James George Deck

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James George Deck (1 November 1807 – 14 August 1884) was a British-born New Zealand evangelist.

Life[edit]

Deck was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England, to John Deck, a postmaster, and the former Mary Welch. His ancestors included Huguenots who left France before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.[1][2] After receiving military training in Paris he obtained a military commission with the British East India Company where he served from 1824 to 1826. After returning to England he experienced an evangelical conversion and in 1829 he married Alicia Field. Joining the Plymouth Brethren he was baptised by full immersion and also resigned his commission, and became an evangelist for the movement, preaching first in Taunton and then in Weymouth.[3]

When the Bethesda controversy came to a head in 1848, the Brethren movement split into the Exclusive Brethren (led by John Nelson Darby) and the Open Brethren (led by George Mueller). Deck unsuccessfully attempted reconciliation, and then after suffering a stroke decided to emigrate to New Zealand. But soon after arriving in 1853 and moving to land purchased at Waiwhero, Ngatimoti, Nelson, his wife died.

In July 1855 he married Lewanna Atkinson. On the first day of 1863 he founded the first "formal" Brethren assembly at Ngatimoti, along with local families such as the Salisburys, although historian Peter Lineham believes that there had already been an informal group meeting on Brethren lines in nearby Motueka for some time.[4] The Nelson Brethren Assemblies rapidly developed thereafter and when the Deck family moved to Wellington in 1865, more Assemblies were established. He kept little contact with British Brethren and was unwilling to import the Exclusive-Open schism from the United Kingdom. But in 1875 the news of the division that had occurred in England became known in New Zealand and with visits to New Zealand by George Wigram and John Nelson Darby, the division was enforced, effectively splitting the Brethren movement in New Zealand, almost a generation after the split had occurred in the British Isles. Deck, perhaps reluctantly, sided with the Exclusive Brethren, but refused to isolate himself from assemblies that sided with the Open Brethren. According to Lineham, Deck has some claim to be the founder of both the Exclusive and Open Brethren in New Zealand.[5] Deck appears to have been emotionally affected by the schism, so much so that he ceased writing hymns, for which he is internationally known. Deck died in August 1884 at Motueka.

Impact[edit]

Within 40 years of Deck's first Brethren meeting the 1900 census revealed that nearly 2% of the New Zealand population were Brethren.

The Brethren movement in New Zealand had an influence in New Zealand's rapid social development despite Deck's followers remaining outside of political institutions. One person brought up in the Motueka Assembly who left the Brethren and involved himself in politics was Keith Holyoake who went on to become a long serving Prime Minister and then Governor General.

Family[edit]

Deck had fourteen children, nine with Alicia and five with Lewanna. Twelve children survived childhood. His sons and descendants were involved in both "open" and "exclusive" assemblies. His son John, along with his wife Emily, helped found the South Seas Evangelical Mission in Australia in 1877.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lineham, Peter J. "The Significance of J.G. Deck 1807-1884" (PDF). bruederbewegung.de. Christian Brethren Research Fellowship Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Wright, David C.F. "James George Deck" (PDF). Christian-Moral.Net. Christian-Moral.Net. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Wright, David C.F. "James George Deck" (PDF). Christian-Moral.Net. Christian-Moral.Net. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Lineham, Peter J. "The Significance of J.G. Deck 1807-1884" (PDF). http://www.bruederbewegung.de/. University of Massey. p. 13. Retrieved 4 June 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  5. ^ Lineham, Peter J. "The Significance of J.G. Deck 1807-1884" (PDF). bruederbewegung.de. Christian Brethren Research Fellowship Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Lineham, Peter J. "The Significance of J.G. Deck 1807-1884" (PDF). bruederbewegung.de. Christian Brethren Research Fellowship Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015.