Current Gloriavale members sneak out to openly criticise leaders

Two current members of Gloriavale have snuck out of the religious community and openly criticised their leaders, in an exclusive interview with Newshub.

For the first time ever, members of Gloriavale walked out in secret to raise serious allegations of control, long work hours and mental abuse.

"I feel this is my way of helping that change. Not to destroy people's lives up there, but to give them the change that they're actually seeking for," the first member told Newshub.

They said control, manipulation, and threats are how things have been done there "for years". 

"Leaders should not have control over every aspect of your life... To control what I would say the physical life - our work, even who we marry, and that sort of thing. That's not actually up to them."

Gloriavale likes to be publicly seen as a place of unity, but according to these men, that unity is established through a culture of fear. 

"Basically, you can't go anywhere without permission," the second member told Newshub. "You can't go anywhere without a good valid reason. And if you displease the leaders, in any way, they can basically force you out of your home and separate you from your wife and children."

There are seven leaders, or Shepherds, of Gloriavale. 

The current members who spoke to Newshub said "everyone is too scared" to question the leaders who are often "very angry".

Newshub won't reveal what the members' jobs are, but they had no choice in the matter. They said it's physical work and the hours can be punishing.

"You could work up to 20 to 23 hours," the first member said. 

"Sometimes you could go two whole days and you get some sleep but then you're expected to go straight back to work straight away because it's expected."

Asked whether they were forced to work those hours the first member responded, "In a nutshell, yes". 

They said if they refused to work those hours, "you'd be told you're lazy". 

Workers at Gloriavale are not considered employees by the Government, instead they're seen as volunteers. 

MBIE said they have "no jurisdiction" to intervene in the activities of Gloriavale's Trust. 

If they weren't volunteers, such work arrangements would almost certainly be unlawful. 

The members also believe the leaders' interpretation of the Bible goes well beyond what the scriptures actually intend.  

"How can you force someone to do that if you're saying that we're following the Bible? How can you force someone to do something that isn't actually biblical....and call it biblical?" the first member said.

When asked if there is a growing disquiet within the community, they replied: "definitely".

This interview - which was recorded in secret in the bush - is part of informing the public and trying to promote change. 

Never before have current Gloriavale members defied the leaders to blow the whistle on what they said is an oppressive and controlling regime. Journalists are seen as evil and they're taking the ultimate risk by talking.

They love their community and believe God wants them there, they just want the freedom to think, have choices and make decisions for themselves. 

Worksafe Relations & Safety Minister, Andrew Little, has asked MBIE's Labour Inspectorate to review its 2017 investigation into Gloriavale. This will reconsider whether workers at Gloriavale are employees rather than volunteers. MBIE's original inquiry decided they were volunteers. 

If you have information relevant, contact the Labour Inspectorate's National Manager, Stu Lumsden:

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