Gloriavale leaders in 'battle for control' after Hopeful Christian's death

There's a battle for control brewing in religious community Gloriavale following the death of founder Hopeful Christian.

Only one day after the 92-year-old's death, two prominent shepherds are already going head-to-head for the top spot, Patrick Gower told The AM Show on Wednesday.

"Fervent Stedfast, the current second-in-charge, effectively runs Gloriavale. [He's] quite an elderly man as well as one of the shepherds there. He's the person that you deal with. He wants control.

"But he is in a battle with another shepherd, my sources tell me, Howard Temple. He is the overseeing shepherd designate. He is the person that everyone believes was meant to take over. He is the person Hopeful Christian said would take over."

Gower says the question is "not only whether they can control Gloriavale as a religious organisation".

"It's got a $40 million asset base. There's a battle for control of that as well."

The West Coast sect has 550 members spread across 90 families. Around 75 people have left in the last five years.

Gower says there's a "lack of charisma" between the two potential leaders.

"That's what my sources tell me... do these two people have the ability to tell people what to do?

Religious expert Peter Lineham says significant change could be on the way.

"Gloriavale is financially very, very stable and solid from what I can make out. But how religious it remains is always one of those interesting questions.

"They're going to have to work out which way they're going to go. Because the fundamental question is will they open up more to the world or will they become even more exclusive?"

Mr Lineham says he met Christian when he set up the West Coast community.

"In a funny old fashioned way, he remained a very ardent preacher. His death now marks the end of a very strange career indeed."

Christian's death was confirmed to Newshub by his grandson on Tuesday. The founder, who changed his name from Neville Cooper decades ago, was a convicted sex offender.

He was sentenced to five years in prison in 1995, after being found guilty of three charges of indecently assaulting Yvette Olsen at the Springbank Christian Community, an earlier incarnation of Gloriavale close to Christchurch.

The grandson, who did not want to be named and lives outside the community, said he "had a lot of good memories and a lot of bad memories" of his grandfather.

"I won't go to the funeral, and neither will a lot of his other grandchildren."


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