Gloriavale: New Zealand’s Secret Cult is a documentary about the religious cult founded by an Australian preacher in 1969. Source: Jesuit Media.
New Zealanders are well aware of the story of Gloriavale, a religious community set up by Neville Cooper, who then renamed himself Hopeful Christian. It drew as many as 600 people at some times, including families.
In looking at the history of Gloriavale, it is clear that it ran along the patterns of many of the cult communities – a dominant leader who, in turn, hands the domination and leadership onto a group of stewards, called servants, who continue to be strict and dogmatic in their interpretation of the community regulations.
The film presupposes audience knowledge of Gloriavale, which has had numerous allegations of sexual and psychological abuse, exploitation and slavery of its women members. Neville Cooper, himself, was jailed for sexual abuse offences in 1995.
The audience is plunged into the action between 2019 and this year.
The focus is on former Gloriavale member John Ready, who is trying to make contact with his wife who is still in the cult. He persuades his mother, Sharon, a cult member of 50 years, to be interviewed about her experiences. There are interviews with several other members of the family, including Ready’s sister, as well as interviews with a number of other disillusioned former members.
Ready and his family have brought a legal case against the cult. The documentary details his contact with the legal team, their investigations and the building of the case over several years. While the film’s action includes scenes from this year, the investigations into Gloriavale and its leadership and its subjugation of its members continue.
Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC
Gloriavale: New Zealand’s Secret Cult. Directed by Fergus Grady, Noel Smyth. 89 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes and references to child sexual abuse.)
Gloriavale: New Zealand’s Secret Cult (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics)