The group was founded in 1969 by Neville Cooper, 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 based on the testimony of his son and of a young woman who had fled the compound.Neville Cooper has legally changed his name to Hopeful Christian.
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. They also run deer and sheep farms as well as run charter/scenic flights from Greymouth.
Their Christian Church Community Trust owns and operates a fixed-wing Cessna P210N Centurion aircraft, ZK-VIR, for Air West Coast Ltd. (http://nzcivair.blogspot.co.nz/2015/03/zk-vir-in-town.html). It was noted flying from Canterbury to West Coast on 28 September 2015.
Those who leave the community are shunned and denied contact with family members still remaining at Gloriavale.
One Christian cult-watching group refers to Gloriavale as a "cult, both theologically and sociologically." It says that "Theologically this group is a cult of Christianity, as its theology -- as well as its practices based on that theology -- places it well outside the boundaries of the Christian faith."
- 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.
- "Sunday speaks to families who have recently fled Gloriavale". TVNZ. 19 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "Gloriavale Christian Community at a Glance". Apologetics Index. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
- "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.
- The Gloriavale Christian Community
- Father tells of rescuing kids from West Coast cult
- Dad reaches out to sect child
- observational documentary A World Apart. (Video not viewable outside New Zealand)
- observational documentary Gloriavale Life and Death. (Video not viewable outside New Zealand)
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