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Sects, Cults and the Catholic Church in New Zealand

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Sects, Cults and The Catholic Church in New Zealand Section 1: Define the report. The purpose of this report is to analyse religious expression in New Zealand, specifically of certain cults, sects and the Catholic Church. I have chosen The Unification Church as a cult, 7th Day Adventists for my sect and the Catholic Church. I will investigate each religious expression, as well as compare and contrast them. Delving specifically into the Social Organisation, Religious Practice and Doctrine of each.

As well as how the number of followers has changed in the past 20 years, and the possible reasons why.

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Section 2: Define the terms that you will be using in the report. Sect – A religious body that has deviated from a larger domination, following many of the larger domination’s teachings but differing on a number of key issues. Cult – A religious group normally held together by a dominant, often charismatic individual, or by the worship of a divinity or an idol of some sort.

Followers adhere to an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices that they practice in their life.

A cult is separate from a religion, and nowadays is often viewed as a negative, controlling religious practice due to their ‘extreme’ beliefs. Religion – The expression of man’s belief in and reverence for a superhuman power or powers regarded as creating or governing the universe. Any personal or institutionalised system of beliefs or practices embodying this belief or reverence. Doctrine – A principle or body of principles taught or advocated in instruction presented for acceptance or belief. Normally originating from a sacred text such as the Bible or Koran.

Ritual – The prescribed form or order of conducting a religious or other solemn ceremony. Actions believed to have symbolic value or traditional value. Social structure – The leadership structure that’s runs the cult/sect/religion deciding the direction of the faith and it’s beliefs. The relationship between the faith’s followers. Secularism – Religious scepticism or indifference. The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education. Section 3: Explain your choice of sect and cult. Explain why these groups meet your criteria of sect and cult.

I have chosen Seventh Day Adventists as my Sect as I have met a few 7th Day Adventists and had the opportunity to talk to them. I am also intrigued as to how exactly they differ from their parental counterpart, the Catholic Church, which it split from officially in 1863. Seventh day Adventists ‘follow many of the larger domination’s teachings’ (The Catholic Church) such as the Holy Trinity, Christ’s divinity, the Virgin Birth, Christ’s Second Coming and the Bible as the chosen doctrine. Baptism is used to initiate followers and they also believe in original sin.

However they differ on the Sabbath day believing it’s Saturday; the original seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week, compared to Catholics who consider Sunday as the holy day, deriving from Jewish law where it’s the first day of the Hebrew calendar week. They also believe that death is an eternal unconscious ‘soul sleep’ until the second coming of Jesus and humans do not possess an immortal soul. As well as a great emphasis, and restrictions on health and diet following the Koshers Laws in Leviticus 11. These are all examples of how Seventh Day Adventists share common beliefs with the Catholic Church but ‘differ on a number of key issues’.

Thus Seventh Day Adventists meet my definition of a sect. For an example of a cult I have chosen The Unification Church as it is a cult I know little about, I am also intrigued into their leader and the accusations of ‘brainwashing’ to recruit members. The Unification Church is based on the teaching of, and lead by Sun Myung Moon who was a Christian, and its pseudo-Christian origins. Sun Myung Moon claimed at the age of sixteen that he was visited in a vision by Jesus, who asked him to accomplish the work left unfinished after his death. Moon accepted and has preached the second coming of Jesus since.

Since creating the Unification Church in Seoul in 1954 it has grown in followers. The Unification Church meets the definition of a cult as it is ‘a religious group held together by a dominant, often charismatic individual’. Sun Myung Moon is the founder and sole leader of the faith, what he says goes, much like a dictatorship. He has come under immense scrutiny as to the nature and motives of the cult with many seeing it more as a profit minded business than a religion. Especially due to the private wealth Sun Myung Moon has amassed for himself and his family.

The Unification Church also teaches beliefs that are opposite to many mainstream religions, such as communication with the spirits of deceased persons is possible and ‘mass marriages’ when Sun Myung Moon himself selected 24 couples from the congregation and married them. Showing members ‘adhere to an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices that they practice in their life’, practices that are very different and separate from mainstream religions, as well as the church being lead by a ‘dominant, charismatic individual’, Sun Myung Moon.

Therefore The Unification Church meets my definition of a cult. Section 4: Compare and contrast the Social Organisation of the three groups. The Social Organisation of the Catholic Church is a hierarchical structure hats has been developed over two thousand years. Jesus is the ultimate head of the Catholic Church but on earth the Pope, who is elected by the College of Cardinals for the duration of his lifetime, is the authoritative figure leading the Church. He resides in Vatican City in Rome, which is the Catholic Church’s headquarters.

Below him he is surrounded by Cardinals (183 currently) who advise the pope. Bishops run a diocese or archdiocese ( of which there were 3,475 worldwide in 2000). Each diocese is divided into multiple parishes staffed by priests (of which there are over 450,000 in 2000) who spread the word of the Lord through conducting masses and other religious events daily. Below them are over half a million religious brothers and sisters. Finally the lay people which comprised of over 1. 098 billion worldwide in 2004, and 508,812 in New Zealand in 2006.

The Social organisation of Seventh Day Adventists is governed through a Presbyterian system of church organization (with assemblies of ‘elders’ directing the region or area). A similarity with the Catholic Church is that the system is hierarchical. The General Conference is much like the Pope and Cardinals with President of the General Conference (currently Dr. Jan Paulsen, who has been president for just over ten years) and the thirteen ‘divisions’ (regions) that the Conference is divided into advising and attributing to all matters.

This Conference has the final say on Seventh Day Adventist issues. Below is a union conference or mission which governs a large territory in which there are multiple local conferences (the next step down). The Local conferences, like the dioceses in the Catholic Church run by Bishops, governs multiple churches in the region, appointing ministers, owning the church land and paying ministers and employees. The local church comprise of Adventists, all of whom have democratic voting powers within the church in regards to issues that concern it.

This is the complete opposite to the Catholic Church where followers are lead by the priest and have no say as to how the church is run. As of 2006 there were 14,000 Seventh Day Adventists in New Zealand. In contrast The Unification Church’s social organisation is the opposite following a more dictatorial line. Reverend Sun Myung Moon is the founder and sole leader of the church. He is surrounded by a group of elders, many of whom are wealthy and influential in society but yield little power, compared to Reverend Sun Myung Moon, when it comes to the Unification Church.

What he says goes and methods have been questioned, especially due to the large financial wealth he has gathered since 1950, of which ‘one estimate put the leader’s personal wealth at about $990m’. Despite anointing his youngest son, 28-year-old Myung Jin Mo, Chairman of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in April 2008 few believe Reverend Sun Myung Moon has relinquished his leadership role. ‘He may have appointed his son, but Moon is constantly giving orders, and people do as they tell him,’ a former member told the Guardian. He is unlikely to transfer any actual power to his sons’. This suggests that the Unification Church’s head leadership role is hereditary, in contrast to the voting system of the Catholic Church (the College of Cardinals) and the Seventh Day Adventists (the General Conference). Section 5: Compare and contrast the religious practices of the three groups. The Catholic Church’s religious practices are mainly based on tradition, and instructions in the Bible (the Catholic Church’s sacred text). In which the Ten commandments, Beatitudes and Eucharist are stated amongst many others.

Followers are expected to attend mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation, if they have committed a mortal sin to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, receiving the Eucharist at least once a year, especially between the first Sunday of Lent and trinity Sunday, to follow the seven sacraments in their personal life, observe fast and abstinence days and support the Catholic Church both financially and in service. Also to practice the Corporal Works of Mercy and the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The Catholic Church focuses and bases much of its teaching on the Bible and interpret it in both a literal and metaphoric way. The main dates that the Catholic Church celebrates reflect significant events in Jesus’ life. These include Christmas and Lent, which is from Ash Wednesday to Easter (Jesus’ death and resurrection) before the Triduum, the most important time in the Catholic Church’s year, starts. Baptism, reconciliation, Conformation, Wedding’s, Saint’s days, Holy Communion and funerals are also celebrated.

The Church also allows the celebration of public holidays and birthdays. Many of the religious practices of Seventh Day Adventists are similar to the Catholic Church. They to celebrate Mass throughout the week, following an evangelical format, with focus on the sermon. Prayer is an integral part of the church with regular prayer meeting. Communion is practised four times a year, sourcing from it’s Methodist roots, at the same time a foot-washing ceremony called the Ordinance of Humility is performed along with the congregation eating the Lord’s Supper.

This differs from the Catholic Church’s communion which occurs at every mass. Like the Catholic Church baptism is used by Seventh Day Adventists to be accepted into the church. However two elements differ, firstly Seventh Day Adventists believe baptism requires consent and moral responsibility, which only come with age, so children are excluded and ‘dedicated’ instead. Secondly Seventh day Adventists actively practice full immersion baptism contrasted with Catholics only require a sprinkling of water on the subject to be baptised.

Followers are encourage to be healthy and avoid ‘unclean meats’ such as pork, stated in the book of Leviticus. Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco are also strongly discouraged. Adventists translate the Bible literally as opposed to the Catholic Church with translates it both literally and metaphorically. Seventh Day Adventists celebrate Christmas, Easter, Baptism and Weddings much like the Catholic Church does. A key difference is the celebration of the Sabbath day. Seventh Day Adventists celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, reasons being Genesis 2:2 – 3 whereas the Catholic holy day is on Sunday.

The Unification Church’s beliefs in some areas are identical to many conservative Christian groups, due to Sun Myung Moon’s Christian upbringing, however they differ on a great number of issues. Similar to the Catholic Church and Seventh Day Adventists, The Unification Church is very family centred with celibacy strongly encouraged until marriage. Unificationists celebrate a Pledge Service at 5 am each Sunday and at the start of each month. A central practice is ‘The Blessing’ or mass wedding ceremony, a ritual where Sun Myung Moon matches couples from the congregation (a month in advance) to be married.

Couples are expected to marry but can decline without repercussions. Opposite to the Catholic Church and Seventh Day Adventist because members do not have the freedom to choose there future spouse. Section 6: Compare and contrast key Doctrine of the three groups The Doctrine of the Catholic Church involves the belief in Authority. The authority of God, the Pope and all other Catholic religious people, tradition, the Creeds and the Bible (including the ten commandments, seven sacraments and beatitudes). Catholics hold all of these in high regard and base their faith around them.

Seventh Day Adventists follow the same line of thought bar the authoritative figures who are the General Conference. Also like The Unification Church, Adventists also hold in high regard, but do not base their doctrine on, the writings of co-founder Ellen White. In contrast Unificationists believe in the sole authority of Sun Myung Moon who is both their spiritual leader as well as their messiah. They also regard the Bible as an important spiritual text but mainly base their faith on the book The Divine Principle which was written by Sun Myung Moon himself in 1952. His speeches are also considered to be just as valuable and authoritative.

Another key belief of Catholics, like Seventh Day Adventists, is that God created the universe (stated in Genesis). Although Catholics differ as a metaphorical, as well as a literal translation is used, contrasting with Seventh Day Adventists purely literal translation, seeing the Bible as a historically accurate document as well. A key doctrine for both Catholics and Adventists is the Nicene Creed which states that God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (in a dynamic monotheism). Unificationists however reject the Trinity instead seeing God as one single being with ‘perfect intellect, emotion and will’.

All three groups believe in Jesus but Unificationists also believe Sun Myung Moon has been sent by Jesus ‘to accomplish the work left unfinished after his death’, in effect making Reverend Moon the messiah. The Catholic Church also believes in the seven sacraments: Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Anointing of the Sick. Catholics and Adventists both believe in Heaven and Hell after death but Unificationists also believe that Hell exists on Earth which, over time, will be transformed into ‘the kingdom of heaven on Earth’.

All three groups reject homosexuality deeming it against Gods will or unnatural as well as prophesising the second coming of Jesus. Unlike Catholics and Unificationists, Adventists believe that humans and an ‘invisible unity of body, mind and spirit’ who do not possess an immortal soul. Because of this the time between dieing and the second coming of Jesus is like an unconscious sleep, known as a ‘soul sleep’ (ironic seeing as they do not believe they possess souls). Conclusion In conclusion there has been a dramatic change in religious expression in the last twenty years in New Zealand.

Catholic numbers have increased from 498,612 to 508,812 between 1991 and 2006. An increase of 10,000 but Catholicism’s ‘market share’ of New Zealand between 1991 and 2006 has decreased from 15% to 12. 6%. The numerical increase could be explained by and influx of Catholic immigrants over the past 20 years in New Zealand, especially from the Islands. Also population growth (residents raising children as Catholics) may have also been a cause. An explanation of the decrease in ‘market share’ may be found in rapid growth in other areas such as Buddhism which increased from 12,000 to 52,000 followers in new Zealand between 1991 and 2006.

Also ‘No religion’ has increased from 20. 2% to 32. 2% and New Age religions which have grown over 1300% from 696 to 9,500 between 1991 and 2006. This suggests New Zealanders are becoming more tolerant and accepting of other peoples beliefs are therefore more open to it. Between 1991 and 2006 Seventh day Adventists grew by 7. 6% (13,000 to 14,000) The Unification Church started in the 1950’s with very few followers and currently claims to have over 3million around the world, although many believe that it is must less, around 300,000.

Either way The Unification has seen rapid growth in the past twenty years. I think this could be for a similar reason to the grow in New Religions. Society is becoming more curious and accepting of other peoples opinions and new ideas. Also just as the term ‘cult’ normally puts people off, for some it creates a mystical aura of secrets about the ‘Moonies’ which in turn may entice people into the cult even more. Overall the religious attitude of New Zealand is changing into a more open minded, accepting and curious person.

Traditional religions such as Catholicism and Islam show steady increases and will hold there place as the biggest religions in New Zealand. As more people travel more people will experience new cultures and religions, bringing those experiences back to New Zealand with them. With more and more new faiths such as The Unification Church creeping in, and people questioning aspects of their faith and change it, like Seventh Day Adventists, New Zealand will undoubtedly see a exponential growth in ‘New Religions’ and religious expression. Bibliography http://en. wikipedia. rg/wiki/Catholic_church#Prayer_and_worship http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Unification_church#Beliefs http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Seventh-day_Adventist_Church#Adventist_mission http://www. ewtn. com/vnews/getstory. asp? number=67164 http://www. guardian. co. uk/world/2008/apr/26/religion. korea http://www. cults. co. nz/2006. php http://www. ancient-future. net/catholiclists. html http://www. churchyear. net/calendar2009. html http://www. religioustolerance. org/sda2. htm http://www. religionfacts. com/christianity/denominations/seventh_day_adventist. htm http://www. religioustolerance. org/unificat. htm

Cite this Sects, Cults and the Catholic Church in New Zealand

Sects, Cults and the Catholic Church in New Zealand. (2018, Feb 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/sects-cults-and-the-catholic-church-in-new-zealand/

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