‘Elect vessel’ flies in for church visit
THE supreme leader of the Exclusive Brethren church, a reclusive multi-millionaire from Sydney, has jetted in to New Zealand on a private jet.
Bruce Hales, also known as the Elect Vessel and Man of God, has wide-ranging powers over the 40,000 worldwide members of the Exclusive Brethren, 8,000 of whom live in New Zealand.
Security was tight as thousands descended on the church’s Tuckers Rd stronghold in Christchurch ahead of a visit from Hales on Friday.
A church member said Hales was visiting because he was unhappy with his New Zealand followers and had raised concerns about ‘‘lawless and wicked’’ behaviour.
They asked not to be identified for fear of being labelled a traitor and thrown out of the church for speaking to media.
It’s understood Brethren congregations in New Zealand have also been told to repent for their excessive consumption of alcohol.
On Friday, a white-shirted church member at the gate, Eddy Suckling, who had travelled from Masterton for the conference, said it was ‘‘just a church conference’’.
‘‘There are a few from around the regions that have come in, just locals,’’ he said.
Suckling was unable to say how many people were inside, but cars were forced to park on the grass surrounding the 200-plus car park alongside the hall.
At least 15 white busses were lined up as well more than 20 white vans. Shiny white SUVs and pick-up trucks filled the neighbouring streets.
One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said conferences were common, ‘‘but nothing as big as this’’.
A private security guard at the gate said he was told very little about the event.
‘‘We didn’t even know it was the church until we arrived,’’ he said.
On Friday evening, a full black tinted Range Rover pulled out of a Christchurch address where Hales was believed to be staying, followed by a security team in a separate car.
Hales, who usually travels in a Bombardier CL-600 Twin Jet Challenger, was also expected to visit Whanganui and Auckland on the trip.
Bruce Hales is supreme leader of the Exclusive Brethren church.