Apr 9, 2016

Muddy Waters: church minister who left Camp David cult tells his story

Stuff - stuff.co.nz
Chelsea Boyle
April 8, 2016


John Turton
This photo of retired minister John Turton was taken in 2007 when he was chairman of the Lower Hutt Foodbank committee, and someone broke in and emptied the charity group's storeroom.

A dramatic exit and subsequent excommunication from a cult did not stop John Turton from retaining religion as a central part of his life.

The retired Hutt City Uniting Church minister's autobiography, Muddy Waters, will be launched at St Aidan's Church, Normandale, on Friday August 15.

In the book Turton opens up about the 12 years he spent in a North Canterbury cult from 1972.

At the time people came from all over New Zealand to join the cult, known as the Full Gospel Mission, in Waipara. The group believed that the leader of the commune was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

The Full Gospel Mission made headlines when police raided the property searching for firearms. Turton says they were arming themselves, expecting anarchy.

After experiencing a personal awakening Turton says he began to challenge the ideas of the mission's leadership.

"I was seeing things I didn't see before."

Turton says he wrote 14 pages of rebuttal to his leader and was immediately excommunicated in 1984.

Despite experiencing a great deal of grief at the sudden isolation from family members, Turton never considered abandoning religion entirely.

His commitment to a true Christ pre-dated his involvement in the Canterbury group.

Turton says he was motivated to write the book as he worked towards personal closure.

Cult groups still operate in New Zealand today and Turton believes they create poor lifestyles for women in particular.

He hopes his book will encourage people in similar situations to step outside their circle and examine what truly holds them there.

From active ministry in rural, suburban and inner city settings, including at Hutt City Uniting Church, Turton retired to Levin.

The book launch on April 15, which is open to anyone who is interested, will start at 6.30pm and will show part of the feature on Camp David produced by television programme 60 minutes in 2002. The floor will then be opened to wider discussion.

The evening doubles as the launch of Turton's A Pastor's Scrapbook, which includes poems he wrote during his time as a Presbyterian Minister after leaving the Full Gospel Mission.


No comments: