Gloriavale member forced to leave after criticising leadership's 'ungodly' rules, 'pre-eminence of sin'

A leader and trustee of religious group Gloriavale has been forced to leave after criticising the leadership for overseeing "ungodly" rules, fear and a lack of accountability. 

In a letter, Zion Pilgrim gave a rare glimpse into concerning aspects of the group, including what he calls "sexual immorality" and a "pre-eminence of sin". 

Pilgrim was born at Gloriavale and is trusted within the community. But a 14-page letter he wrote to leader Howard Temple made his position inside the Christian group untenable, Liz Gregory from the Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust said.

"Anyone who writes a letter like that and gives it to the leaders is effectively signing away their rights to live in that community," Gregory said.

The letter Pilgrim wrote is one of love - openly critical and seeking change - and strikes at the heart of Gloriavale's purpose. 

"We do have some serious concerns about some of the fundamental ways of thinking and behaving here that we believe are not in line with God's word," the letter said.

National principal of the theological Laidlaw College Roshan Allpress said it's a "pretty significant" way to begin a letter.

"To basically ask the question, is this a Church one that can still call itself Christian,"  Allpress said.

Pilgrim headlined his letter, "What is the fruit of Gloriavale".

"There is also some very concerning fruit that cannot be ignored; the sexual immorality issues and the pre-eminence of sin, pride, lack of love," he wrote.

Allpress said the reference to sexual immorality is difficult to decipher. 

"Sexual immorality in this context could mean anything from improper thoughts, right through to quite significant, even serious, behaviour," he said.

"It can mean looking lustfully. It could mean much worse."

Pilgrim wasn't available for an interview with Newshub, but left Gloriavale with his wife taking their 12 children for south Canterbury. 

Newshub understands that after writing the letter, Pilgrim was given an ultimatum - give total commitment to the leaders, or leave. 

Newshub has approached Gloriavale for comment. 

Gregory said there's an overriding theme to the stories of those who split from the group. 

"We hear from a lot of people who have lived in there, and from people who still live there about the sexual abuse, the physical abuse, neglect emotional abuse," she said.

The letter speaks of having to "obey what the leaders say" even if it's wrong, and says "there must be mutual accountability".

Pilgrim took a stand against the leadership. It appears that was rejected, forcing him and his family out.

The Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust is helping raise money for departing residents of Gloriavale and are holding various public speaking events starting this Thursday.