Home' Greymouth Star : March 28th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - 5
Allegations of physical and sexual abuse, forced marriage, forced separation of families and a controlling environment
at the Gloriavale Christian Community sparked an 18-month investigation by the Government. Now, Newsroom’s
MORGAN TAIT can exclusively reveal what the Department of Internal Affairs’ investigation found out about life
inside the controversial West Coast sect.
Government report “hints
there is a sexual predator”
active in the Gloriavale
community according to
a religious historian who
also labelled the decision not to take action
against the charity as “soft ”.
Police are still investigating allegations of
physical and sexual assaults at the Gloriavale
Christian Community at Haupiri, 65km
east of Greymouth.
The allegations were made during an
18-month Charities Ser vices investigation
into the Christian Church Community
Trust that governs the isolated religious
The Charities Ser vices is the arm of the
Department of Internal Affairs responsible
for administering and monitoring the
Charities Act 2005.
Its investigation began in April 2015
following media reports about the increase
of people leaving Gloriavale and their
allegations of sexual and physical abuse,
forced marriage, forced separation of
families and a controlling environment.
The scale of the investigation is the first of
its kind into life at Gloriavale and involved
inter viewing trustees, 18 community leavers
and the people who helped them; analysing
bank and finance records and liaising with
New Zealand Police, Ministry of Social
Development and Ministry of Business,
Innovation and Employment.
As a result of investigators referring serious
complaints to other government agencies,
the Ministry of Social Development
confirmed to Newsroom that children from
two families had been given assistance from
Child, Youth and Family.
Claims of unfair work conditions,
including working excessive hours, were
passed to MBIE which is waiting for
guidance from the Charities Ser vices before
beginning its own investigation.
A copy of the 33-page report and a
letter sent to the trust board detailing the
investigation’s findings was released to
Newsroom under the Official Information
The documents describe a multitude of
serious allegations — some of which were
proven — against senior members of the
The report concluded that despite evidence
of serious wrongdoing, the trust should not
be issued with a warning notice but instead
continue to work with the Charities Ser vices
to bring it up to standard.
“Charities Ser vices has therefore
determined that the most appropriate
outcome for the current investigation
is for Charities Services to continue to
engage with the trust and assist them in
implementing policies that will improve
the governance and management of the
The letter sent to the trust from Charities
Ser vices acting general manager Jane
Pierard listed 18 “actions” the trust needed
to take to remain compliant and enjoy the
tax exemptions that come with charity
The actions included. --
Making a formal policy to deal with
sexual and physical assault complaints.
Holding proper board meetings;
Appointing two external advisers to its
No longer opening or operating personal
bank accounts for its members without their
No longer forcing members into an
isolated hut as punishment.
Making it easier for members to leave
Gloriavale and stay in touch with those still
Not donating to a church with similar
beliefs in India.
Ms Pierard also issued an informal
warning about the way Gloriavale members’
personal bank accounts are operated by
senior church members.
She stated the outcome of a police
investigation into sexual and physical
assaults at Gloriavale could result in further
action being taken, and any other allegations
could spark new investigations.
“In the event that any of the other
allegations referred to other agencies
should result in either the identification
or prosecution of offences that represent
serious wrongdoing . . . further compliance
action would be considered,” Ms Pierard
Newsroom spoke with head of the trust
board, Fer vent Steadfast.
He said the outcome was “a positive
conclusion to a very long investigation”.
“ We have seen the recommendations and
the situation is developing well. We are
working together with Internal Affairs on
a positive basis. We are working on this
Massey University religion historian
Professor Peter Lineham criticised the
Charities Ser vices for not issuing a formal
“I was really surprised by the conclusion
because surely with all that ’s been revealed
and stated there would have been an official
“ Yes they have agreed to comply etcetera,
but if as a matter of record they clearly were
very non compliant in a very wide range of
“I was really surprised at the letting them
off the hook that has happened. That there
was no even minor repercussions, I think it
is a bit soft.”
Prof Lineham said there were serious red
flags around the allegations of sexual assaults
taking place at Gloriavale.
The report stated that of the 18 former
Gloriavale members inter viewed, five of
the females alleged they were victims of sex
Some parts of the report in the section
that dealt with the sexual offending were
“It was also alleged that community
members have been sexually assaulted, often
by the same offender(s), and they have
further alleged that the leadership were
aware and blamed the victims and failed to
act, or took insufficient action,” the report
Investigators referred those complaints to
police, who were still investigating.
Newsroom approached police for further
information about the complaints, including
the number and was told: “Police will not
comment on this in order to protect the
privacy and welfare of those people raising
Prof Lineham said the revelations about
the scale of offending was very concerning.
“There’s obviously things that we don’t
know. There are hints that there is a sexual
predator loose in the community.
“It is interesting that (Charities Ser vices)
decisions and actions haven’t completely
disguised that there is a danger to children
in the community.
“It ’s very, very softened. ”
One of the actions the trust needed to
take to remain a registered charity was to
formalise a policy to deal with complaints of
sexual and physical abuse.
“It ’s really quite astonishing,” Prof
Lineham said. “All other churches’ protocols
have always had a mandatory policy to
report to the police.”
However, the policy at Gloriavale which
was written down to appease the Charities
Ser vices, states that all complaints are dealt
with in the community.
Repentance and forgiveness are at the core
of that process, and then a victim is “free” to
go to the authorities if they are not satisfied.
“They are basically saying that they will not
take disputes in the community to the court
of law,” Prof Lineham said.
“These are quite inadequate statements
because repentance is well and good, but if
there has been an offence committed against
the laws of the country it needs to addressed
“This is not good enough. In a closed
community it is a very, very difficult thing to
do to speak out.”
Fer vent Steadfast said he did not wish to
comment on the police investigations or
“It ’s in their hands and up to them. I
have no comment to make on any of those
“ What happens in our community is our
The investigation found that although
there were three trustees, the group’s founder
Hopeful Christian had significant influence
over the board’s decisions in his role of
“O verseeing Shepherd”.
Christian, a convicted child sex offender
previously named Neville Cooper, refused to
be inter viewed by the Charities Ser vices, the
While Christian has been to jail for
sex crimes against two girls, there is no
information that he is connected to the
“His role is just as a spiritual leader that
he does not make any day-to-day trustee
Instead, the trustees Fer vent Steadfast,
Enoch Upright and Howard Temple dealt
There were concerns the trust board did
not share its decisions and decision-making
processes with the community, a potential
breach of the Trustee Act 1956 and trust
The report stated that no formal trust
board meetings were held. Instead, the
16 senior members of the church, titled
shepherds and ser vants, would discuss issues
at their meetings.
Once everyone was in agreement, the
trustees would ratify the decision.
“In response to the concerns . . . the
trustees advised that they would appoint
two additional internal trustees, from the
younger people in the community, together
with two external advisers.”
The new trustees and advisers are not
named, and the external advisers were
identified as a local lawyer and accountant.
“I was quite fascinated by this idea that
they have brought in outside trustees from
outside the organisation,” Prof Lineham
“ It makes one wonder what the
relationship between the advisers and the
community is. They must be fairly close to
get them involved.”
When asked who the advisers were,
Fer vent Steadfast said: “I don’t think that ’s
necessary, it ’s not a public matter. ”
Prof Lineham said the common theme
through the report was the harsh religious
verses that dictated the communities’ beliefs.
The beliefs of the community are set out
in two documents, one called What We
Believe and the other named Declaration of
Members are required to sign and adhere
to the principles of the documents, which
state rules such as the jobs to be performed
by males and females; that school will be
finished at 15 and that they surrender all
their money, possessions and property to the
“The particular verses that they quote
are harsh verses. There is a very, very deep
attitude of distrust and disdain for those
who have left.”
Each member is expected to sign a
document agreeing to the strict Christian
principles of Gloriavale and to hand over all
their assets, and rights to any assets.
Former members alleged they were
coerced into signing the documents — if
they did not they would not be able to stay
at Gloriavale with their families and would
have to leave the settlement with nothing.
The report stated that trustees admitted
the process would need to be improved.
Now, a lawyer will need to be present to
explain to each person the legal and financial
implications of signing.
A document outlining how this will occur,
and what will happen if someone does
not sign, will need to be provided to the
Charities Ser vices.
To allegations of forced marriage, Charities
Ser vices said in the report it was satisfied
with the trustees responses that “no one was
forced to get married if they do not wish to
“Members are advised that it is ‘God’s will’
for them to get married and it is up to the
individual members to decide whether they
wish to proceed with it. ”
Also addressed was members being
shunned when they left Gloriavale. Former
members alleged they were not provided the
means to support themselves or to transition
to life outside Gloriavale, and that they were
unable to maintain contact with those still
The report found: “ The trustees have
also acknowledged . . . that they may have
‘got it wrong’ a few times in the past as it
was always a highly emotional time for all
involved, but these processes have been
improved and are in the process of being
captured in writing”.
Prof Lineham said this was a weak
“They still come out with virtually
When it came to punishment, the report
detailed accounts of members being
over worked or locked in a remote hut.
The trustees told investigators that the
facilities were not in bad condition and that
being placed there was not a punishment.
It was a “time for members to reflect ” if
they had broken rules or wanted to leave the
A policy dealing with this would also need
to be supplied to the Charities Ser vices.
“A benchmark on which they are going to
Charity lawyer Sue Barker said that the
response by the Charities Ser vices was a
productive way to address the issues with
She said it was likely formal action would
be taken if the new terms were not met.
This view was supported by a spokesman
for some of the Gloriavale leavers. The man
has helped the leavers adapt to life outside
of the sect, but did not wish to be identified.
He said that he and former members had
read the report.
“A lot of allegations have been brought to
the surface and the way that the authorities
put it to us was that the report will be
used as a measuring stick which all further
actions will be judged if they fall short.
“ In the past they might have been able to
get away with things but this will ser ve as a
benchmark on which they are going to be
Ms Barker said that there was a possibility
if the trust did not comply it would lose its
There had been cases overseas where
similar groups had been found to be harmful
to communities through similar “shunning”
“O bviously their charity’s registration is
very important to them, they have a multi-
million dollar industry going on which
would other wise be paying tax so they have
bent over backwards to ensure can stay
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