Inside the secretive, devout and wealthy Auckland cluster church


The church at the centre of a coronavirus sub-cluster in Auckland now embroiled in controversy is tight-knit, secretive and highly devout, says a former member.

He left the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship with his family several years ago and said the church met most nights for Bible study, did most activities together, and did not associate much with outsiders.

The ex-member said after he left the church some members refused to acknowledge him when they passed on the street.

Meanwhile, an expert on religion in New Zealand said the insular and wealthy church was on the fundamentalist end of the spectrum of evangelical protestant Christianity.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins told RNZ on Wednesday morning it had become apparent some close contacts of the church sub-cluster were not previously disclosed, including a student that recently tested positive.

The student was last at St Dominic’s Catholic College in Auckland on Friday but left early after starting to feel unwell.

Hipkins said in this case it appeared it was the student close contact of the sub-cluster who had not been previously disclosed.

Health authorities are investigating whether the non-disclosure was deliberate.

“That’s one of the things that the investigation is looking at now and it will include looking at whether there was a deliberate decision not to disclose, or whether it was simply an oversight,” Hipkins said.

The former member told Stuff that when he was in the church its members would meet most nights of the week for Bible study or sermons, tending not to associate with outsiders.

“They stick to themselves.

“It’s pretty full on.”

Late in August, Hipkins said an investigation into claims the church held meetings during Auckland’s alert level 3 restrictions was underway.

At Wednesday’s 1pm press conference, where six new community cases all linked to the Auckland cluster were announced, Director-General of Heath Dr Ashley Bloomfield said all members of the evangelical fellowship were being asked to be re-tested.

The church is run as a charity, registered as the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Trust.

Its pastor is understood to be Errol Montgomery “Monty” Ngatai, who according to electoral and property records lives in the same Hillsborough block of units as other senior and long-standing members of the church.

A document dated from 1995, when the church’s charity was incorporated, said it was established to “foster Christian growth and spirituality according to the scriptures” and to “enhance and strengthen family and community relationships by sharing worship and fellowship through teaching missions”.

Its charitable purpose is to “preach expositional sermons that explain what the Bible says and what the Bible means in ways that practically connect with life so that each one may reach another with the gospel of Jesus Christ”. Continue reading

Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , ,