A controversial New Zealand sect known for its apocalyptic beliefs and intense community life.
The God Squad, also known as the Full Gospel Mission or St. John Volunteer Corps, was a religious sect established in New Zealand. The group, led by self-appointed ‘Bishop’ Douglas Metcalf, gained notoriety from the 1970s until the late 1990s. Metcalf, regarded as the Messiah by his followers, established a commune called Camp David, which was characterized by its isolation from the outside world and strict adherence to Metcalf’s teachings.
Origins and Expansion
The sect initially operated from Eureka Street, Aranui, Christchurch, before moving to a 48-hectare farm near Waipara. This new location, known as Camp David, featured a complex of buildings surrounded by 7.6-meter-high concrete walls and electric fences, symbolizing the group’s separation from society. The sect was believed to be preparing for an apocalypse predicted to occur in 2011, with Metcalf’s followers convinced he was Jesus Christ returned.
Controversies and Police Raids
The God Squad was subject to public scrutiny and police investigations, especially after allegations of enticing young people away from their families and stockpiling weapons. In 1977 and again in 1987, police raids on Camp David seized over 150 weapons, although charges were later dismissed as the weapons were found to be legally owned. These events heightened the sect’s notoriety and fueled comparisons to other apocalyptic cults.
Decline and Aftermath
Metcalf’s death in 1989 marked the beginning of the sect’s decline. Subsequent revelations about his adultery further undermined his messianic claims, leading to a collapse in follower numbers. By the early 2000s, the property was inhabited by only a few former members, and efforts were underway to sell the farm, which by then was in a state of disrepair. The community officially disbanded, with the property eventually being sold after years of negotiation among former sect members.
Camp David, once a fortress-like compound, became a symbol of the sect’s rise and fall, from its establishment as a haven for Metcalf’s messianic teachings to its abandonment and eventual sale. The God Squad’s legacy remains a cautionary tale of isolation, charismatic leadership, and the complexities of religious fervor.