Brethren leader in NZ; reads ‘riot act’ to followers
The supreme leader of the Exclusive Brethren church – a reclusive multimillionaire from Sydney – has jetted in to New Zealand, an insider says.
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, 8000 of whom live here.
A current church member said Hales was visiting because he was unhappy with his New Zealand followers and had raised concerns about their behaviour.
The member asked not to be identified for fear of being labelled a traitor and expelled.
It’s understood Brethren congregations in New Zealand have also been told to repent for their excessive consumption of alcohol.
A church spokesman, Doug Watt, denied Hales was in New Zealand for that purpose.
‘‘We hold regular bible study sessions for encouragement, pastoral care and spiritual growth for the community. We’ve been enjoying encouraging bible readings together in Christchurch for a few days and also have meetings in Rangiora,’’ he said.
Watt said around 1000 church members attended the bible conference in Christchurch.
Alcohol is a key feature of life in the Exclusive Brethren, who call themselves the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church; former members have described how mantras were recited in the church such as ‘‘drink makes a strong man stronger, and a weak man weaker’’.
Security was tight as thousands descended on the church’s Christchurch stronghold awaiting Hales on Friday.
On Friday, a white-shirted church member at the gate, Eddy Suckling, was unable to say how many people were inside, but cars were forced to park on the grass surrounding the 200-plus-space car park alongside the hall.
At least 15 white buses were lined up as well as more than 20 white vans. Shiny white SUVs and pick-up trucks filled the neighbouring streets.
Hales, who usually travels in a Bombardier CL-600 Twin Jet Challenger, was also expected to visit Whanganui and Auckland on his visit to New Zealand.