NCAO/EOC Claim of Apostolic Authority and Succession
In a November 1975 meeting near Corpus Christi, Texas, seven men—Dick Ballew, Ken Berven, Jon Braun, Peter Gillquist, Ray Nethery, Jack Sparks, and Gordon Walker—adopted the name New Covenant Apostolic Order (NCAO). This formalized their self-ordination and assertion of their apostolic authority. They then tried to bring the groups of believers with whom they had been associated in recent years into a confederation of congregations under the order’s governance. Toward that end, the NCAO council held its first meeting at Grace Haven Farm in Mansfield, Ohio, from June 28 to July 1, 1976. Both the apostolic workers and elders of all the NCAO churches attended. On the last day of this gathering the NCAO’s Apostolic Council issued a statement declaring the start of the Order and defining the basic characteristics, doctrines, and government of the Order and of the congregations it would establish. In one paragraph, the NCAO leaders explicitly claimed apostolic authority for themselves:
We are APOSTOLIC because the exercise of God’s authority through apostleship is necessary today to lead the church to live under Christ’s reign. Apostleship is a gift to the church required throughout its history. God has called us to this ministry.1
The NCAO leaders also claimed apostolic succession. In a February 1979 Elders’ Conference of the Evangelical Orthodox Church, the denomination founded by the NCAO leaders, Jack Sparks, an NCAO General Apostolic Council member and Dean of its Academy of Orthodoxy Theology, gave an address titled “The Apostolic College.” In it Sparks said:
What we intend to show in this session is, first of all, that this body [the Apostolic College] has always existed, with succession; and secondly, that some who claim succession do not have succession; that some who do not claim it may well have it though their ministry in it is hampered by the fact that they do not acknowledge it; and that we certainly do have it.2
Note: The NCAO leaders had to eventually relinquish this claim when they entered the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America.