10 Reasons People Should Leave Gloriavale
Opinion piece: Liz Gregory.
(Disclaimer: Views are not necessarily those of the staff, trust or other leavers from Gloriavale. Pass feedback directly to me if necessary.)
Why should people leave Gloriavale, and why is this my business anyway?
Because I actually care about people. And so do our team. People in Gloriavale believe all sorts of things about us. Apparently we’re nasty, doing the devil’s work and we have horns coming out our ears. And then when they get to know us (either while they’re still in there, or after) they comment how they can’t believe they believed the nonsense. We do have a laugh about it, because it’s pretty funny. But it’s a reminder that we all have the capacity to hold views on people and we can be rigidly holding to these views, because they suit the narrative.
We are confident that we are attempting to do a good job in pretty challenging circumstance. We try to show care, we try to help practically, we try to help people on their healing journey. Sometimes we upset people. We definitely don’t try to keep everyone happy. We can’t!
And so the question remains, why not just help people who leave? And leave the people in there alone?
The answer is obvious. There are plenty of people in Gloriavale who have contemplated leaving, but they feel trapped by various factors – family, security, beliefs, ideology etc. As Dr Norris said, they are socially entrapped.
We have the ability to help, the expertise and the desire. So why not?!
Back to the original question. Why do I think people SHOULD leave? (nothing too long or intense for a Saturday morning)
#1 Because you love your children
Of course the irony is you say you’re staying for that exact reason too! But you need to consider that you may believe that due to the impact of conditioning. You’ve been taught to believe Gloriavale is the safest place on earth. It’s where God is. It offers a better chance of salvation for you and your children. It offers the best education. (But what if ALL these things are untrue?). Gulp. Read that again. What if all these things you have been told are untrue?
You might vow these are your own beliefs and you get them from the Bible. But that’s not true. You might be mad at me for suggesting they’re not your genuine thoughts. And I would invite you to look at the Bible and show me where it says you should live in an exclusive, isolated community, all wear the same clothes to help with unity, lock the world out, and live by the controlling, abusive mandates of the leaders who have told you that they know what’s best for your life.
These views have been shaped by the view of the group. It’s time to acknowledge that and then challenge whether what the group says is right and true and healthy. Start by looking at the fruit and working backwards. Do you really think God intended that? Look at what you already know about the bad fruit, and then multiply it to cover everything you don’t know about. Can I encourage you to reassess what the Bible really says, without hearing the leaders’ voices interpreting it for you?
Your children are more impacted by the cult and its beliefs that you can ever imagine. The development of children born into high-control groups is arrested and delayed. They are at far higher risk of suffering emotional, psychological, sexual & physical abuse, along with exploitation than the general population. There’s plenty of research to back that up. Your child’s mental health will be impacted. 80% of people exiting these kinds of groups have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD from their time in the group. Their education will suffer. Their character development will be impacted. Their physical health and safety will be impacted.
Safe guard your children’s minds from the tormenting Lord’s Day services, where there is a lot of “brainwashing” and “conditioning” going on. This is a place where leaders try to keep control – and they use the Scriptures as their weapon. Your children have NO capacity to sift out the wheat from the chaff. Protect the “ear gate”. Why should you have to listen to Salem T preaching on obedience for 40 minutes (repeatedly using the phrase “just obey”). Or leaders preaching about Ananias and Saphira for people who don’t hand all their money in. Or Stephen S preaching “that these are the days of vengeance?” (One current member said to me, “No Stephen. Vengeance suggests an unfounded attack. This isn’t vengeance. This isn’t even you getting mildly what you deserve.”)
Bring your children to safety. Even if you can’t see why it’s important yet. You know all those beautiful Christian people who you loved and trusted, and then left and didn’t return. They’ve seen it.
#2 Tribal Warfare is alive and well in Gloriavale
Your family connections mean something. They put you in a particular place up and down the hierarchy, and unless you clamber over other people, you likely won’t make it to a place of power and influence and experience the benefits that come with power. Don’t believe me? Just think about how you all think about and talk about certain family lines. Coopers, Stedfasts, Standfasts, Temples…. Mmm you know what I mean?! Living a in a personality cult is exhausting. You and your children will never break free from this – unless you get some distance. War is horrid. Move away from the warzone.
#3 Interconnectedness of Abuse
This one hurts. You all know what I’m talking about. You’re married to the guy who you know abused your best friend. Or your cousin was abused by the other cousin, who is now marrying into your family. Or you’ve been emotionally beaten by that man, and now your daughter has to marry his grandson. Or you’ve been abused and your family knows about it, but they can’t call it out because the offender is from a powerful family and it will only end badly for you. Add the layer of the “Gloriavale Gossip Grapevine” into the mix and it must be intolerable to live amongst. Leave and find a healthy network of people, away from the complexities that are driving your mind and body into the ground.
#4 Code of Silence and Victim Blaming still very much alive
There are too many people in Gloriavale who still have bad, very bad, views on offending. Heck, some leaders still don’t want to believe their original leader set a bad tone. Don’t keep company with these people. They might be teaching your children at school. It’s no wonder victims are still keeping silent. Take yourselves and your family to places where there are more healthy attitudes towards women, men and abuse.
#5 – Living close to abusers doesn’t assist with healing
You know forgiveness is a good and right thing, but Gloriavale’s view of forgiveness is so warped and twisted, it just heaps condemnation on the victim. Why should a victim have to say the words “I forgive” and then promise she’ll never bring it up again to be accepted back into the group. The man gets away with things almost scot-free, and the girl lives with guilt for the rest of her life that she’s struggling to forgive!? She sees the man every day and her heart leaps into her mouth. She feels unsafe and wants to keep her children from him – only to be told she’s sinning and she needs to forgive. You see, saying “I forgive” are not magic words.
The “Forgive and Forget” doctrine is a bedrock one for Gloriavale. Have you ever wondered why they dreamed it up and drummed it in? Because there was a large amount of wrong-doing going on from day one, and it was a way to protect their cover. Hammering on about forgiveness is a huge red flag in an environment where there is systemic and rampant sexual and physical abuse. It was only serving one lot of people.
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It’s a deeply personal journey that people who take it are grateful for. But it’s never to be forced on people. It’s cruel to shout at victims, “Just forgive”. How about instead showing compassion and love, and support and assisting them to understand the abuse and how it happened and why it happened, and not heap blame on them. How about sharing the gospel and it’s healing power, and not using it as a weapon to destroy them further.
That’s why people need to leave Gloriavale. It’s almost impossible to go on a really genuine healing journey while still surrounded by the people and the environment that created the harm. It’s like a wound that keeps having the scab prodded or ripped off. Don’t confuse forgiveness with burying your pain either. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. We are not God and we have no capacity to deal with others’ sin towards us in the way God deals with our sin. There are people in Gloriavale who think they have forgiven their offenders, but they have really just buried it. They think if they don’t think about it, everything is okay. Not true. Your brain and body are impacted by abuse. Being triggered is a physical manifestation that springs from emotional harm. Forgetting about it and pushing it down might just be a coping mechanism, but it’s not evidence of forgiveness. Perhaps you need to let it out of the closet and face it head on.
Nor does forgiveness mean trusting an offender. If you have been abused by someone, it is perfectly acceptable to NEVER trust them again. Especially in the context of a cult where abuse is rife, and often well-hidden. You think they’ve stopped offending just because they got caught out and had to admit it? Research doesn’t back that up. Gloriavale leadership have been fools in this regard. And we know why. It seemed quicker and easier to have a fake “forgiveness” session, than to deal with the harmful beliefs that led to the situation. The leaders aren’t yet willing to examine their beliefs and make the link to the community’s issues. I suggest you don’t give them your ear.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean the end of the search for accountability or justice either. The two things can be completely separate. For some, forgiveness spurs them on to action and advocacy. This helps to safe-guard others. It’s brave thing to do, and not everyone can do this. Pretending your offender is somehow now safe to be around, or that he’s sorry just because he got caught out, can be incredibly dangerous. Even if they are sorry, we still have natural justice. We have NZ law. There are still consequences. That’s why people should leave Gloriavale. Join a healthy community and find out the Biblical view of forgiveness and begin a long journey to healing and restoration today.
#6 Cults Steal People’s Lives
Don’t let it happen to your children.
#7 The longer you’re in the cult, the longer it takes to recover
Nothing more needs to be said. It’s a fact.
#8 Need for Mental Space
Gloriavale leaders don’t like people going on holidays. Most cults don’t! Space and time and sleep are enemies of thought-control groups. People might just start to think… Thinking is dangerous. People can be deceived by thinking. They like you tired. You’re more likely to “just obey”. That’s why you need to leave. You’ve got years of sleep to catch up on. Start today!
#9 Perspective is impossible while you’re still in there
It’s impossible to see clearly when you’re still in the water you were born into, and you’ve not had the pleasure of swimming in the Mediterranean. How do we know this? 100% of all leavers say the same thing. “It’s not until you leave that you can see it“. Many say the first year is just mind-blowing as they start to put the puzzle pieces together. Many are still getting a fresh perspective on certain issues after many years. It takes years to disentangle truth from lies.
Ever wondered why most people don’t go back to Gloriavale? No, it’s not because they were deceived! (that’s just the automatic, conditioned response you’ve been taught). It’s not because they want the world (that’s just another thought-stopping cliché you were programmed with). For many it’s not because they don’t want God. Their time away gave them a new perspective. Like one man who left Gloriavale said to me this week, “We didn’t understand what damage was because we were all damaged.” Another man said, “You realise that you lived in an open sewer your whole life. No wonder I came out stinking.” Another lady said, “How do I know they think like this? Because I was one of those people.“
#10 You can find God and goodness out here too
In fact, I promise you’ll be shocked at how many beautiful people there are out here. There is nothing in Gloriavale that you can’t also experience out here.
Come and breathe the fresh air. Have some sleep. Talk to people. Get a new perspective. Learn to live.
You don’t have to come out with the assistance of the Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust. There are people everywhere who want to help. Be bold! You won’t regret it. 100% money-back guarantee.
But I know you’re saying, “But I don’t want the world.”
So if the pull factors aren’t tempting enough for you, consider the push factors. Let the bad Biblical teaching push you out. Let the constant and unrelenting tragic abuse stories push you out. Let the bad education push you out. Let the lack of a future push you out. Let the lies push you out. Let your lack of trust in the leaders push you out. Let the pain push you out. Let the exploitation of your children push you out. Let their lack of love and care push you out. Let the unwillingness by your leaders to seek immediate change and truth-telling push you out. Let your questions push you out.
Start on a journey to mental and physical freedom today. It starts with truth-telling. Why wait another decade? There is no white horse coming to rescue you.
Row away and live!
(PS you know you can leave a cult mentally before you leave physically? But it’s the physical leaving that safeguards your children.)