Glo­ri­avale now doomed to fail

The Press - - News -

The trou­ble with utopias is they are run by hu­man be­ings. As a re­sult they are doomed to fail­ure. The big ques­tion af­ter the death of Glo­ri­avale founder Hope­ful Chris­tian this week is not whether the com­mu­nity will fail, but when.

Some in­di­ca­tions sug­gest it will be busi­ness as usual for the Chris­tian sect that seems to hold an end­less fas­ci­na­tion for the rest of coun­try.

To be­gin with, the com­mu­nity seems to have a suc­ces­sion plan. Its an­nual re­turn (it is a reg­is­tered char­i­ta­ble trust) for the year end­ing July, 2017 shows the ap­pointed suc­ces­sor is Howard Tem­ple who first be­came an of­fi­cer of the trust 27 years ago. He ap­par­ently be­comes the ‘‘over­see­ing shep­herd’’. Fer­vent St­ed­fast is head of the trust board sug­gest­ing he will re­main as the chief ex­ec­u­tive and Tem­ple will take over as the spir­i­tual head.

Hope­ful Chris­tian stepped down from any of­fi­cial post in 2010 although his in­flu­ence ob­vi­ously con­tin­ued un­til close to his death.

But clearly his charisma hasn’t been the com­mu­nity’s only sus­te­nance. For in­stance, there is no rea­son to think Glo­ri­avale will go the same way as the Camp David cult based in Waipara. Its founder Dou­glas Met­calf died in 1989 and by 1995 the cult, run by Met­calf’s son-in­law, had im­ploded.

An­other in­di­ca­tion of Glo­ri­avale’s ba­sic sta­bil­ity is its fi­nan­cial sound­ness.

A com­mu­nity like Glo­ri­avale is only sus­tain­able if it has a pos­i­tive cash flow. It pulled in about $17.2 mil­lion in the year to July, 2017 and spent about $15m. In the fi­nal re­sult it posted a sur­plus of $1.2m.

It owns 13 com­pa­nies that op­er­ate busi­nesses in farm­ing, honey, build­ing and mid­wifery and they seem mostly to be suc­cess­ful.

A com­pany called Ocean Har­vest In­ter­na­tional has tax losses of $4.4m, but this is not nec­es­sar­ily a sign the com­pany is in strife.

The trust got $1.65m in do­na­tions from its mem­bers,

$2.1m in early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion grants and an­other

$224,000 in grants from the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the ac­counts, with­out the tax­payer grants, Glo­ri­avale would be run­ning at a loss.

The other fac­tor that counts in Glo­ri­avale’s favour is its longevity. Cults gen­er­ally thrive for a while and then burn up, but Glo­ri­avale in var­i­ous guises has been go­ing for nearly 50 years.

Like a good busi­ness it has a clear and ar­tic­u­lated vi­sion. It lives by its dec­la­ra­tion of faith ‘‘What We Be­lieve’’ and its mem­bers own ev­ery­thing ‘‘in com­mon’’. Its es­sen­tial pur­pose is to pro­vide for its Chris­tian fam­ily groups and their ed­u­ca­tion in Chris­tian be­liefs.

What could go wrong? With­out in­side knowl­edge we can only spec­u­late, but Glo­ri­avale has a num­ber of po­ten­tially di­vi­sive and un­der­min­ing prob­lems.

It can be as­sumed the five mem­ber trustee board – Mark Chris­tian, Sa­muel Valor, Enoch Up­right, Fer­vent St­ed­fast, Howard Tem­ple – do not nec­es­sar­ily see all things the same way.

For in­stance the com­mu­nity has to de­cide how it deals with peo­ple who want to leave the com­mu­nity. Many will have worked there for years with all their earn­ings go­ing back to the com­mu­nity. What are they en­ti­tled to when they leave?

The lead­er­ship will have to de­cide how much the com­mu­nity can ac­com­mo­date the out­side world. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Char­i­ties Ser­vices start­ing in 2015 re­quired the com­mu­nity to make a num­ber of changes to how it was run.

One fac­tor that could se­verely un­der­mine the com­mu­nity is a symp­tom of its suc­cess. Its mem­bers marry young and do not ex­er­cise birth con­trol so fam­i­lies are large. Hope­ful Chris­tian is thought to have 19 chil­dren. Fam­i­lies with eight to 10 chil­dren are not un­com­mon.

These chil­dren have to be sup­ported and ed­u­cated. If they are to re­main in the com­mu­nity to en­sure its con­tin­u­a­tion they need to be pro­vided with job train­ing and em­ploy­ment. The com­mu­nity has shown it can run good busi­nesses, but how big can it get on the West Coast?

With a large in­crease in its pop­u­la­tion, dis­si­dents will spring up as they al­ready have. Not all of them will leave. Some will try to drive change from within caus­ing strife and dis­rup­tion.

Hope­ful Chris­tian’s death won’t change the com­mu­nity much in the short term. If his legacy is stick­ing rigidly to his prin­ci­ples and meth­ods of op­er­a­tion, then the com­mu­nity is prob­a­bly des­tined for im­plo­sion sooner rather than later. But who knows? Maybe Glo­ri­avale can keep its dream alive by chang­ing and adapt­ing.

Glo­ri­avale founder Hope­ful Chris­tian died ear­lier this week.

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