Frequently asked questions

Here’s a selection of questions we are commonly asked by students researching the community life, or people who want answers to questions raised in the media.

Do you believe that you are the only Christians in the world?

No. 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. We have built the Community life according to our understanding of the Word of God and how it can be put it into practice. Other Christians who live in Community, such as the Hutterian Brethren of North America, have similar principles but their lifestyle is different because of their historical background and the circumstances in which they now find themselves.

Our study of the scripture has convinced us that while it is definitely God’s will for us to live in a Community, not everybody else has that opportunity because of persecution or lack of teaching. But where God’s people have the liberty and ability to live a full sharing life, we believe that they should strive to live together, exhorting one another daily as the return of Christ is drawing nigh.

Are people that aren’t born into Gloriavale allowed to join?

Yes, they are. That is how everybody came in the early days when this church first started. The gospel is good news and we want everybody to hear it and to have the opportunity to respond to the gospel as Jesus taught it to his disciples.

The Bible says, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17.

This scripture tells us that God wants to give everybody the opportunity to follow Christ and to be part of the Church that He is building.

When joining, what must a person leave behind?

Being a Christian is not just about playing “church” once or twice a week. It is about forsaking all to follow Christ, which means doing what He said, and seeking to follow His teachings and his example each and every day of our life. Being a true Christian means that He must come first in our lives. It means that that we must turn away from all sin and trust in Christ completely.

For example, pleasing God , doing his will and following Christ must come before our family, our own likes and dislikes, our own plans for our life, our personal possessions, and every other person or thing, including our own life. (That is not just our idea: that is what Christ and his apostles clearly taught.)

True Christians need to be together. The Bible says that the true Church is the body of Christ. The various parts of a body need to be together if they are to function properly. That is why true Christians have always tried to be together when they can, to encourage one another, to love and care for one another, and to keep themselves away from evil influences that might turn them away from their faith. Through the ages, groups of Christians who have lived together in communities have had a greater influence upon the world around them, and have kept their faith stronger and longer, than those who have remained in individual families living as part of worldly society.

When we come across people who are inspired to believe and to live by this message, we look upon them as our brothers and sisters, and we want them to have the same benefits of living in Christian community that we ourselves have received. If they want to truly follow Christ as part of our community, and are prepared to commit their lives to that end, then we are very happy to receive them.

Jesus summed it up when He said, “…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:39) We believe that only disciples (disciplined followers) of Jesus Christ are true Christians. The word “Christian” was first used to refer to the disciples of Jesus Christ who lived in the town of Antioch, in Syria. (Acts 11:26) In other words, Jesus taught that for anyone to be a true Christian they have to give up everything for Him: He must come first in their public, business and personal life.

This is what must first happen in a person’s heart, and be evident in their life, before they would be accepted as one of us.

How do people join the community?

In practical terms, a person must first make contact with us and make arrangements to come and visit us to see what we are all about.

If they believe that this is where God wants them to be, then we would ask them to stay with us for an extended period and learn more before making any big commitments or burning their bridges behind them. This would involve learning about what living in Christian community involves by attending our meetings and teaching sessions; living and working with us in someone’s home; and experiencing daily work in one or more community jobs. In this way they would interact with our people, experience the pressures of daily life, and learn to submit to others, while learning more about the teachings of Christ and his apostles and how these are to be applied in daily life.

If they believe the gospel that we preach, at some stage they would be immersed (baptised) into Christ as the New Testament commands.

If they were under the age of 18 years, they would not be allowed to stay here without their parents’ consent. If they were over that age, then before they could be fully accepted as one of us they would have to sign a binding legal commitment to accept the authority of the leaders of the community, the rules of the community, and their obligations as part of the business partnership, and as part of our extended family structure. (For example, if you were employed by an individual or an organisation in the outside world, you would be expected not to betray any company secrets, and not to indulge in any behaviour which might bring the employer, organisation or company into disrepute. If you entered into a business partnership, the other partners would want to know what sort of person you were, and would want to see a high level of commitment from you before they allowed you to join the partnership, because once you were part of the partnership you would become capable of bringing them all to ruin. Similarly, when you are part of a family, you become privy to a lot of personal information about the members of that family, and would be expected not to reveal those personal details to people outside the family in a way that might cause people to mock the family or its members, or to do anything else which would be against the interests of the family of which you are a part. Because we live and share so closely together, we would expect our people to show at least that kind of loyalty to one another.) Our young people would certainly expect a high degree of commitment towards this Church and community from anyone before they would agree to marry them.

How does the process of baptism work?

In true Bible baptism a believing person is immersed under water, and in the process, by faith, puts to death their old sinful nature, buries their old life and rises up out of the water to live a new life free from sin. In our understanding of the teachings of the New Testament we see this immersion into Christ as God’s way whereby we can identify with Jesus Christ and what He has done for us by his death and resurrection, and enter in to the benefits of Our Saviour’s death and resurrection by faith. Just as Jesus willingly submitted to the will of God and died for us on the cross, was buried underground, and rose again to win a glorious victory over sin and death, so in baptism we also willingly die to our old life of sin, are buried, and rise again to live a new life free from sin and following the will of God each day.

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:3-11

This physical and spiritual immersion is also the Bible way by which God adds people to the Church that Christ is building in their local area.

Why the blue dresses? Does blue have some religious significance?

Modesty of dress for our men and women led us to design a standard dress code for each sex. We chose blue because it’s a colour that goes well with any skin colour or complexion. Our sisters also have dresses in pink or pale blue for special occasions, but these are not generally seen by the public. Our men and boys may also wear different clothes from time to time, depending on their jobs or the occasion. The over-riding principle is that our clothing must be modest.

Why do you all wear the same kind of clothes, like a uniform?

Vanity among women leads to all manner of different clothing styles, even within the bounds of modesty. We decided in about 1988 to standardise the type of clothing we wear to prevent the expression of vanity as much as possible, and to make our purchasing of materials and the sewing of clothes more economical. Since making the change we have found that the women are more content to all have the same standard, and that we have also saved a lot of time in the sewing room. Just think of how inefficient it would be if all the women came to the community sewing room with individual requests for their clothing. Different designs and different types of material would be needed, but under our system, we can buy bulk supplies of material, all in the one colour, and make hundreds of dresses efficiently in one production run.

A standard of dress for both men and women also means that we are instantly recognised in public as members of the Gloriavale Christian Community, and this helps us with our witness as followers of Christ. We are often approached by people with questions about our faith because we look different from the rest of the world, and this is an important part of our separation from the fashions of the world. Many years ago one of our sisters explained that women tend to vanity and compete with one another through their styles of dress. She suggested that we do all that we could to curb this tendency in our Christian sisters through adopting a common style of clothing. Since the issue of modesty of clothing was important for the sisters, the men agreed to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts buttoned at the neck and wrists so they would not be expecting a standard of clothing that they themselves were not willing to keep.

Why do your women wear head coverings?

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. As taught in I Corinthians 11:3 and 4: 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:

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.

Do you follow the teachings of your book “What we Believe”, or the Bible?

The book “What we Believe” was written only as a summary of our beliefs as taken from the Word of God. It is not our final authority; that honour belongs to the Bible. “What we Believe” is updated from time to time as God leads us to more truth. To quote its opening statements:

1 The Bible is in every part the inspired Word of God. It is the complete and final source and standard for every belief, doctrine and practice of the Christian life. It may not be added to or taken away from.

2 Other writings such as this one should never be used in any way as alternative sources of authority for the faith, doctrines or practices of the Christian Church. In every generation the members and leaders of the true Christian Church must sustain and renew their faith by the study of God’s Word, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The authority of this statement is that it summarizes what the leaders and people of the Church at Gloriavale believe the Bible teaches, and how this teaching is to be applied to the world in which we live.

Which Bible translation do you use?

The only English Bible translation we use for our beliefs is the King James Version, or Authorised Version. A study of the history of Bible translations has taught us that this is still the most reliable translation available for English speaking people. Modern translations are based upon corrupted texts that distort the true Word of God.

For more information on this very important topic, click

What about higher education? Can somebody go to university if they want to?

Our private school can teach students up to university entrance standard in academic subjects. We are accredited in some practical subjects to teach up to level 3 in the NCEA system according to the New Zealand curriculum. If there is a need for tertiary qualifications we will enrol people in a suitable institution that offers correspondence courses. We are not interested in education for the sake of education, nor in placing our people in university campuses where ungodly attitudes can prevail. We are interested in education only where it can equip us to meet the needs of our community life. It is very unlikely that one of our converted young people would ask to do university study unless they saw a need for it in the community. Some have done this and been enrolled in degree courses such as engineering or business management because we have a need. Nobody has come forward to study something just for the sake of studying.

Most of our school leavers undertake some sort of study, including farming cadetships, trade apprenticeships, educational diplomas, business or educational degrees. Candidates for such study are chosen for their aptitude in the work area and their ability to complete the study.

More than 25% of the adult population at Gloriavale has university or national diplomas, and many of our tradesmen have the equivalent of tertiary qualifications.
Only a handful of people came into the community with tertiary qualifications. All the others have gained their degrees or diplomas after leaving our school or as adult learners.

What do you call youselves?

Christians. While many other groups have accepted nick-names or derogatory names made up by those outside the Church, we refuse to do so, and refer to ourselves only as Christians. Our Churches and Communities are named for the local district or property on which they are found, just as the New Testament does, with examples such as the Church which was at Jerusalem, or the Church of Ephesus.

Why do you expect people to make a written commitment to the community?

Our commitment is about loyalty and trust, the same issues that have inspired people throughout history to make marriage vows, business contracts, covenants, treaties, promises and oaths of allegiance. The Bible has many examples of covenants that were made between God and individuals or nations – Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and the people of Israel. Joshua was tricked into making a league with the Gibeonites and was expected to keep it. Even the ungodly nations of the Old Testament made treaties and covenants.

There is nothing unusual about making commitments. Even today, every nation expects loyalty from its citizens. A person granted citizenship in New Zealand is required to make an oath to uphold the nation’s laws and to register to vote, pay taxes and be a responsible New Zealander. It is common for police and members of the armed forces around the world to make an oath or some kind of attestation that they will obey their commanding officers and uphold the law.

The book of Psalms teaches: “commit your way unto the Lord”, so we have no problem in making a formal legal commitment to keep the community values that bind us all together as a family. In order to function harmoniously, we need to trust one another. By agreeing to keep a standard of behaviour, we know what to expect. Our commitment is not an oath, but a vow or a promise, similar to the commitments made in marriage. We receive many wonderful blessings from the Lord; it is only fitting that we should commit ourselves to His service in return. There is nothing in our commitment that encourages ungodly or illegal behaviour, but rather a dedication to do that which is right and proper before God. Just as the army has disdain for deserters, we are disappointed when certain individuals choose to break their commitment and do not repent.

Do you pay taxes?

Yes (when we earn enough money!). In keeping with Christ’s teachings to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, we pay our taxes and do our best to carry our weight in other areas as well. Our present business structure allows our assets to be owned by a charitable trust. A number of other companies form the backbone of our economy and all of those pay company tax.

In order to keep our belief to hold all things in common, all the men and women in our workforce are self-employed but bound together in a legal partnership that contracts labour to our companies. Individuals have pledged to share their income with other brethren in a common purse, just as the early church did. The year’s income is then divided among the partners, and each one pays their own personal income tax. Leaders do not receive any extra income nor hold any property or possessions in their own names; they have a responsibility to administer finance for the good of all those in the community but receive no extra benefits. On a day-to-day basis there is no need for anyone at the community to handle money because all our needs are met.

There has been so many false accusations about this question in the media that we ran this advertisement in newspapers in 2016 to try to clarify just what we do.

How do you handle medical problems?

Our first solution for health issues is to pray. God has healed many of our people in miraculous ways without any need to visit a doctor or hospital. However, that doesn’t mean that we ignore the use of these services, which God can use as part of the diagnosis and/or healing process. Whatever we choose to do, we place our faith in God, and not in the ability of science to solve all of our problems.

We also believe that prevention is better than cure, and so we promote a sensible healthy diet and as much activity as possible to prevent diseases that result from an unhealthy lifestyle. In keeping with the New Testament teachings not to defile our bodies, we do not smoke, drink alcohol, tea or coffee, or use other stimulants such as caffeine or recreational drugs. Our children are breast-fed for as long as possible to give them a natural immunity against disease.

Why don’t you talk to the media?

We have had many experiences with the media that make us wary of bias and glory seeking that distorts the Word of God and the truth of the Church. We have seen very few blessings come from reports in newspapers, radio or television, so we do not seek publicity nor do we believe that the media exists to promote the truth.

When people make public accusations about us in the media, we do not answer those accusations when it involves making counter accusations or disclosing the details of a person’s private life. Such matters should be sorted out privately according to the principles of Matthew 18; these are not matters for public debate.

In other issues we strive to act according to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount:

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:44 and 45)

But whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:39)

We would rather suffer the wrong when false accusations are made than enter into a public debate which only fuels the sensationalism that the media seeks.

Do you have to live in a community like yours to be a Christian?

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.

Where does the Old Testament fit in? Do you keep the Sabbath Day?

Both Jesus and Paul were very strong in their teaching that the Son of God came to fulfil the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Sermon on the Mount contains several examples of Old Testament laws that Jesus took forward another step – to making judgments of the heart, and not just of outward, physical sin: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28) As Paul explains in the Book of Hebrews, He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. (Hebrews 10:9) Paul also tells us that Jesus “… is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6)

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Are you a sect or a cult?

Neither. The word “sect” suggests a group that has become cut off from the main body (Latin secare “cut”), or that leaves the main group in order to follow after some false leader (secut – follow). So the way this question is answered depends on what you know, believe and understand about the history of the Christian church, and about which group or groups you accept as being the main of body of the church that has the true faith.

  1. We believe that groups like ourselves are far closer to the original teachings and way of life of Jesus and His apostles and of the early Christian church than the vast majority of what is called Christianity nowadays. This is because:-

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Is Gloriavale progressing/growing how your elders hoped it would?

First of all, understand that we are not looking for big numbers or wealthy members. We are aiming to be faithful to Christ by believing and doing all the things that He said to believe and do. In practice this means to follow all the teachings of the New Testament.

We want to be faithful to:

We would rather have a small group of people who are faithful to Christ than a big group of half-hearted people who are willing to compromise with the world for the sake of praise, comfort, or pleasure.

In the early days of this church, we thought our growth in numbers would mainly be through evangelism, but many of the people who came then were easy-come-and-easy-go. As our community life has grown, people who have come have been better able to see what following Christ is really about, and have made more thoughtful decisions. Also, as our numbers have grown, a second and third generation have arisen, and the world around us has changed, so we have had to seek God to find answers to new problems that we never imagined in the beginning. However, I would have to say that as a group we are still remaining true to our original objectives, and that God has led us to progress in our application of New Testament principles to every area of our lives. Our witness has grown through concerts and the television programmes, and we are very happy with what God has been doing amongst us.

Is there a way for teenagers to voice their opinion within the community?

Yes. They can speak their opinions to their parents, to their teachers, and to any other adults in positions of authority, as long as they do so respectfully. In fact, they are often encouraged to do so.

Having said that, I would comment that teenagers naturally tend to have an exaggeratedly high opinion of themselves, of what they know, of their own wisdom and experience of life, and of their ability to perceive things the way they actually are. Our parents and adults always try to help children and students to bridge those gaps in their knowledge and understanding of life and of what happens out in the outside world, so that they can make informed decisions themselves, and so that they can better appreciate the thinking and the caring that has gone into decisions that affect them.

Also, we do not allow “politicking”, by which we mean agitation, forming a pressure group or organising opposition against the leadership in order to get one’s own way. That is not the way of Christ, and was never acceptable in Bible days. The New Testament teaches that, “The powers that be are ordained of God.” The right way to plead your cause if you feel that you or yours are badly done by, is to do so privately and respectfully, putting your trust in God and being willing to have your request turned down. (Think of how many times you don’t get your own way in the family because of the needs of others. Our family has more than 500 people in it, and they are all entitled to the same privileges when it can be organised.) Teenagers always have the option of asking a trusted and respected older one to advocate for them.