Gloriavale Christian Community

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The Gloriavale Christian Community is a small and isolated Christian group located at Haupiri on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand, and has an estimated population of over 500.[1] It has operated as a registered charity since 2008.[2] News of controversial practices in the community led to the police making daily checks on the cult in 2018.[3]

History[edit]

The group was founded in 1969 by Neville Cooper (aka "Hopeful Christian"), an Australian-born preacher who came to New Zealand as a priest.[4] He founded what became known as the Springbank Christian Community near Christchurch.

When this community grew too big for its property, the members bought land on the West Coast and shifted there over a period from 1991 to 1995. They named their new property in the Haupiri Valley "Gloriavale" and established the Gloriavale Christian Community. This property is about 60 kilometres (37 mi) inland from Greymouth.[5][6]

Overview[edit]

Known by some outsiders as the "Cooperites" after their leader Neville Cooper, the group rejects this name and members refer to themselves only as Christians.[7] Members of the community live a fundamentalist Christian life in accordance with their interpretation of the teachings of the New Testament. The community attempts to uphold the example of the first Christian church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41–47) for its principles of sharing and holding all things in common. The group teaches that the only true way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the commands of God.[8]

The community earns its income from several ventures including dairying and the manufacture of gardening products made from sphagnum moss. They also run deer and sheep farms as well as run charter/scenic flights from Greymouth,[9] with their company Air West Coast.[10]

The community runs Gloriavale Christian Community School, a private coeducational composite (years 1–13) school with a roll of 127.[11] The school moved to the West Coast in 1990.[12]

Controversies[edit]

In 1995, Neville Cooper was jailed for almost a year on sexual abuse charges. He was convicted based on the testimony of his son and of a young woman who had fled the compound.[13] Cooper later changed his name to Hopeful Christian.[14] He died of cancer on 15 May 2018, aged 92.[1]

Those who leave the community are shunned and denied contact with family members still remaining at Gloriavale.[15] One Christian cult-watching group refers to Gloriavale as a "cult, both theologically and sociologically." It says that "Theologically this group is a cult of Christianity, as its theology – as well as its practices based on that theology – places it well outside the boundaries of the Christian faith."[16]

In 2017, Lilia Tarawa, the granddaughter of the founder spoke at TEDx Christchurch, describing how her life was heaven and hell in the cult. She described what life was for members and why people ran away from it if they could. This led to people living outside coming to know more about the cult and the behaviour of its men and women.[17] Gradually stories of child beatings, rapes and other forms of cruelty and subjugation emerged from other former members.[18] This led to television channels making films about the cult community in 2017 and 2018[19]

A wide-ranging government investigation started in 2015 leading to a number of changes, while a police investigation is ongoing, with no charges yet laid.[20]

A three-part observational documentary on TVNZ 2 station covered the community in 2016, with the film team given unprecedented access.[21][22] The series is available online within New Zealand.[23] An additional set of 8 mini-episodes, titled Gloriavale: The Return was released in 2018.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Gloriavale founder Hopeful Christian dies aged 92". Newshub. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018. Gloriavale is home to more than 500 people.
  2. ^ "My life in a religious cult: 'The most dangerous place in the world is the womb of an ungodly woman'". The Guardian. 29 August 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Gloriavale under pressure as police make daily visits to remote West Coast community". News hub New zealand. 13 February 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  4. ^ Reynolds, Emma (30 August 2017). "Life after Gloriavale, the repressive cult run by an Australian sex offender". Australian news. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  5. ^ Tarawa, Lilia. Daughter of Gloriavale: My Life in a Religious Cult. Allen and Unwin. ISBN 1988547016. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. ^ "About us". Gloriavale Christian Community's official website. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  7. ^ Cooke, Henry (31 March 2017). "How Gloriavale's leadership structure works". www.stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  8. ^ What We Believe, Springbank, First Edition, The Eighth Month, 1989 (The book, researched and written by the group, sets out the way its members should live, what they should believe, and how they should behave. The book is never taken to replace the authority of the Bible, but is considered only to be guide to doctrines and beliefs.)
  9. ^ Brown, Giles (9 January 2010). "West Coast Christians in search for gas". Fairfax NZ. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  10. ^ "Interview :Lilia Tarawa – The Girl Who Escaped From The Dreadful Religious Shackles". www.lifehacks.io. Life hacks. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Schools / Homepage - Te Kete Ipurangi". TKI. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Private School Review Report: Gloriavale Christian Community School". Education Review Office. November 2004.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Quilliam, Rebecca (23 April 2009). "Father tells of rescuing kids from West Coast cult". APN New Zealand. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  14. ^ Ashleigh Stewart (1 May 2015). "Men 'groomed' to have underage sex in Gloriavale, ex-member says". The Press. Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Sunday speaks to families who have recently fled Gloriavale". TVNZ. 19 April 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  16. ^ "Gloriavale Christian Community at a Glance". Apologetics Index. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  17. ^ "8 questions with Lilia Tarawa as to how she escaped from Gloriavale, a religious cult". www.theodysseyonline.com. Odyssey. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  18. ^ "Gloriavale dad Clem Ready hit daughters with shoe, slipper, belt as discipline". www.stuff.co.nz. Stuff. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  19. ^ "What happens when you dress like a Gloriavale resident in their local town?". www.zmonline.com/. ZM Online. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  20. ^ Gates, Charlie (29 March 2017). "Gloriavale: Nine questions we can answer, and one we can't". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  21. ^ Crowley, Paulette (23 April 2016). "The man behind the award-winning Gloriavale documentary". www.stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  22. ^ Schulz, Chris (5 January 2017). "Best of 2016: What life is like for Gloriavale's female residents". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  23. ^ "GLORIAVALE". TVNZ OnDemand. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  24. ^ "Gloriavale: The Return". TVNZ OnDemand. Retrieved 9 March 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°36′13″S 171°42′1.7″E / 42.60361°S 171.700472°E / -42.60361; 171.700472