‘Elect ves­sel’ flies in for church visit

Sunday News - - NEWS - JACK FLETCHER

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.

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