Oct 13, 2016

She left the dysfunctional family of the Exclusive Brethren to find her own

Stuff Nation
Lois John
October 13 2016

The Sydney-based global leader of the Exclusive Brethren, Bruce Hales, pictured with his wife Jennifer.
OPINION: While I don't live in New Zealand and have never belonged to Gloriavale, I think my experience is still relevant. 

I was brought up in the Exclusive Brethren in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  We led a very sheltered life, but at least I was allowed a lot of freedom that others were not. This was because we didn't live near any other Brethren. 

I had a job at  a local business where no other Brethren worked, which also gave me more freedom.  I met my current husband there and subsequently left everything I had ever known to marry him.  By that, I mean that I was shunned by my entire family and all my friends. 

My two youngest brothers left shortly after I did, so I now had some family.  I went to live with another couple who had recently left and eventually I found one of my mother's sisters who had left many years previously. 

I was lucky - many Brethren leave with no family on the outside and the support is so critical! 

We were not allowed to watch television, listen to the radio, go to movies, go to university or eat with anyone not in the "cult". 

The leader, James Taylor Jr at the time, was the person who had the final say on all the rules. However, in spite of his many vices, he wasn't nearly as controlling as those leaders who have been in power since.  The current leader, Bruce D Hales from Sydney, Australia, has urged Brethren to have a "hatred of the world", and recently told a young brother it would be better to take arsenic than to leave the Brethren.

If I had stayed I would have been forced to marry someone and live a life of going to meetings every night and many times on Sunday. I would be expected to have children and entertain many other Brethren every weekend. 

Instead, I married the love of my life. We have two wonderful kids and five super grandchildren and I have a wonderful career.  My story doesn't sound so bad compared to others; some young men were kicked out of their homes at 14 with nowhere to go and no means of support.  Still it was traumatic for me to "lose" my parents for 40 years.

Thank goodness I left when I did.

I have a new family - my husband's - and later had my own.


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