How Gloriavale's leadership structure works

Gloriavale's leadership structure is very male-dominated.

Gloriavale's leadership structure is very male-dominated.

There is probably no religious group New Zealanders have seen more of over the last decade than Gloriavale.

The West Coast Christian community has been featured in a series of documentaries and many news reports.

The allegations made against the community by former members have been well covered - the forced marriages, the sexual and physical abuse, the shunning of anyone who leaves, and the complete financial domination of all members.

But through it all only a few actual faces from the 550 to 600 member group have really emerged. In a TVNZ doco we see a lot of young newlyweds Paul Valor and Pearl Hope. In the exposes we hear a lot about the leader Hopeful Christian, who was convicted of sexual abuse in the 90s.

*Gloriavale: Nine questions we can answer, and one we can't
Inside Gloriavale: The official story
Gloriavale assets top $40m
Life after Gloriavale

Thanks to a Government investigation into the community released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act we can divine a clearer picture of how leadership in the group works.


The 55 families in Gloriavale - each with an average of eight children - live in four blocks of communal hostel accommodation. Each floor of these hostels has a "shepherd" and "servant" leader, who all together make up the leadership council of 16, which oversees the business operations, the various private schools, and the decisions over who should marry whom. They are all men.

This council of men say they lead the entire community by consensus - as in, all of them agree on everything by the end of each meeting.

It is alleged by former members that when members of the community break the strict rules or attempt to leave they are forced into disciplinary sessions with this council, where the leadership shout insults at them for hours. Several women allege they were called "sluts" and "whores" for wanting to leave the community.

Ad Feedback

This group of 16 men is subservient to a group of three senior shepherds, who run the tax-free Gloriavale charitable trust.

These three men are the the trustees of the trust, which runs the lucrative business operations of the group. They are also signatories to the "shared account" of money handed over by members - which is all of it, any personal income from jobs or businesses is expected to be handed over by Gloriavale members. Most of the "personal" accounts of individual members can also be accessed by the trustees, as they were set up by them. (The community told the investigators they were shifting their policy so individuals could sign up for accounts by themselves).

Necessities like food, housing, and medical equipment are provided by the community. They budget for approximately $39 per person per week.

Hopeful Christian, also known as Neville Cooper, who leads the Gloriavale community on the West Coast.


Above the three trustees or senior shepherds is Hopeful Christian, formerly known as Neville Cooper, the 76-year-old founder and spiritual leader of the group. Christian, as is well documented outside of the community but not within it, was convicted of sexual assault in 1995 based on the testimony of a woman and her son who fled the compound. He served a year in jail, and has at least 19 children to three different wives.

Christian retired from the board of trustees in 2010 but is still the "overseeing shepherd". This gives him the power to appoint himself back onto the board and to appoint new members.

While he does not appear to be heavily involved in the day-to-day business operations of the community, he is still firmly the leader of the group, giving sermons and setting the overall direction of the community.

Fervent Stedfast, right, speaks to Stuff Circuit's Paula Penfold.


Fervent Stedfast is the head of the trust board and the group's accountant. He has also acted a media spokesman for the group on several occasions. He is essentially Hope Christian's second in command.

Stedfast told Rural Delivery that he joined the then-Springbank community in 1970 as a 23-year-old. He had "embarked on a search for truth" which led him to the community. Further research establishes his original name was Alistaire Barret, and that his father was an Anglican priest.

Stedfast wrote the book What We Believe about the community in 1989, which codifies the group's strict Christian beliefs. 

At this time he was also headmaster of the school, as detailed in this 1987 Christian Living article.


Much less is known about Enoch Upright, another of the three senior shepherds. A 2001 letter from a visiting supporter described him as "an Australian immigrant, born in Greece, whose wife had left him." It also makes clear that at that point he was a servant, not a shepherd.

Stedfast and Upright would have both changed their names within the community, as is the group's custom now.


The third senior shepherd Howard Temple was another early convert, changing his name from "Smitherman".

According to that same 2001 letter Temple was an American mechanical engineer who served in the navy. He visited New Zealand during his service, prompting a move here and a marriage to a New Zealander. 

He joined the church when it was in Rangiora, but his wife Joy "took much longer in deciding to become a member". She did eventually join, and become the head of the wider school system. As of 2001 they had six children in the community.

Temple is or was recently the principal of Glorivale's "Community Garden of Children" - one of three early childhood centres within the community.

Temple has also been interviewed by television news crews from time to time, but never about himself.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Beneficiary in High Court fight

Niki Rauti has taken the Tamaki Regeneration Company to the High Court over its eviction notice.

Auckland beneficiary in High Court fighting for her right to stay in her home of 30 years.

$1.6m church cash gambled away

Elizabeth Papu was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison at Manukau District Court. (FILE)

She was in charge of the church's money but she used it to fund her hidden habit.

Schoolgirl still critical after crash

A car is pulled from the crash scene after it ploughed into a group of students outside Westlake Girls' High School.

Young student fighting for her life as a "deeply saddened" Auckland school grapples with horror crash.

Election mail clogging letterboxes

Briar Wyatt says she's trying to lead a zero waste lifestyle and receiving election mail has been "frustrating".

Political parties have been ignoring people's "no junk mail" signs, and turns out they're allowed to.


Eli gains loyal, helpful friend video

Six-year-old Eli Burkhalter with  his new assistance dog Taffy.

Taffy the golden labrador is a welcome companion for six-year-old Waikanae boy.

Kids sick on synthetics

Synthetic drugs, often mixed with dried leaves resembling cannabis, have claimed at least 20 lives in New Zealand this ...

Youngest was just 5 as three Porirua kids taken to hospital severely ill.

Massive drug case heads to trial

Wellington Police found cash hidden in a wall cavity during raids in Porirua and Tawa on April 11, 2017. (File photo)

Lawyer says covert drug operation was believed to be the biggest yet for the Wellington region.

SH1 blockage cleared

NZTA advised of delays on around the Paremata roundabout and Mana on State Highway 1 after a three-car crash at Plimmerton.

Minor delays continue after a two-car crash near Plimmerton.


Mum 'cannot grieve' video

Michelle Bishop is upset at the service received by funeral home Poppy Funerals following the death of her daughter ...

Michelle Bishop feels let down by funeral director who gave her Thin Lizzy for body and booked funeral at buffet restaurant.

Fire rips through home

The Prest family look on as their house is devastated by fire.

"Where do we live, where do we go?" asks father who tried to smother flames with blanket.

Weather halts search

Kieran Lynch, left, who became a dad six weeks ago, is missing.

Missing fisherman Kieran Lynch's family remain hopeful he will be found.

'Bound together by cancer' video

Christchurch father of two Kevin "Chalky" Carr received the news that his pancreatic cancer was back and his prognosis ...

Chalky Carr could have focused on his own cancer fight. Instead, he's raising $100,000 for a girl he'd never met.


Moorby's Top 5 this weekend

The Waikato Cherry Tree Festival will be held on September 23 and 24.

It's election weekend but there's an array of other events on if politics isn't your thing.

Library fix approved

Councillors approved $635,000 to earthquake strengthen the Hamilton Central Library. Another $87,000 will be used to add ...

Hamilton's central library will be brought up to earthquake standards.

Fatal police shooting 'justified'

Michael Taylor was shot dead by police officers at a property off Waverly St near Paeroa on June 10, 2016.

Officer used fatal force because he believed machete-wielding man was about to kill.

$1b water park plans revealed

The site could be home to an adventure park where visitors can try wakeboarding or scramble over an inflatable aquatic ...

Plans for a water adventure park, including housing and tourist accommodation, have been revealed.


The 'hero' in the beauty aisle

Shane White's training kicked into action as soon as he got to the man who collapsed in the beauty aisle.

Ian Foreman collapsed in a New Plymouth supermarket only for the produce manager to save his life.

Tight result predicted 

New Plymouth candiates
Clockwise from top left: Murray Chong (NZ First), Jonathan Young (National), Corie Haddock ...

Six New Plymouth electorate candidates still have more to do before they can relax

Frustrating build-up for cricket season

Tom Bruce will miss Taranaki's Chapple Cup tournament.

Cricket season rapidly approaching.

Death of monkey at Brooklands Zoo

150816 News Grant Matthew/Fairfax NZ 

Cotton-top tamarin monkeys at the Brooklands Zoo in New Plymouth.

Nephrite leaves behind her 5-year-old daughter Inca, and Inca's dad.


Another feather in artist's cap

13092017 Photo: MURRAY WILSON/STUFF		
Artist Joe Mcmenamin has worked with Lytton St School kids making a large, ...

Artist brightening up Manawatū streets with mural artwork.

Crash near Foxton

Ambulance leaving scene of a fatal crash on state highway 1 near Foxton.

One person is dead after two cars collided on State Highway 1 near Foxton.

The perils of Government

From left, National candidate Adrienne Pierce, Money Free Party candidate Scott Andrew and Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway ...

OPINION: National's candidate was ganged up on and faced tough questions.

Two service stations held up

The BP service station on Main St, Palmerston North, was robbed by two armed men on Wednesday

Armed men entered a BP in Palmerston North and a Mobil in Levin.


Straight to the pointe

Gillian Francis takes a class of students at the Nelson Dance Academy.

Forty years of running one of Nelson's best known dance school has seen Gillian Francis teach thousands of boys and girls how to dance and perform.

School's Link fears


Sonya Hockley, Auckland Point School principal outside the Haven Rd ...

Auckland Point School principal worried the Southern Link will stop local kids attending.

'What's a candidate?' video

Birchwood School students from left Jacob 8, Talei 9, Mia 8, talk to Stuff about their thoughts on the election and politics.

They can't legally vote until 2029, but they still have strong views on the election.

Who are you voting for?

Who are you voting for?

How are you voting on Saturday? Have your say in our election poll.


Recycling in the bag

Pak 'n Save owner Mark Elkington with their new soft plastics recycling bin.

Millions of plastic bags destined for landfill can now be recycled.

The generation game

The chutney-taste test is a serious business for members of the Women's Institute.

The cavalry is coming for one of New Zealand's oldest institutions - and they've brought chutney.

'Taylor-made' for trees

The first planting event in 2014 saw  Marlborough Landscape Group members, from left, Helen Ballinger, Ralph Ballinger ...

 It began as an idea to enhance the river and has branched out into something much bigger.

When one door closes ...

Business owners Holly Bonnington, right, and Kay Nicholls (centre) at the Sneaky Beach Cafe in Havelock.

The Sneaky Beach Cafe opened this week in Havelock, much to the excitement of locals.

South Canterbury

Men's health focus of campaign

Jonty Penney from Timaru is participating in the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride to raise funds for men,s health.

Two Timaru men are taking the health message on the road.

Flow-on concerns

David Hurst, from A J Engineering in Washdyke, is concerned about the impact of the water levy.

Businesses concerned about impact of Labour's water levy, spokesman says concerns unjustified.

New Mackenzie CEO

New Mackenzie council chief executive Suzette van

A current staff member will take on the top job at the Mackenzie District Council.

'He's a hero,' neighbour says

The remains of the Waipopo property on Wednesday afternoon.

Waipopo man who rescued wife from fire would have used 'every bit of strength'.


Search for missing man

Missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe.

More than 30 ground searchers, three search dogs and an aerial search have failed to find any further sign of missing Dunedin man Stephen Lowe

Serial sea lion killer at large video

A sea lion found shot on a Catlins beach in Southland in April.

A serial killer may be targeting New Zealand sea lions, with a $5000 reward on offer in exchange for the culprit.

Fired while on sick leave

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered Oamaru-based P&W Painters (PWP) to compensate former employee Paul ...

Company that unfairly fired brush hand while on sick leave also had to compensate an ex-staffer who was called a "baby killer".

Kidnapping duo plead guilty

Nick Miles, 24, and Gary Michael Wilson, 46, have admitted kidnapping a man and dumping him on the outskirts of Dunedin.

Two men kidnapped and dumped another man on the outskirts on Dunedin.


Pound in clear

An animal group and the Invercargill City Council are at odds about how a dog was treated. (File photo)

Ministry for Primary Industries clears the Invercargill City Council over captive bolt use.

Crash on Tay St

Several police cars blocking the the Tay St-Queens Dr intersection after an accident involving a motor cycle in Invercargill.

Police have arrested a motorcyclist who failed to stop for Police and crashed into a car in Invercargill this morning.

Turei fronts to city students

Metiria Turei speaks to Aurora College students in Invercargill.

Even on the brink of a knife-edge election, Metiria Turei doesn't regret telling her benefit story.

Youth organisations make appeal

Sam Balloch was one of dozens of volunteers seeking signatures for a petition to keep Number 10 One Stop Shop and ...

Number 10 Youth One Stop Shop and the Invercargill Secondary Schools Network are gathering support for their petition to remain at their current location.

Ad Feedback