New Zealand History
Hutt Valley Friends
A history of the friends in Hutt Valley "In Memory of our Dear Friends who lived in the Hutt Valley 1901 - 2006" can be viewed here or downloaded as a pdf at the bottom of this page.
New Zealand Preachers Ralph & Rene Beattie
A history of married workers Ralph and Rene Beattie, written by 2 of their children, is also available for viewing here or can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. Rene wrote 7 hymns in the 1987 edition of Hymns Old and New - 38, 66, 71, 79, 91, 140 & 282.
New Zealand Newspaper Reports
The online availability of old newspapers has allowed research into the early years of the fellowship of friends and workers.
The notes below are a summary of key issues that were apparent after reviewing newspaper reports relating to the fellowship.
Those reports are indexed on the newspaper reports page and can be downloaded from the NZ Files page. Transcripts of some of the more interesting articles are available at Selected News Reports
Commentary on New Zealand Newspaper Articles about the Fellowship
Names & Status
1. There was common usage of the name ‘Testimony of Jesus’ during World War 1. However this was not universal:
During 1917-1924 there were reports of about 22 personal claims to be members of the Testimony of Jesus [ignoring duplicates and official reports].
However 7 other member reports comment
· …not belong to any particular denomination;
· …belonged to no specified religious organisation. He was a follower of Christ. Their church had no name;
· … was not an organised religious body and had no name.
· …said he was a minister of the gospel, but was not ordained or attached to any particular church;
· …said their denomination had no particular name;
· …sect had no definite name;
· they called themselves Christians among themselves but were known outside under the name mentioned by Counsel.
2. In 1926 a news report referred to the Cooneyite Convention. This prompted a letter to the editor from Wilson McClung, Evangelist, [actually overseer of New Zealand]:
We believe that to take any name but that of “Christian” would be dishonouring Him who shed His precious blood to redeem us, therefore this is the only name we can acknowledge. Edward Cooney is one of the evangelists in fellowship with us but was not amongst the earliest workers of the movement. A number of the originators, dissatisfied with present-day methods, sought to get back to the Scriptural way of serving God, both for preachers and people, hence our present existence.
3. During WW2 the commonly used name was ‘Christian Assemblies of Australia and New Zealand’, or ‘Christian Assembly’, or ‘Fellowship of Christian Assemblies’ or ‘Christian Assemblies of God’.
However 6 references did not use this title:
· One member was described by his counsel as an ordained minister of a body of Christians who had no churches and no name as a denomination.
· …another minister, said the body … abided by the New Testament and consequently simply called themselves Christians.
· …belonged to a sect which called themselves Christians;
· …belonged to an organisation known as Christians.
· …member of a sect called Christians;
· …a member of the sect of Christians.
4. A number of the reports call the person [worker] an ‘Ordained Minister’.
5. Several reports refer to Rev. Thomas Monteith and Rev. William Hughes. It is not known whether Monteith & Hughes adopted this title or whether it was just used by the newspaper reporter.
6. One worker noted: “I am a minister in the ordinary way preaching the Gospel. We are recognised as ministers of the Gospel in England and are exempt from military service. We also have exemption as ministers of the Gospel from paying the levy here. A copy of a letter advising of the exemption given in England was in the possession of a brother worker in Masterton.
Attitude to the War
1. In both world wars most members of the fellowship refused to do military service, or to even do non-combatant service (such as ambulance work). It was frequently noted that this was not a tenet of the organisation but was left to each person’s individual conscience. However the authorities noted that it was unusual that 97% of the eligible men had objected if there was no teaching by the organisation on the matter.
Because it was left to individual conscience and was not part of the organisation’s beliefs, the members could not receive automatic exemption as the Quakers and Christadelphians did.
2. Wilson McClung (WW1) and Willie Hughes (WW2), as overseers, lobbied parliamentarians for members to be exempted from military service. This resulted in mention of the Testimony of Jesus (WW1) and Christian Assemblies (WW2) in Parliament.
3. In WW1 several members were imprisoned in very harsh conditions because of their refusal to submit to military orders. David Gray was forcibly shipped to England & France with 13 other objectors, where some were taken to the front line for service.
4. In WW2 some members had successful appeals against military service but many members were held in detention camps for several years and only released months after the war finished.
5. It is known that at least 2 members served as medics in the war.
6. It was claimed that the fellowship was recognised in England by the War Office and preachers exempted from military service.
7. In 1924 a magistrate referred to a letter he received from the founder of the faith. He said that this letter showed how insincere the applicants had been. It stated that the founder was a true Briton and was willing to shed his last drop of blood for his country and that he was very annoyed to think that any of his followers should make their faith an excuse for trying to evade service. Presumably this was a letter from William Irvine, who had been separated from the fellowship from 1914 onwards. Irvine's thoughts on military service are stated in a 1923 letter.
1. The newspaper reports are not a reliable record of the testimony offered at the hearings. It is likely that the more unusual statements would be published more readily. However several comments are notable:
· 1942 …he had not had a smoke or a drink or a swear for 12 years, and the only books he had read were the Bible and a manual on beekeeping.
· 1945 …he did not go to pictures or dances, he did not drink and had given up all worldly pleasures as they would crowd out Christ if he indulged them.
· 1945 …he had renounced worldly pleasures to follow Christ.
· 1945 …he decided to give up all the pleasures of the world and follow in the footsteps of the Master after becoming a member of the Christian Assembly.
2. Comments from friends include:
· Witness said their preachers were evangelists who gave everything they had to the poor and went about preaching.
· 1941 The preachers went out two by two, took no salary and had no homes.
3. Comments from workers include:
· 1920 …were just followers of Christ. For constitution they had nothing but the teachings of the New Testament. … Christ and His apostles were the true interpreters of Scripture.
· 1926 A number of the originators, dissatisfied with present-day methods, sought to get back to the Scriptural way of serving God, both for preachers and people, hence our present existence.
· 1940 The organisation had no buildings of its own. No salaries were paid and the workers relied on donations...
The appellant: I wanted to go preaching and I asked Mr. McClung, and he appointed me.
· 1941 …the body … abided by the New Testament and consequently simply called themselves Christians.
· 1945 …there was no definite attitude on the part of the organisation toward the question [of non-combatant service]; it was left to individual conscience.
there was no special guidance on the question, offered by the organisation.
· 1945 Our Fellowship does not preach against war and we are anxious to do all we can to help. We believe in the freedom of the individual conscience.
1. 1907 UK Court case: Fellowship 9 years in existence and 350 members.
2. 1907: Started in 1898 when Irvine left Faith Mission to preach alone.
3. 1917: member of Testimony of Jesus, which had been in existence since the year 1.
4. In 1926, Wilson McClung commented: Edward Cooney is one of the evangelists in fellowship with us but was not amongst the earliest workers of the movement. A number of the originators, dissatisfied with present-day methods, sought to get back to the Scriptural way of serving God, both for preachers and people, hence our present existence.
5. 1923 Mr Hanna, Counsel for an applicant, said the applicant belonged to a religious body known to the military authorities as the “Testimony of Jesus.” The body had no name otherwise, but it was world-wide in membership and tenets had been subscribed to for centuries.
6. Others commented:
· 1917: denomination had been formed 7 years ago.
· 1917: Testimony of Jesus established in NZ 12 years
· He did not know who founded the sect, nor when it was started. He had been a member for 11 years. He knew very little about its history but knew it had existed for a very long while.
· 1941 …has been in existence… from the beginning of time.
1. 1907 UK Court case: Fellowship 9 years in existence and 350 members.
2. 1907: Up to 1907 Irvine had sent 114 preachers to USA/Canada, ~20 to Sth Africa and 6 to NZ/Australia.
3. 1910: Annual convention of >1000 at Crocknacrieve, Fermanagh.
4. 1917: 700-800 NZ members & 24 evangelists; 2500 members & 74 evangelists in Australia; 5000 members and 70 evangelists in England.
5. 1920: 1200 NZ members
6. 1921: 1200-1300 in NZ; 150 in Auckland.