God Squad HQ deal reached

A confidential deal marks the end of long-running dispute over a former Canterbury religious cult‘s fort-like headquarters on prime Waipara wine-growing land.

Former members of the Full Gospel Mission Fellowship Trust, dubbed the God Squad, were yesterday reticent on details, saying they had signed a confidentiality agreement after a High Court settlement.

The 48ha North Canterbury property, bounded by State Highway 1 and Darnley Road on the south bank of the Waipara River, includes the headquarters known as Camp David.

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The sect gained notoriety after a police raid in 1977 confiscated firearms and ammunition at the camp.

Former camp members have since said that at the time adherents were prepared to fight for the cult’s survival. They claimed women at the camp were treated as “lesser creatures in more ways than one” and children were left to run riot as strict regimes of work and long scripture meetings took their parents away for hours nearly every evening, leaving them mentally and physically tired.

The agreement is a milestone in a dispute dating back to 2002, when about 70 former members of the trust petitioned the trustees to have the property sold.

The trust deed allowed the trust’s assets to be transferred to another charitable trust, but the then trustees, who were all fellowship members, were unable to reach agreement on a transfer.

The matter was placed in the hands of the High Court, and Trustees Executors Ltd was appointed as the fellowship’s sole trustee.

Kerry Ayers, counsel representing Trustees Executors Ltd, said consent was still needed from the Attorney-General before the deal could be approved.

Parties to the settlement would then decide if anything should be made public, he said.

The settlement will bring closure for many former members to a period that left many troubled.

They believed that although they had left the camp they still held a stake in the property, to which they had contributed all their earnings.

They began agitating for the sale when it appeared a new religious sect was rising from the ruins left after revelations in 1995 that Douglas Metcalf, the founder of the Full Gospel Mission, whom members worshipped as Jesus, was an adulterer. He died in 1989.

In 2002 audio tapes and sensitive material recording the halcyon days of the sect were destroyed.

A handful of followers, including two families and several adults, still live on the property, and an engineering firm operates there. They oppose the sale.

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