is beginning to be legalised in the West as an alternative to monogamy (Holland has decriminalised it), along with same-sex partnerships, we discourage this practice as a general rule and will continue to do so even should Western countries legalise it.
O. Schooling. We believe it is the right of parents to choose the way in which they want their children to be schooled, as is guaranteed by both EU Law and the UN Charter. My two eldest children were raised in the Swedish State School system and the majority of our members' children are raised in the state schools of their home countries. There are many, however, who prefer the homeschooling option which is becoming increasingly popular all over the world. In particular, homeschooling offers certain advantages to both pupils and parents - and especially single-parent mothers - who may wish to have a career and some mobility. We anticipate more and more NCCG parents choosing this system of schooling for a variety of reasons. These include avoiding school bullying, profanity, and the worsening drug culture, the teaching and imposition of philosophical beliefs contrary to our own, and so on. Many parents rightly point out that the whole concept of state schooling was invented by the Prussian military state in order to brainwash its citizens from an early age into becoming slaves of the state (of which fascism and communism are the regrettable products). Since we believe in pluralism, we believe that variety of choice is the best way to preserve the freedom and democratic rights of the individual and we aim to encourage a broader experience of life thereby. This includes the teaching of comparitive religion and different views of origins. The single-parent families of NCCG headquarters in Sweden have chosen homeschooling for both the reasons given above as well as because they desire a multilingual and multicultural education for their children and because they have chosen a form of education rooted in the English system with English as the primary language. The children are trilingual and weekly assessed and examined using an internationally accredited examination system in English under the auspices of TEACH (which is recognised by the EU) so that they can be advantaged for higher education, if they desire it, in an English-speaking country like the UK or USA. They will also take the Swedish examinations when they are 16, as required by the law in this country, should they wish to make use of higher Swedish education. Because of the nature of the lifestyle at NCCG headquarters, which is often punctuated during the year by conferences and teaching seminars, in addition to the fact that we celebrate holidays at different times of the year and the parents often travel abroad, taking their children with them, homeschooling is the most sensible option for us, giving working mothers the freedom they desire as well as maximising the children's skills to enable them to successfully interact in the international global village where English is the first language.
P. Abusive Cults and Satanism. Since about 2001 NCCG has been involved in helping people get free of physically and psychologically abusive cults, a ministry that was virtually thrust on us when we began to get requests for help from men and women trapped in a nighmare of sadomasochistic torture, rape and even murder that forms the underground world of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). This is a very controversial subject and a great deal of effort has been put into debunking it or explaining it away as a function of other processes and experiences by both those with an agenda as well as those who are sincere but misinformed. (Obviously if it is true, those practicing it have a strong interest in debunking it and discrediting those who try to expose it like ourselves). Personally, I wish it never existed as the world would be a much happier place without it, but I have met so many people who have experienced such similar things that I find it impossible to deny. The victims have few people they can turn to for help because few believe them. They are truly called 'society's outcasts' because few will believe them and even fewer will risk their necks to help them. Many investigators of SRA, Christians and non-Christians, have 'disappeared' or died in mysterious circumstances. Were it not for these people I would probably have believed all the spin that is put out on the net debunking it. As this is a huge subject, the reader is referred to the many websites on the subject such as:
Not until we began helping the victims of SRA did we start becoming the recipients of threats and the target of a slur campaign, for obviously those perpetrating such acts of barbarism do not wish to be discovered or exposed. This latter ministry has completely changed the work of NCCG as we know it and made it highly controversial, and even though it is only headquarters and one or two other members and congregations who are involved with us in helping these victims, it has assumed a size out of all proportion in the the public eye to the main work of NCCG, which remains international evangelism and discipleship.
Q. Demons. As our earlier writings will attest, the subject of demons and demonisation did not figure very greatly in our teachings, and it was not until we became involved in helping SRA victims that we were forced to examine the subject more carefully. Irrespective of whether you believe there are such things as 'demons' or whether you attempt to explain 'abnormal' human behaviour by means of secular psychology (such as 'hearing voices in one's head'), two things are important to note. Firstly, SRA victims are suffering and need help - many of them are driven to suicide because of their nightmarish experiences. Secondly, both secular psychiatry and some Christian ministries have acquired bad reputations because the assistance they give can sometimes not only be usless but actually harmful. Swedish psychiatry has come under heavy attack recently, especially in the aftermath of the Anna Lindh murder, for its failure to help patients:
We recognise the value of both when done with understanding and knowledge. We do not perform what are called 'exorcisms' in NCCG, as the popular press calls it, but simply help people work through their traumas by discussing their experiences, loving and accepting them as people, and praying for them, or sending them to professional counsellors. Our resources do not, in any case, allow us to handle more than one or two clients at a time as committment requiring several years of care is usually needed.
R. Servanthood. One of the core teachings of Christianity is voluntary mutual service or servanthood. Yah'shua (Jesus) is the example of servanthood whose life as believers we seek to imitate in every way. We believe that Yah'shua (Jesus) as the Deliverer makes of everyone freemen and freewomen, and that that freedom impells us to forget self and serve our brethren and sisters to the best of ability to make life worthwhile and enjoyable.