1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.”
This one’s a special write up for me, a few years ago I moved overseas from North America to a faraway land in the southwestern Pacific ocean; the country of New Zealand. The country of New Zealand is comprised of 2 land masses, the north and the south island.
I lived in Wellington overlooking the Cook Strait towards the south island. Never knowing that mere 8-10 hours distance was a cult located in Haupiri.
Gloriavale is a small isolated cult group and has an estimated population of over five hundred. They own a small airline called Air West Coast the airport the plane frequents is right across the water from where I lived, it’s a good chance I’ve seen it before.
While the group keeps isolated to themselves they own a variety of businesses in order to keep the community going, from what I know they run a small airline, milk and cheese production, they also put on shows for anyone interested in visiting.
New Zealand’s landscape is beautiful full of lush green trees, misty mountain ranges, valleys, meadows and crystal clear water, plenty of places to relax and be among wildlife. The community complex is located in a peaceful valley one may not realise its the home of a cult far removed from the world.
WHO ARE THE COOPERITES
The group was founded in 1969 by the late Neville Cooper (aka “Hopeful Christian”), an Australian preacher who came to New Zealand. He made what became known as the Springbank Christian Community near Christchurch.
The community grew too large for the property and bought land on the West Coast and later moved there in 1995. They named their new property in the Haupiri Valley “Gloriavale” and established the Gloriavale Christian Community.
Cooper was a known sex offender and was brought up on charges in 1995 he and served 11 months in prison. Former member Yvette Olsen said Cooper sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions at 19 years of age. She said he’s a man of “unbridled lust”, a “dirty old man”.
His son Phil Cooper a former member of Gloriavale escaped the cult taking his then-wife along with him only for his wife to return forsaking him and their children in order to come back to the cult. Phil Cooper mentioned he also was sexually abused by his dad when he was a teenager, the memories of what transpired still trouble him years later.
A former member of Gloriavale said most of the families living in the secretive cult are not aware of their leader’s sex abuse conviction and believe he was jailed for preaching the gospel.
Elijah Overcomer was evicted from Gloriavale after questioning leader Christian over his conviction for indecent assault on young women.
The secretive group heavily relies on communal living everything they know of is in the community of Gloriavale. All of their families, friends, work every part of their life is invested in Gloriavale they know nothing else.
GV says: We believe that the Church at Gloriavale is one local church in the whole body of believers, wherever they may be. And while we know that we are not the only Christians around, we still want to be only Christians, and nothing more. We do not believe that this is the only Church where people can gain salvation, but it is our local church, and part of the body of Christ…
Bible says: We have salvation through the ransom sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s because of Him, He is the author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9). This statement alone qualifies them as a cult because they place their faith in a church and not in the Son of God.
Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
GV says: Head coverings such as scarves are worn as a sign to the angels that a woman has placed herself in submission to the authority of the man.
It has been the custom among Christian people for centuries for men to remove their hats when entering a place of worship, and for women to have their heads covered. Only in the last century did these traditions start to change with the fashions of the world, but the scriptural basis for it is something we acknowledge and obey. In the same chapter of Corinthians, we are taught that men should have short hair while the women should grow their hair long.
Bible says: Gloriavale teaches that a woman must cover their head, I also agree with that but the difference is that the woman in the cult remain covered at all times. This is not a requirement the only time a woman should be covered is when the church comes together. In the case of Gloriavale the members are always together living in a community. While that may be so they’re not always worshipping God, that’s when a woman is required to cover her head. Is she always praying 24/7? Even the most spiritual must confess that they’re not always praying to God.
1 Corinthians 11:3–5 “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Christ [is] God. Every man praying or prophesying, having [his] head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.”
It goes unto say in the same epistle “…is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?” (1 Corinthians 11:13) This proves the men and women of Gloriavale are a cult relying on their own works to merit favour from God.
Do you have to live in a community to be a Christian?
GV says: No, but our community life has many advantages for Christians, who should live together in order to keep the commands of the Sermon on the Mount and other scriptures. Why would a Christian not want to live among others who share the same faith? In heaven, we will all live together in the mansions Jesus is building for us, we will all wear the same kind of clothes, and will all be perfectly submitted to the Word of God. Shouldn’t we then be doing these things as much as possible now? We have found that any arguments against living in community come down to arguments in favour of selfishness, self-will, or love of the world. One of the greatest blessings of community life is having brethren available to help and strengthen each other. If people can show us a better way of keeping the commands that Jesus has given us, we will be very happy to see it.
Bible says: The above statement has some truth but dig deeper there’s more under the surface. Yes, there are advantages for Christians being around one another (fellowship), but the Bible speaks “community life” or “wearing the same clothing”. The church comes together not lives together “If therefore the whole church be come together into one place” (1 Corinthians 14:23). The context of the verse is when believers come together. Additionally, the Sermon on the Mount has nothing to do with any of these topics.
GV says: Our source of authority on all matters of faith and life is the New Testament of the Bible.
Bible says: This is simply not true, their source is the Bible filtered through one man Neville Cooper who has taken the word of God and twisted it in order to have complete control over these individuals.
ESCAPED FROM GLORIAVALE, A RELIGIOUS CULT
Lilia Tarawa is 27 years old, Cooper’s granddaughter she grew up in Gloriavale most of her life and has left the cult with her parents. It’s a sad story because here’s a child who was raised in a cult that when under the guise of Christianity and has caused damage and tainted what true Christianity is to the point of pushing her away from God.
After leaving Gloriavale Lilia wrote her own book titled “Daughter of Gloriavale: My Life in a Religious Cult”. What’s become of Lilia Tarawa after leaving the cult and submerging herself in the ways of the world? I think the next few phrases will sum it up.
My life’s work Liberation, courage & purpose (www.liliatarawa.com)
“At heart I am a freedom-seeking, ever learning student of life who loves spreading messages of life-altering liberation.”
“Shackle-breaking, mind-bending, life-giving freedom.”
“For the first time in ages, I felt peace. Yoga saved me.”
“My business coach introduced me to Dr John Demartini, a gifted human behavioural specialist, with modalities to rebalance psychological imbalances and heal unhealed wounds.”
“I invested thousands of hours and dollars in courses, coaching and resources to answer one burning question, Who am I? You are the answer to your question, Danielle La Porte reminded me.”
Dreams & Aspirations All that is to come
“During worship meetings, I tuned out of boring sermons by reading Old Testament Bible stories.”
“I read encyclopedias to learn about life outside Gloriavale.”
“Yoga has a dedicated place of honour on my Instagram. Each time I visit the mat, my practice is a mirror for my past, present and future.”
“I plan to complete a yoga teacher training to supplement my practice, then teach retreats across the world.”
“During my adventures, I encountered thought leaders who greatly influenced me.”
“Oprah Winfrey, Brendon Burchard, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Sam Harris, to name a few.”
“I would love to speak on-stage with Danielle La Porte or Oprah Winfrey or any of my mentors.”
How I live life By Lilia Tarawa
“I have no desire to fit into what society wants me to be. I am cultivating a mindset of bravery by living on the edge.”
“The universe second chanced me a life I never dreamed possible.”
“Today I am sitting at my kitchen table in ripped tights and a woollen sweater over denim shorts.”
“I am sporting Tommy Hilfiger eye-wear on rouge coloured cheeks framed by an edgy fringe.”
“My ring-embellished fingers flit across the keyboard of a sleek Mac.”
“The picture screams 21st-century modern woman. That is accurate!”
“I am an indie rock-loving, whiskey drinking, sci-fi obsessed, agnostic with a deep interest in human potential.”
“Shortly, I shall be boarding a flight to teach audiences about leadership, self-respect and confidence.”
“As my fellow TEDxChristchurch speaker, Dr. David Galler says in his talk A touching glimpse into the mystery of death, ‘Too often we put our eggs in an afterlife basket.”
“We waste entire lives waiting for utopia and forgetting that heaven and hell are both here in the present moment.”
“Life is part of dying and death is a part of living. It is the two-sided coin of reality.”
“One day the grim reaper will collect. That reality check is the reason I phone my best friend, Grace Hoover, each morning to say; I love you.”
“I would hate to lie on my deathbed regretting what I did not do.”
Life after Gloriavale Finding my feet
“The thought was foreign to me. That is when I realised, [insert profanity]! I am free.”
“I got cosy with brands like L’Oreal, Victoria Secret, Levi, MAC, Chuck Taylor, Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas.”
“I was wearing figure-hugging jeans, lipstick and stilettos.”
“The world was my oyster, but I had not a clue where to go.”
Beliefs Religious & spiritual
“My beliefs changed immensely in the years following our departure from Gloriavale.”
“I remained a Christian, tried a few churches, found one I was comfortable with and made friends there.”
“I settled for a while, but curiosity tugged me. My life was mine to choose now.”
“I wanted to find the real Lilia who’d hidden behind uniforms and downcast eyes.”
“Womanhood ran hot in my blood. My body took me to places the church forbade me. The loss of my virginity liberated me from the shackles of church rules.”
“My shelves filled with books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Grant Cardone, J.R. Ward and Tony Robbins.”
“I read biology, psychology, theology, spirituality, philosophy and physics.”
“Music was my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. I listened to 50 Cent, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Metallica, Celine Dion, and Hillsong.”
“I travelled abroad to experience the cultures of other humans.”
“I was breaking many Christian laws, such as befriending gays.”
“My wholesome friendships with them forced me to recognise the many Christian doctrines which separated, rather than united humanity.”
“No creed is flawless, but I met too many Christians who professed theirs to be.”
“They ignored the defects of Christian teaching, using the word ‘faith’ as an excuse for non-thinking and dogma.”
“Is God even real? Also, if he is incomprehensible, how did we stuff ‘him’ in a gender box?”
“How can the abuse of children, which is an inherent part of Christian doctrine, be condoned? Spare the rod, spoil the child, the Bible read.”
“I do not live by conservative Christian doctrine. I have a science-based worldview.”
“In 2017 I attended a conference where Lyle MacWilliam proclaimed, Contrary to common belief. Science is not a truth cast in stone. It is a way of thinking.”
“As I have learned, science is a mindset that says, We can always ask a better question to find a better answer.” — Lilia Tarawa
It’s quite evident the damage Neville Cooper’s cult caused in this one individual, while she was always confused as to what true Christianity is because Gloriavale is not Christian by any means, she went from one wrong extreme to the other wrong extreme.
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
How true this is to see a young woman who at one time in her life really thought she was living for God but was deceived into a life of legalism and cultic ways e.g. matching uniforms navy-blue, ankle-length dresses and white headscarves (Women), blue trousers and shirts (Men), mini versions of the compulsory garb (Children).
This experience changed her into a person (in her own words) who’s now practising fornication, yoga, who placed her faith in science and atheist. How far the pendulum has swung! How many others have found themselves in the same situation as she or will soon find themselves because of this cult?
As a Christian is saddening because at one time she genuinely cared about reading the Bible and knowing about God but it was tainted by a man who had an agenda and that was to rule with an iron fist.
Just as other cults many innocent individuals are being damaged by false doctrine. These victims were once zealous and sincere about what they believed but they were deceived by wicked men and sincerely wrong. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to be born again and remain in God’s word so that when you come across false doctrine.
We need to reach out to individuals who’re entrapped by these groups, many of them truly want a relationship with God but have fallen for another Jesus, another spirit and another gospel. They’re completely unaware and are in need of the true Gospel of Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:4 “For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
My hope is that Lilia Tarawa and others come to know the true God of the Bible, that He gave Himself as a ransom for their sins that they may live. This world is plagued with many distractions which satan uses keep people in bondage and away from the true gospel. Religion doesn’t save, only a person saves, one perfect person and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 11:28–30 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”