Gloriavale families to tell their story

By Laura Mills

Children dressed in Cooperite clothing walk at Gloriavale, home of the Cooperite religious sect. Photo / TVNZ
Children dressed in Cooperite clothing walk at Gloriavale, home of the Cooperite religious sect. Photo / TVNZ

Two families who defied their Gloriavale leaders to leave will tell their story to the nation on the television news show Sunday.

In preview material for this weekend's show, TVNZ says the families were told the world outside the Gloriavale Christian Community at Lake Haupiri, was full of evil.

"But what they found shocked them. One young couple speak about how they were forced to get married, and express their concerns for the well-being of the remaining residents," TVNZ publicists say.

More and more families were defying the Gloriavale leaders and choosing to leave, the publicists said.

In March, a family of two adults and 12 children, known as the Ben Canaans, left and set up a new life in Timaru.

Timaru couple Liz Gregory and her husband Graham helped them with their transition into mainstream life.

A Facebook post said the family had come to "believe they were in a false system and (had) left 500 of their family and friends".

In the post, the family were said to be "very excited about starting life out here".

A team of people helped with donations of clothes, furniture and money.

Mrs Gregory was also quoted in the Timaru Herald saying it was possible more people from Gloriavale would be "coming out, so if there is any excess [supplies] we will store it for them".

The family of 14 are just the latest people to leave the community, which was beset by controversy when its leader, Neville Cooper, known as Hopeful Christian, was convicted of sexual assault in 1994.

In July last year, when a sympathetic documentary about Gloriavale aired on TV2, one former member came forward and said that since the last series of bi-ennial community concerts two years ago, two extended families had left, along with eight of the young, single people.

"Also, a few others have left but then gone back because husbands-wives and children were still in there," the ex-member said.

Another former member, Phil Cooper, Hopeful Christian's son, said at the time he thought that since the early days, probably half as many had left as were still there.

"Two or three families have left this year," he told the Greymouth Star last July.

The Christian community began at Cust in North Canterbury in 1969 as the Springbank Christian Community, and shifted to set up at Lake Haupiri in the 1990s, assuming the new name of Gloriavale. It now numbers about 520 members and is totally self-contained.

- Greymouth Star

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