New Covenant Fellowship in Manassas, Virginia, started out as a great church twenty-five years ago under a gifted pastor who’s since left. Under the current “pastor/elders” (the term they choose for themselves), massive numbers of additional people have left as the church sinks into cult practices and cult doctrines. As a result, attendance has plunged from thousands to barely thirty adults on Sunday mornings.
- Robin Bayles, the senior “pastor/elder”, has been secretly enriching himself with around $200k annually from church funds for a sizable salary, a generous housing allowance, numerous benefits and various other perks amounting to somewhere around a million dollars in total over the last several years — despite the tiny size of the congregation and the fact that he doesn’t even work at the church but works for an unrelated organization. When his self-enrichment was exposed, he denied it and falsely claimed to have taken only a small fraction of the true amount.
- He has personally acquired and gained wealth from numerous investment rental properties purchased with funds taken from the church. He also has been employed nearly full time for many years — and earns a significant income — from his separate employer. Nonetheless, he has tried to manipulate his shrinking congregation and justify his self-enrichment from church funds with false pleas of poverty.
- He proclaims himself, in private conversations, to be an “apostle” and to have an “apostolic relationship” over his fellow “pastor/elders” and over other churches that split off from his own, and then publicly proclaims at the local ministerial association that he’s a “General” over the “Body of Christ” in Prince William County.
Yet he has never successfully raised up any new leadership within his own church, successfully been involved in starting a new church (except under the leadership of the founding pastor — who he eventually usurped and chased away through pride), and the churches that split from his own did so largely because he continually drives away anyone with authentic leadership abilities.
- After the original founding pastor left, the church shrunk to what is now a very small and dying fellowship as more than two thousand people also departed over the next several years. More than 95% of its members eventual left due, in large part, to increasingly emerging cult practices and beliefs plus repeated scandals involving the current senior “pastor/elder”.
- Continuing improprieties and misappropriation of funds have plunged the church into significant ongoing and deepening financial deficits.
- He misled his congregation for many years by claiming that New Covenant Fellowship was a “church” so he could induce them to donate their hard earned money, yet failed to disclose that there are no organizational documents — such as a constitution, bylaws or anything else — required to establish the church’s legal bona fides.
- Absent compliance with proper organizational and other minimal legal requirements, under IRS regulations his claims that New Covenant Fellowship is tax exempt are fraudulent and donations are not legally tax deductible under either state or federal law.
- Despite public claims to the contrary, the senior “pastor/elder” privately admitted in emails and verbally (then denied doing so) that, when he took over from the founding pastor, he never “got around” to fixing any of the problems regarding the lack of organizational documents or to otherwise fulfilling even the minimal prerequisites for having a legal, legitimate church — thus conveniently sidestepping legally required checks and balances that otherwise could have stopped his self-dealing.
- Church documents and church communications were manipulated to hide the deceptions and misuse of church funds.
- The senior pastor stated he was not obligated, under any Biblical requirement, to accept numerous requests to meet in private and discuss growing concerns over mounting evidence of ongoing improprieties — and in fact explicitly refused all such requests.
- The senior pastor then launched ongoing campaigns to undercut vibrant ministries associated with those who dared question his improprieties.
- Voices of integrity were purged from the church and the elders’ board, the “rules” for elder board
decisions are unilaterally changed at whim to block accountability, and guards threatening violence are posted at the church doors to prevent any dissenting facts from being presented.
- The senior pastor coldly threatened to cut off the salary and benefits (which compared to his own were meager) of a fellow pastor at the church, including health insurance vitally needed to deal with terminal cancer and its complications, if that pastor — who independently confirmed the allegations of predatory abuses and misappropriation of funds — discussed his findings with others.
- Having shown not the least evidence of repentance for having abused and exploited this gentle, compassionate and dedicated fellow pastor over many years, the senior pastor in the height of hypocrisy repeatedly announced his compassion to all who would listen, and sent out emails to spotlight his new-found concern and care, as his “friend” silently suffered and shortly after died of cancer (see related blog).
- The senior pastor has
filed numerous perjurous statements — that are available for inspection by anyone willing to go to the clerk’s office — with the local circuit court which falsely certify that the “church” is properly and legally constituted.
- As such, he has performed weddings and other civil functions over many years under apparently bogus credentials.
- The remaining “pastor/elders” hid behind a lawyer and lied to the church when challenged under the Biblical mandates of Matthew 18 and 1 Timothy 5 regarding their lack of legal status, their misconduct and the misappropriation of church funds.
- Despite all this, the remaining “pastor/elders” continue to conceal deceit within their ranks; to threaten, manipulate or, if needed, extort the silence of those who continue to uncover the truth; and to deliver self-serving sermons on virtuous topics like “integrity” while hiding their own vice — all while effectively putting on mesmerizing plastic “pastor” faces of seeming compassion, sincerity and empathy. Nonetheless, God will not be mocked and New Covenant Fellowship continues its slow implosion from ongoing sins and predatory abuses.
In addition to these cult practices, New Covenant Fellowship and its remaining leadership teach some very weird, cult doctrines:
- One remaining “elder/pastor”, in a monograph on “The First Principles of God” which he wrote for new members, says there is no hell or eternal punishment — even following the final judgment. Donald Ponikvar (2008).
- That same monograph embraces the “Judaizer” heresy — even though it is explicitly named, discussed and openly warned against in the New Testament — by insisting that Christians must become integrated back into Old Testament Judaism. Donald Ponikvar (2008).
- Another remaining “elder/pastor” taught in a new member’s class that water baptism is not a sacrament for Christians. Robin Bayles (Feb. 2007). When questioned by incredulous members of that class, he emphatically asserted that New Covenant Fellowship believes water baptism, at best, is a purely mechanical act that does not impart or accomplish any spiritual work of grace in the life of a believer.
- At that same new member’s class, the requirement that you give the first 10% of all your earnings and other income fully and exclusively to the “pastor/elders” (without any financial reporting, annual meetings, legal existence for the “church”, transparency or accountability to the congregation, deacons or anyone else) — while rejecting personal discretion or liberty of conscience to also support other ministries with those funds — was repeatedly emphasized as one of three conditions for membership in New Covenant Fellowship. Robin Bayles (Feb. 2007).
- The “pastor/elders” have explicitly rejected the Biblical model of diversified leadership and accountability by consolidating all ministry and church functions under their direct, personal oversight and control. For example, they have avoided transparency by refusing to permit the existence of any deacons in the church — despite the Biblically mandated role of deacons (as distinct from elders) to help with or to handle financial, administrative and church management issues.
- Most disturbingly, another “pastor/elder” explicitly taught in a Sunday sermon the profoundly heretical view that God lacks foreknowledge and doesn’t see the future — thus publicly denying the twin foundational Christian doctrines of God’s transcendence and His omniscience. Bob McCaig (Oct. 18, 2009). Those doctrinal positions were ratified by the other elders, and openly made part of the beliefs of New Covenant Fellowship, when his teaching was publicly posted and promoted on NCF’s website — where it remains to this day.
“Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” (1 Tim. 5:19-21)
For a good article by a respected church leader on dealing with disqualifying sins among pastors, I recommend Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored by John McArthur. I also wrote a related blog on Dealing with Church Leadership Abuse.
For related blogs regarding the situation at New Covenant Fellowship, see Participatory Church, Podium Church and Facilitating Leadership and Ken Hornby (1945 – 2010).
New Covenant Fellowship currently meets at 8624 Phoenix Drive in Manassas, Virginia. It is part of a small, secretive network of churches called “The Conclave”, which are generally associated with Jim Garrett of Doulos Press and Tulsa Christian Fellowship.
Lately, as an apparent attempt to regain influence and creditability, the church and its senior pastor have been increasingly seeking to control a regional prayer ministry called The Watch Nova (formerly Manassas Nightwatch). That ministry recently became part of NCF (although this fact has been kept hidden) and now claims tax exempt status under NCF (even though the church has not been properly set up to be tax exempt under Federal or state law). In addition, donations to The Watch Nova now go into an account controlled by NCF, despite the church’s history of financial irregularities and improper diversion of funds.