New Testament Christian Churches of America

New Testament Christian Churches of America
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New Testament Christian Churches of America (NTCC) is a Pentecostal,[1] Evangelical, Trinitarian,[2] Fundamentalist denomination of about 5,000 members, headquartered in Graham, Washington. It was founded in 1969 by former Pentecostal Church of God minister Rodger Wilson Davis.[3][4] The NTCC proselytizing strategy targets military bases, specifically overseas.[5] Many former members say that the NTCC is abusive, cult-like and controlling toward its members.[4] The NTCC does not provide financial statements and its finances are often cash-based.[6]

Contents

History

NTCC was incorporated in 1969 in St. Louis, Missouri, as the New Testament Church of God (NTCG). Its founder was Pentecostal Church of God minister Rodger Wilson Davis. For the first five years of its existence, NTCG affiliated itself with the Independent Pentecostal, or Free Holiness movement.[3] The NTCG leadership eventually severed their ties with all outside churches, ministers, and ministries. They also distanced themselves from all other denominations by requiring that only those who had graduated from their own seminary could minister in their churches, and that their pastors could not maintain positions in any non-NTCG churches.[7] The NTCG seminary was founded by Davis soon after he left the Pentecostal Church of God in 1969, and was incorporated in St. Louis as the Midwestern Bible Institute.[7][8] It was later known as the New Testament Christian (NTC) College, and is currently known as the New Testament Christian Seminary.[7][9]

In 1984, NTCG moved its denominational headquarters from St. Louis to Graham, Washington, and in 1987, the New Testament Christian Seminary followed suit.[2] In the same year, NTCG changed its name to the New Testament Christian Churches of America, Incorporated.[10]

Proselytizing

The NTCC, an evangelical church, believes the Bible is the pure word of God and that NTCC's mission is to change the nature of humanity by spreading the Gospel.[5] Bruce Smith, writing in The Dispatch: The Independent Voice of South Pierce County, Washington, reports that the NTCC focuses its proselytizing efforts at United States Military bases, especially those which are not in the United States, "where single, lonely American soldiers need something more than honky-tonks and bars." Associate pastor Phil Kinson told The Dispatch that the NTCC "provide a home-away-home, and get them out of those filthy, evil barracks."[5] NTCC also sponsors its seminary graduates as missionaries in countries outside the United States such as Germany and the Philippines.[11] The church also sends out teams of volunteers and lay pastors to go door-to-door to invite local residents to attend one of the five services held each week at the Graham NTCC; however, they are instructed to avoid malls because they "respect the privacy of business owners," according to Kinson.[5]

NTCC publishes a monthly magazine called the Trumpet. It contains ministry reports, Bible lessons and other columns written by different authors, predominantly from within NTCC.[12]

Constituency and facilities

Associate pastor Reverend Mike Kekel, CEO of NTCC, has not revealed basic statistics about the NTCC, such as how many churches there are, or how many people attend services. However, The Dispatch estimated that there are perhaps 105 churches and 5,000 church members worldwide.[5] NTCC's official website indicates that it operates churches in England, Germany, Guam, Okinawa Japan, Panama, The Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the Republic of Korea, with a total of 12 churches overseas.[11] NTCC has an estimated 1,500 – 5,000 members and about 93 churches in the United States. Attendance at the Graham NTCC numbers 700–800 for Sunday services, according to Kinson. Membership is racially diverse, with about 40% of the congregants being black and others being from Asian or Hispanic backgrounds.[1]

NTCC owns campground facilities in Santa Fe, Missouri, where ministerial meetings are held.[13][14] The church also operates 12 servicemen's homes near American military bases, most of them in Germany, and the Republic of Korea, but also in the United States, England, and Japan.[6][11] For a fee, they provide unmarried soldiers a home-style alternative to barracks life. NTCC is affiliated with the New Testament Christian Seminary, a non-accredited training school. Many of New Testament Christian Seminary alumni are prior military, or prior military spouses.[1][5]

Cult accusations and cult-like practices

The NTCC is an insular organization and dozens of ex-members of NTCC, including many former ministers, say that the NTCC is a cult. According the Dispatch, church services are used to bully and humiliate members, whose perceived sins are cited during sermons.[4] The Dispatch says that there is rigid control of the relations between men and women especially in the context of courtship,[1][4] and that when members leave the NTCC, current members shun them.[4]

According to The Dispatch reports, sports are discouraged because members are supposed to spend the time serving God, and simple social gatherings such as birthday parties may also be restricted. Historically, television, called "Devil-vision" within the church, and the internet, which was called the "sinner-net," were banned. Women must not wear make-up, must wear dresses and must allow their hair to grow long. Women are prohibited from working if they are married. Even when ordained at the NTCC's Bible Seminary, women are not allowed to run a ministry.[4]

Many ex-members describe a system whereby a young man wanting to date a woman would first have to ask permission of Rev. Davis during a public fellowship service. If Davis approved, he would then move to the women's section and ask the young woman if she would like to court the man. If she concurred, then the couple could "sit along the wall" in pre-arranged chairs and chat. In addition, they would be forbidden to meet outside of this time, although they eventually would be permitted to go on dates with a chaperone.
—Bruce Smith, The Dispatch[4]

The NTCC ministerial leadership engages teenage girls to much older ministerial students, many of whom are in their twenties. Divorce is strongly encouraged when one of the marriage partners leaves the church.[15]

Finances and financial distribution

NTCC members are expected to give 10% of their income to the NTCC and to give "till it hurts" in special collections for missionary programs. Writing for the Pierce County Dispatch, reporter Bruce Smith called the NTCC financial system "murky and mysterious." It is unclear how much money NTCC generates, and top NTCC officials such as associate pastor Phil Kinson have refused to divulge this information. Kinson also refused to say how much money he receives as pastor of the Graham church. However, Greg Shunk, a former NTCC minister who oversaw the three Korean ministries, estimates that NTCC generates up to $6 million per year for the central church leadership. NTCC does not provide financial statements, and it does not belong to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.[6][16] The NTCC relies heavily on a "cash only" system for taking donations. Former ministers and Bible students report that tithes, dormitory fees, tuition, rent and utilities, were all paid in cash to the NTCC.[6]

Expenses to the leadership are minimal, since congregations are expected to support themselves. Pastors are expected to maintain full-time work in addition to their ministerial duties. Ministers receive no finances from the central church coffers to help build their ministries, except for loans to buy land and building materials for new churches. They are expected to repay these loans even though the NTCC organizational office holds the titles to church properties. Local churches are expected to pay rent to the NTCC on their facilities as well, even though they financed them to begin with. The Dispatch also found that, whenever a minister leaves a church, the NTCC absorbs the local escrow account, which may be tens of thousands of dollars, leaving the new minister with no funds.[6]

Up to $100,000 a year is raised for the field missions; however, only $300 of this total is given to each of the field missions per month (or about $43,000 yearly for all 12 missions combined). Many ministers of field missions report that they live in poverty. Other reports show the amount of money given the field missions is even less.[6]

NTCC founder Rodger Wilson Davis reportedly lives in a million-dollar home in Graham that is registered with Pierce County as owned by the NTCC. In February 2004, NTCC gave Davis' son-in-law (Kekel) a 39-acre (160,000 m2) parcel of land next to the NTCC campus in Graham.[17] According to county records, Kekel recently filed an application to build a subdivision of eight lots on this site.[6]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Smith, Bruce, "Life and worship in the New Testament Christian Church", The Dispatch: The Independent Voice of South Pierce County, Washington, accessed June 21, 2010
  2. ^ a b Piety Finds Sanctuary in Graham The News Tribune By Steve Maynard Saturday January [unreadable] 1999, Accessed July 17, 2010
  3. ^ a b New Testament Church of God, filing record, Missouri Secretary of State website, accessed August 15, 2009
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Smith, Bruce, "NTCC: Is it a cult?", The Dispatch: The Independent Voice of South Pierce County, Washington, accessed August 10, 2010
  5. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Bruce, "A look within the "church behind the fence", The Dispatch: The Independent Voice of South Pierce County, Washington, accessed June 21, 2010
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Smith, Bruce, "A deeper look into NTCC - Following the money", The Dispatch: The Independent Voice of South Pierce County, Washington, accessed June 21, 2010
  7. ^ a b c NTCS Student Handbook, SPRING 2006 accessed November 19, 2010
  8. ^ MIDWESTERN BIBLE INSTITUTE Fictitious Registration accessed November 19, 2010
  9. ^ New Testament Christian Seminary handbook accessed November 19, 2010
  10. ^ New Testament Christian Churches of America, Inc., filing record, Missouri Secretary of State website, accessed August 15, 2009 (see list of documents) accessed November 19, 2010
  11. ^ a b c Locator for NTCC churches accessed November 19, 2010
  12. ^ New Testament Christian Church's Print Shop web page, accessed July 18, 2010
  13. ^ NTCC Campground, Santa Fe, Missouri accessed November 19, 2010
  14. ^ Conference Invitation accessed November 19, 2010
  15. ^ Smith, Bruce, "A deeper look: Sexual and marital relationships in the NTCC", The Dispatch: The Independent Voice of South Pierce County, Washington, accessed June 21, 2010
  16. ^ ECFA site search Accessed June 21, 2010
  17. ^ NTCC land gift to Rev. Michael C. Kekel accessed November 19, 2010

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