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The history of Fenton Park Bible Church, to some extent, stems back to the Protestant Reformation that began in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517.  Martin Luther, a teacher and a monk, published a document he called Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, known to us as the 95 Theses.  The document was a series of 95 points about Christianity that were controversial because they directly contradicted the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther’s statements challenged the Catholic Church’s role as an intermediary between people and God. In particular, it addressed the indulgence system, which, in part, allowed people to purchase a certificate of pardon for the punishment of their sins. Luther argued against the practice of buying or earning forgiveness, believing instead that salvation is an unmerited gift God gives by faith. 

The essential tenets of the Reformation are ones that we hold to as a local church, namely: the Bible is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice (“sola scriptura”), that salvation is by God’s grace alone (“sola gratia”) and by faith alone (“sola fide”) in Jesus Christ alone (“solus Christus”) to the glory of God alone (“soli Deo gloria”).   

More specifically, Fenton Park Bible Church has its founding roots in the Protestant Brethren movement, which emerged in the late 1820s in Ireland and the later “open” Brethren movement that formed in 1848. The Open Brethren held to the priesthood of all believers, and was led by men such as George Muller, Henry Craik, Robert Chapman, and John Howard. Like the Reformers who had come before them, the Open Brethren had a strong emphasis on teaching Scripture, proclaiming the gospel, teaching the “total ruin of man”, God’s sovereignty in salvation, people’s responsibility to believe, and the connection of sanctification to salvation.

The Brethren movement arrived in New Zealand in 1852 with the arrival of James G. Deck and spread throughout New Zealand over the next decades. In the early 1900’s a Mr. C. F. Goodson pioneered the Open Brethren movement in Rotorua by visiting every home in the town.  He gifted a house on a site in Eruera Street where the Rotorua Open Brethren began to meet, in what was called Bethesda Hall.

While retaining the Eruera Street building, in 1957 the Assembly built a new building on freehold land in Ranolf Street, becoming Ranolf Street Gospel Chapel. The assembly ran an outreach youth ministry located at Roosevelt Road, Western Heights. The youth ministry was run from a hall owned by the assembly built on land gifted to them.


In the late 1960’s, due to the Council’s requirement for the assembly to provide off street parking, the decision was made to create two local assemblies outside the town centre.  One assembly was to be established at their existing youth hall located in Western Heights, becoming Roosevelt Road Chapel. To establish the other assembly, land was purchased in 1969 on the corner of Ward Ave and Hilda Street in Fenton Park, becoming Fenton Park Bible Church.  A youth hall was built on this site in 1970 in which they first met and in 1972/1973 a larger auditorium was added.


Since its beginning, Fenton Park Bible Church has maintained a commitment to the Word of God and to proclaiming the gospel. Over the past century, God has used many individuals and ministry groups from this church to further the work of His kingdom. Today, our focus is to continue the rich legacy passed down of seeking to bring glory to God in everything we do and say, to worship Him in spirit and in truth, to proclaim the gospel, and to preach the originally intended meaning of Scripture like the reformers and the founding fathers of the Open Brethren movement.

© Fenton Park Bible Church Rotorua 2023