Gloriavale is a reclusive, isolated Commune on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, consisting of around 90 families (550 members). They claim to be a Christian Community based on the New Testament. Like many in the Anabaptist tradition, they hold the Book of Acts in high regard, considering it a fundamental part of their religious doctrine and belief system to live together communally and share resources.

Their own website says “We seek to live a practical Christian life that mirrors life in Heaven, where there is perfect obedience to God, complete unity of thought, no self-will, no argument or strife, and no sin.

Families reside together in close quarters, sharing resources, responsibilities, and seeking for unity in the way they think, speak and act. Central to Gloriavale’s ethos is its adherence to traditional Christian values, which permeate every aspect of life within the community. From strict gender roles to modest attire and limited access to the external world, Gloriavale residents embrace a lifestyle marked by hard work and obedience.


Gloriavale’s leadership structure is characterised by centralised authority, with a small group of individuals holding significant power and responsibility for guiding and governing the community according to its religious beliefs and cultural traditions. At the pinnacle of Gloriavale’s leadership is the “Overseeing Shepherd,” who serves as the spiritual and administrative head of the community. Hopeful Christian held this role until his death at aged 92 in 2018. Howard Temple is the current Overseeing Shepherd, with Stephen Standfast waiting in the wings.  Beneath this role are Shepherds and Servants, who assist in the governance and management of the community. Additionally, Gloriavale operates on a patriarchal model, with men holding primary leadership positions both within the community and within families. While women may hold leadership roles in certain areas, such as education or childcare, decision-making authority typically rests with male leaders.


Gloriavale operates on a highly structured and communal work system designed to meet the needs of the community while adhering to their religious beliefs and principles of simplicity and self-sufficiency. Work within Gloriavale is considered both a duty and a privilege, with residents expected to contribute their skills and labour for the collective benefit of the community. The work system in Gloriavale encompasses a wide range of activities, including agriculture, manufacturing, construction, education, and domestic tasks. Each member of the community is assigned specific roles and responsibilities based on the needs of the community. There is little choice for members who are expected to work long, hard hours, with little time for rest and relaxation.

Living Situation

The living situation revolves around a system of hostels, which serve as communal residences for the community members. These hostels are loosely organised according to familial ties, with each hostel accommodating several families or individuals who share living spaces. Within each hostel, families typically have their own rooms accommodating up to 6-7 children. As families expand they will be allocated another bedroom. Little privacy exists, with no locks on the doors, and shared bathrooms for some.  For many decades the community revolved around the communal kitchen, eating and dining areas, but Covid saw some adjustments to the way of living, and evening meals are now eaten in the hostels. Members are expected to attend the communal breakfast, where there will be daily announcements and some spiritual encouragement or reminder.


The community also places a strong emphasis on traditional gender roles, with men and women having a strict division of labour – according to what is needed by the community.  Marriages are arranged within the community, and members are expected to adhere to strict guidelines regarding courtship and relationships. Contraception is forbidden and large families (10 or more children) are the norm.

Legal Structure

Gloriavale is a complex mix of a Charitable Trust, Businesses and a Partnership. They tie people into the community by getting them to sign a Commitment Vow, which along with their document “What We Believe” forms the basis of the Partnership Agreement and their spiritual commitment.

Spiritual Life

Residents gather for a 4-hour meeting on the Lord’s Day (1st Day), in a loose meeting of prayer, singing, testimonies and religious instruction. It is not a structured service and no one person is set aside to provide consistent Bible teaching. Often the meeting involves people standing up “as the spirit moves them”, and contributing their particular thoughts on an issue. The Bible is used, but leavers says there is not a comprehensive analysis of a portion of the Scripture.


Gloriavale has also faced criticism and controversy over the years, particularly regarding allegations of sexual, physical, psychological and spiritual abuse, control, and lack of autonomy for its members. This website is full of articles, videos and reflections from former members who state that Gloriavale is a cult, and has entrapped people.

  • By 2024, 17 men had been charged through the courts for physical or sexual abuse, with some sent to prison, and 18 more were under investigation.
  • In 2022, the Government created a Multi-Agency ” taskforce with 10 Government Departments participating to ensure Gloriavale met 5 key outcomes. They failed to meet these outcomes, but the new Government disbanded the group and it has not been replaced as at 2024.
  • In 2022/2023 Gloriavale lost two Employment Court cases brought by leavers who claimed they were exploiting their workers. The judge agreed they were not volunteers, but they should have been given the minimum employment entitlements. Many leavers are filing claims with the Employment Relations Authority for wages arrears.
  • In 2023 the Police announced Gloriavale was under investigation for forced labour, servitude and slavery. No charges had been laid by the end of 2023.
  • During 2022/2023, many teachers were stood down from the school due to allegations of improper behaviour, or a lack of training. The 2023 ERO report said it failed to meet registration Criteria, but they have been given a chance to come up to standard.
  • Civil law suits brought against the leaders are still in varying stages of progress.
  • The Royal Commission into Abuse in Faith-Based Institutions names Gloriavale as a case of special interest and it’s expected Gloriavale will feature in the final report due 2024.

As at 2024, Gloriavale is still functioning with around 550 members, but there is ongoing pressure from courts and the Government to meet standards expected of New Zealand citizens. Gloriavale is regularly in the news as more and more leavers share their stories. Gloriavale maintains it’s being persecuted for its faith, and that leavers are bitter. They made a public acknowledgment of harm during 2022, but most leavers did not see it as a sincere apology.

270 people have left since around 2012.