Former Gloriavale resident details expulsion from commune


A former Gloriavale resident has detailed his expulsion from the West Coast commune, after he challenged the leadership and their reading of the Bible.

John Ready was born into the community in 1978, but said he was forced out by the overseeing shepherd just prior to Christmas 2017.

"This was a society with one dominant male ruling, he is the all-powerful emperor that every member obeys and works for.

"Essentially, I challenged the biblical base of his and his shepherds' self-appointed authority."

At the Employment Court, Ready pointed to Gloriavale's foundational document What We Believe, which members sign and are required to follow.

One part reads that "he must declare that he will submit to, be guided by, and obey the leaders of the Church in all matters concerning his faith and his involvement in the practical life and work of this Community. This is so for both men and woman".

Ready said he had received material by other Christian groups discussing the interpretation of the Bible, which "made sense to me but were contrary to what the shepherds and servants were teaching".

READ MORE: Former Gloriavale couple feels cut off from family after leaving

"I was counselled several times but did not stop trying to expand my knowledge of the teachings of the Bible and to try and reconcile between the teachings in the Bible and both the religious and pastoral behaviour at Gloriavale.

"In about April or May of 2017, I was working out at a run-off 35km from the community with another guy who had mp3 and mp4 files on his computer. At lunch time he would listen to it. For the first week I ignored it, but I couldn't help but hear it and I remembered how good it was. I got really excited about it again. I knew I had to keep it to myself though. I downloaded a copy and intended to introduce it to my family at an appropriate moment later, without offending anyone."

His vehicle was later searched, and a Christian pamphlet written by someone outside of Gloriavale was found, which prompted a meeting with some of the leadership.

"They pointed out that I had been caught for this before, and said I was a bad influence. I wouldn't back down as I was beginning to understand there was nothing wrong with the pamphlet and they had no right to say I couldn't have it.

"I couldn't begin to explain to this court the pressure and the fear of being in one of those meetings - you would have to be in one to get the idea. The manipulation is very real, they threatened me with their power to take away everything I held dear. My wife, my children."

The court heard that John Ready felt pressured to give Gloriavale's leader total control of his life, requiring him to submit unconditionally to their power. He refused to back down, so Ready was taken to a Nelson Creek house for eight days to think about his life. He said he considered it punishment.

READ MORE: Former Gloriavale woman recounts being humiliated by leadership

After several meetings with the leadership, he hitchhiked back to see his family and tried to persuade his wife to leave with him. He said she agreed with the shepherds, and he was caught in a difficult spot.

"There absolutely is pressure placed on people in the community to excommunicate leavers. I broke as I had everything to lose, especially my family. So, I wrote a letter to the leadership, and they let me back from Nelson Creek," said Ready.

Six month later he was kicked out of Gloriavale, because "they considered that I still didn't agree with the level of control that the leadership was demanding ... separating me from my wife and children and told everyone including my wife and children to have nothing to do with me".

Ready said he did not give up, and the leadership took him to another house to be close to his family.

"On that day they asked me whether I had changed my mind, would I submit. I said I hadn't, and they told me I needed to start looking for a job and they would give me a phone to effect that," said Ready.

Again Ready was made to leave, but he was still wearing his Gloriavale uniform "to show that I had not left but I had been forced out".

He said no to signing the papers to withdraw or resign from the partnership agreement, which forced the leadership to hold a vote excluding him.

"I have been told that two men wrote their names on the paper but didn't actually sign it.

"At no time was I a volunteer, I always worked expecting to be provided with food, accommodation for myself and later my wife and family. I had no other source of the necessities of life that I could choose," said Ready.

The court is considering whether six women who worked at Gloriavale are volunteers or employees.

The hearing continues.