The group was founded in 1969 by Neville Cooper (Hopeful Christian), an Australian-born evangelist who was invited to preach in New Zealand. He founded what became known as the Springbank Christian Community near Christchurch in the South Island. When this community grew too big for its property, the members bought land on the West Coast and shifted there over a period from 1991 to 1995. They named their new property in the Haupiri Valley "Gloriavale" and established the Gloriavale Christian Community. This property is about 60 km inland from Greymouth. In 1995 Neville Cooper was jailed for almost a year on sexual abuse charges. He was convicted on the testimony of his son and some young women who had fled the compound.
Known by some outsiders as the "Cooperites", the group rejects this name and members refer to themselves only as Christians. Members of the community live a fundamentalist Christian life in accordance with their interpretation of the teachings of the New Testament. The community attempts to uphold the example of the first Christian church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:41-47) for its principles of sharing and holding all things in common. The group teaches that the only true way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the commands of God.
The community earns its income from several ventures including dairying and the manufacture of gardening products made from sphagnum moss.
- Quilliam, Rebecca (23 April 2009). "Father tells of rescuing kids from West Coast cult". APN New Zealand. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
- What We Believe, Springbank, First Edition, The Eighth Month, 1989 (The book, researched and written by the group, sets out the way its members should live, what they should believe, and how they should behave. The book is never taken to replace the authority of the Bible, but is considered only to be guide to doctrines and beliefs.)
- Brown, Giles (9 January 2010). "West Coast Christians in search for gas". Fairfax NZ. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
- "Te Kete Ipurangi - Gloriavale Christian Community School". Ministry of Education.
- "Private School Review Report: Gloriavale Christian Community School". Education Review Office. November 2004.
- Beale, Fleur (2009). Sins of the father: the long shadow of a religious cult. Dunedin. ISBN 978-1-877460-30-2.
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