Gloriavale Christian Community

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The Gloriavale Christian Community, a small Christian group based at Haupiri on the West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand, has an estimated population of over 500.[1]

History[edit]

The group was founded in 1969 by Neville Cooper, an Australian-born evangelist who was invited to preach in New Zealand. 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 km inland from Greymouth.

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.[2] 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.[3]

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,[4] with their company Air West Coast.

The community runs Gloriavale Christian Community School, a private coeducational composite (years 1–13) school with a roll of 127.[5] The school moved to the West Coast in 1990.[6]

Criticisms and investigations[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.[7] Cooper later changed his name to Hopeful Christian.[8] 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.[9] 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."[10]

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.[11]

A three-part observational documentary on TVNZ 2 station covered the community in 2016, with the film team given unprecedented access.[12][13] The series is available online within New Zealand.[14]

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. ^ Cooke, Henry (31 March 2017). "How Gloriavale's leadership structure works". www.stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  3. ^ 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.)
  4. ^ Brown, Giles (9 January 2010). "West Coast Christians in search for gas". Fairfax NZ. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Schools / Homepage - Te Kete Ipurangi". TKI. Retrieved 2018-05-06. 
  6. ^ "Private School Review Report: Gloriavale Christian Community School". Education Review Office. November 2004. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Quilliam, Rebecca (23 April 2009). "Father tells of rescuing kids from West Coast cult". APN New Zealand. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ "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. 
  10. ^ "Gloriavale Christian Community at a Glance". Apologetics Index. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Gates, Charlie (29 March 2017). "Gloriavale: Nine questions we can answer, and one we can't". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  12. ^ Crowley, Paulette (23 April 2016). "The man behind the award-winning Gloriavale documentary". www.stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ "GLORIAVALE". TVNZ OnDemaind. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 

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