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Restoring the Kingdom – book review

10 October 2011

Restoring the KingdomRestoring the Kingdom by Andrew Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m writing a book, with John de Gruchy, on the rise and decline of the charismatic renewal movement in South Africa, and one of the influences on it was what Andrew Walker in this book calls the Restoration Movement, and was at one time called, by some, the House Church Movement, but which now seems to be called The British New Church Movement.

The charismatic renewal was a worldwide movement that reached its peak in the 1970s, in which Pentecostal phenomena, such as speaking in tongues, appeared in non-Pentecostal churches, such as Anglicans, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Baptists and others.

I found this book particularly useful, as it provides a history of the movement including its relationship the the charismatic renewal in Britain, and to the “shepherding movement” in the United States. The main aim of the Restoration Movement was to prepare for God’s coming Kingdom by restoring the New Testament Church and its ministries.

It could be said that the Restoration Movement is the result of the influence of the charismatic renewal movement on the Plymouth Brethren, though it generally appeared a few decadees before it appeared in other Christian groups. The Plymouth Brethren had been influenced from the start by the dispensationalist teaching of John Nelson Darby, which divided history into various periods, and asserted that things like speaking in tongues disappeared once the canon of scripture was complete, so that Pentecostal phenomena could not be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Thus many of the founders of the Restoration Movement were ex-members of the Plymouth Brethren.

The Restoration Movement retained some aspects of Brethren teaching, however, such as their opposition to what they called “denominationalism”.

The path of the Restoration Movement briefly crossed that of the charismatic renewal in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but they parted ways when the Restoration leaders maintained that “denominations” could not be renewed, and that true Christians should “come out” of them, leading to accusations that they were “proselytising” and “sheep stealing”.

Some of their teaching was also linked with that of the “shepherding movement” in the USA, especially the teaching on the restoration of the ministry of apostles as describerd in Ephesians chapter 4, and their doctrine of “covering”, in which each Christian had to be accountable to someone who was over them in the Lord, so children were accountable to parents, wives to husbands, husbands to their local elders and the elders to the apostles. The apostles covered each other. This was taught by people like Ern Baxter, Derek Prince and Bob Mumford in the USA, and they also visited the UK and influenced the Restoration Movement there with this teaching.

This approach tended to be very authoritarian, though, as Walker notes, in 1976 the Restoration Movement split into two branches, which he called R1 and R2, and the R1 tended to be more authoritarian than R2. The authoritarianism was well expressed by Derek Prince when he said “We do not obey those in authority because they are right, we obey them because they are in authority.”

In South Africa the Restoration Movement did not appear in the same form as it had in Britain, but it did have considerable influence on the charismatic renewal movement. Leaders from the Restoration Movement in the UK and the “shepeherding movement” in the USA visited South Africa and spoke at charismatic renewal conferences, and tapes with their teaching circulated more widely. One result was the formation of several new Neopentecostal denominations, often caused by groups breaking away from other denominations. Many of these new denominations were also influenced by things other than the Restoration Movement, such as prosperity teaching, and so the Restoration teaching was mostly present in diluted form.

One of the things that the Restoration Movement claimed to be opposed to was “denominationalism” and so its leaders insisted that it was not a new denomination, but was simply the Kingdom of God. Some of the Neopentecostal churches that had been influenced by its teaching claimed to be “nondenominational”. This was regarded as disingenuous by those in other denominations.

Walker tries to deal with this in his book in a chapter headed “Is the Restoration Movement a denomination?”

In a way this is the least satisfactory part of the book, because the word “denomination” has several different meanings. Walker uses it in the sociological sense, where sociologists of religion classify religious bodies as “churches”, “denominations” or “sects” according to various criteria. The problem is that the sociological classification does not match the ecclesiological classification, and the differing ecclesiologies of different groups classify them differently. So the denominations that the Restoration Movement distinguishes itself from would probably regard the Restoration Movement as yet another denomination, or series of denominations, having its own recognised leaders, its own distincive teachings, and regarding themselves as distinct from other Christian groups.

I suspect that most “denominational” Christians would think of a “sect” as a smaller group that splits from one denomination, either because of a quarrel, a personality clash, or a doctrinal or policy disagreement, and continues to define itself largely in contrast to the body it broke away from. This differs from the sociological understanding.

Like me, Andrew Walker is a member of the Orthodox Church, and in many ways Orthodox ecclesiology is closer to that of the Restoration Movement than to that of the “denominations”, in the sense that the Orthodox Church does not regard itself as a denomination, but as the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. The Orthodox Church too rejects denominationalism, though possibly for different reasons than those of the Restoration Movement. From the Orthodox point of view, “denominationalism” is the understanding that Christianity is one entity of the large class “religion” and that Christianity is a religion composed of smaller units called denominations. The sociological categories are not the same as the ecclesiological categories, and there are several ecclesiological categories that differ from one another.

Another similarity that Walker does not mention, but which strikes me as quite interesting, is that the Restoration Movement is trying to restore some things that have been lost or neglected in Western Christianity, but have continued in Orthodoxy. The “shepherding” relationship seems to have some relationship with the Orthodox notion of having a “spiritual father” (or in some cases, mother, though the Restoration Movement or at least the R1 version of it, seems to insist on male leadership in this).

Yet another is that the Restorationist doctrine of “covering” seems to have some parallels with the Orthodox understanding of “jurisdiction” referring to the spiritual authority of a bishop or patriarch. In some parts of the world, where there are overlapping episcopal jurisdictions, Orthodox Christians might ask “What is your jurisdiction?” in almost exactly the same way as a Restorationist might ask “Who is covering you?”

Walker also notes that the Restoration Movement is sometimes called the “House Church Movement”, and that this is a misnomer for two reasons: firstly, though house churches were quite common in the early days of the Restoration Movement, they are now the exception rather than the rule, and secondly because house churches were far wider than the Restoration Movement.

One example of the latter might be the house churches in Anglican parishes in England and elsewhere. This “house church movement” grew in the 1940s and 1950s, and was not linked either to the Restoration Movement or to the charismatic renewal, at least not in its beginnings. There was a similar movement in the Roman Catholic Church called “Basic Christian Communities”.

But there were also some unattached house groups in the UK, or some that were loosely attached to Baptist, Evangelical or Pentecostal churches. Walker explains that some of these house churches got involved in the charismatic renewal, and that when, through that, they were exposed to Restorationist teaching, some of them asked one or other Restorationist apostles for “covering”.

All this makes the book very useful to me. Though it doesn’t mention South Africa more than twice, and then only in passing, it does help to make some aspects of the charismatic renewal in South Africa much clearer.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 October 2011 6:06 am

    I was interested to note the term “Restoration Movement”. I am familiar with this name as the name connected to the Churches of Christ.

    I had my own experience of the Pentecostal movement, predominantly, back in the 70s and 80s. Shepherding operated over here. Ian Shelton (see this site led a group that tracked back to a fellow in the USA – but it was not one of the names you gave. I heard some years later this particular part of the shepherding movement fell to pieces because the leader (who I think was living in Australia) was caught out in the matter of adultery. I can’t confirm this last statement accurately since the memory could be hazy. However, I pass this on in case you have the need to enquire into the Australian situation. It might provide some sort of starting point.

    The shepherding business I found thoroughly peculiar since, in essence, it claimed more authority than the Pope in Rome. While Popes are often given or claim more authority than they are actually entitled to, their authority is circumscribed and canon law may give entitlements to lay people which can be claimed to safeguard them from false and overbearing claims of authority. Needless to say, the shepherding movement provided no such safeguards. To me, it gave the possibility of great power to shepherds which seemed to me cultic. However, I always found Shelton OK and had no reason to consider that he carried out his responsibilities conscientiously … but I didn’t hang around long enough to gain wide experience. It was a bit much for me – as I think you could imagine.

    The period I describe was before the Houstons, father and son, arrived in Australia from New Zealand. That influence has been widespread not only in Australia but internationally in the modern Pentecostal movement. Its influence has not been without controversy. And there is much that is open to question.

    • 10 October 2011 10:57 am

      Bob Mumford and Ern Baxter were two of the instigators of the Shepherding movement in the USA. Eventually called the “Ft. Lauderdale Five”, the main leaders besides Mumford and Baxter, were Derek Prince (Assemblies of God), Don Basham (Disciples of Christ), and Charles Simpson (Southern Baptist). I think the Disciples of Christ were part of the American Restoration Movement, also called the Stone-Campbell movement, but the British Restoration Movement does not seem to have derived much from the Stone-Campbell movement, unless there’s a connection that I am missing, and that Andrew Walker missed. More on the Fort Lauderdale five here:

  2. 10 October 2011 10:01 am

    I loved this book, and it formed the basis of chapter one of my MA thesis on the house church movement in Japan – not because there are any direct links but because I think his analysis of Restorationism forms a very interesting interpretative framework for looking at the rise (and fall) of renewal movements within Christianity, and I think the many of the current organic/simple/house/emerging/emergent churches will go through the same stages and could do well to learn the lessons in the book.

    Here’s the thesis: – if you liked Andrew Walker’s book, you may well like chapter one.

    Incidentally one of the churches that supports us as missionaries was part of the whole British New Church Movement thing, and it has been very interesting to go back there after reading Walker’s book. You realise that people are using words in a way that you didn’t necessarily understand before…

  3. 10 October 2011 2:01 pm

    Steve, have just done a bit more Googling and found a Wikipedia entry which fleshes out the details on the shepherding movement in Australia and its Toowoomba focus. Fellow’s name is Howard Carter. The site is here:

  4. 10 October 2011 3:09 pm

    You may be interested in this angle, Steve –

    Another, possible allied, movement is the so-called Apostolic Restoration (or New Apostolic Restoration) Movement. Comparatively recent, it has among its as its spokespersons C. Peter Wagner (Fuller). Thamo Naidoo is its South African exegete in Durban.

    • 12 October 2011 9:01 pm

      To keep up with the doctrinal trends and emphasis in new Pentecostal churches, I agree with Carl. Have a look at the New Apostolic Restoration.

      My own view is that this is a power trip if ever there was one with a whole tribe of self-important men setting themselves up or ‘recognising’ each other as Apostles. Apostles I have seen or heard of don’t fit my idea of apostles like Peter, James and John.

      However, with all this apostolic self-importance, funny thing is that I have never heard mention of the Apostolic Succession. I would have thought the type of people who call themselves Apostles would have found this a useful concept to adopt for, and adapt to, themselves. Perhaps they don’t know about it or understand what it means. As for authority, I think many of them have already claimed for themselves more authority than the Pope.

      • 13 October 2011 4:00 am

        Midd Eagle and Carl,

        One of the things I liked about Walker’s book is that it filled in some of the missing links, which most of the Wikipedia articles do not do. For example, there appear to be no links between these articles on the New Apostolic Reformation and the Shepherding Movement, yet the doctines of latterday self-appointed “apostles” are common to both, and this, together with the doctrine of “covering” was prominent in the British Restoration Movement.

        But the Britsh Restoration Movement, led by people like Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallis and Terry Virgo, appears to have no connection with the Stone-Campbell Restoration in the USA, other than the belief that they were restoring the New Testament Church. Incidentally. more than one Orthodox blogger came to the Orthodox Church from the Stone-Campbell movement – another is Notes from a Commonplace Book which is a very interesting blog and always worth reading.

        I once heard Bob Mumford of the “Fort Lauderdale Five” teaching about the new apostolic restoration, and it was a variant of the old Plymouth Brethren dispensationalist theory adapted to take into account the charismatic renewal. It was still waht Ralph Winter called the Bo-Bo theory of church history – that the light of the gospel “Blinked out” after the time of the apostles, and “Blinked on again at the Reformation. According to Mumford the pastors and teachers of the “five-fold” ministry were restorecd at the time of the Reformation, the evangelistsd were restored at the time of John Wesley and the evangelical revival. Prophets were restored with the Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the 20th century and apostles were now being restored with the Fort Lauderdale Five.

        Please excuse any garbled typing – the WordPress commenting software seems to have developed a glitch with makes it impossible to see whaty one is typing.

  5. 27 October 2011 6:50 am

    Restoring the Kingdom is a great book, which I’ve read a few times but is now a little dated. I’m not sure if you’ve come across it but William Kay’s Apostolic Networks in britian is (as Kay admits) very much a follow up to Walkers book. I posted a review of this here:

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