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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Escaping the Exclusive Brethren

Posted in: True Stories
By Craig Hoyle, as told to Matt Akersten - 26th November 2009

20-year-old Craig Hoyle, who was brought up in the Exclusive Brethren Church, risked losing everything when he told his priests and family he was gay.

After several meetings with church leaders, and a period under hormonal suppressant medication given to him by a Brethren doctor, Craig just couldn't take it anymore. He was placed into the first stage of 'excommunication'.

Craig continues his extraordinary story below.




I was officially excommunicated a few weeks ago. They said that they've "sorrowfully decided to accept my decision not to continue in the Holy Fellowship".

Craig Hoyle
When you get kicked out, it happens in two stages. The first stage is when they put you into 'quarantine'. That's where they kick you out but don't kick you out... You're cut off from everyone you know. I liked it at first because it stopped people talking to me, hounding me. You're not allowed to go to church meetings. No-one even acknowledges you exist.

Even people in the same house as you will avoid you. At meal times, your meal would be cooked for you, and given to you to go and have in your room. I did actually test my family out on that once. I got my meal and just went and sat at the table, but every single one of them got up and left.

The only ones you can talk to are your priests, and they are the ones who are trying to bring you back into the fold. So you're left in a state of limbo, which drives you nuts, and most people, when they are put into that stage, go back.

When I was put into that stage I'd told my brothers and sisters that I was gay. The Church called that 'evil communications'. They were going to call it 'defilement of young people', but I challenged that. One of the priests told me 'what we say about you has nothing to do with you, it's not of your business, and you can just get back in your box'. So I said if they didn't change the wording I'd get up in the meeting myself and make a public announcement. I was absolutely furious. So they called it 'evil communications' instead.

I'd come out to my siblings on a Friday after work. A couple of them were surprised, one of them cried, and the youngest two didn't really know what to say. They asked me 'what does that mean?' so I said 'that means I like boys more than girls'. Mum was trying to shut me up - I was shouting over the top of her. Then my youngest little sister cried and asked 'have I done something to make you sad?' Mum said 'well if he's saying things like that it means he doesn't love you'.

My little sister had already known that I was thinking of leaving, and she'd come to me crying, asking me to change my mind, saying 'if you leave the Brethren I'll never see you again, because I'll go to Heaven and you'll go to Hell'. She offered to give me all the money in her bank account if I stayed. It's hard trying to explain to a little child that you're not doing what you're doing because you hate them.

I went out that night, and while I was out, they removed my brothers and sisters from the house and sent them all to live with other people. It was messy.

It's supposed to frighten you into going back. As if it shows you what life would be like outside the church.

They never wanted to kick me out of the church, and always worked to make sure it would be hard to leave. But I'd had enough of their bullshit. By that time I was refusing to talk to the priests unless I had a witness present.


I went on holiday to Sydney in August, and my dad phoned me the day before I was to come back, telling me I was no longer welcome in the house.


Later, I spoke to him from Wellington airport before I got on my flight to Invercargill. He asked me which motel I wanted to be dropped off at. He said they'd emptied all my stuff out of the house and dumped it in a storage unit in town, and that I should contact him for the key. He'd also sold my company car.

I went to work the following morning, and was told my job description was changing and that I had to put on overalls and go do manual labour. I refused, and got suspended.

So in the space of one day, I'd lost my home, my family, my car and my job.

Some of my stuff was still with my family and I had to fight to get it back. One of the last times I went to visit home, dad told me never to turn up on their doorstep again.

I asked if I could say goodbye to my little sister, because we'd been really close, and they had an argument about that. Mum said it would be alright, but dad said it wouldn't. Eventually they brought her out, and we were both crying. I asked if I could give her a hug and dad said 'no, definitely not'. He was holding her arms behind her back so that she couldn't move.

As soon as you're thrown out, you get cut off. You can't see your family. It's very painful. I miss them. Of course I do.

I was really close to my mum. She didn't really know if she was coming or going either, from what I could see. Sometimes she'd tell me I was evil and twisted. Other times she'd laugh and joke the way we always had. A lot of it depended on whether my dad was there.


I ran into my mum the other day at the supermarket. I pulled into the car park, looked up, and realised I'd parked next to her. She talked to me for about five minutes. But I asked her for a goodbye kiss at the end of the conversation and she said she couldn't with a clear conscience.

For me, one of the pivotal things has been not to be bitter. As soon as I turn bitter and hateful, I'm no better than them.

I'm not holding anything against my parents. My door is still open to them. They're just as much victims as anyone else.

I have no regrets about leaving the church. I'm not feeling any of the bad things the priests had warned me about.

The world leader of the church said that if I ever followed my 'natural tendencies', the only people who would ever get on with me would be 'wicked people'. Which is laughable now. I know a lot of 'wicked' people!

I know of other guys still in the church who are in the same position I was in. They're gay. But they're married with kids. Deciding to give up everything that matters to them would be too hard. I'm young enough to start again.

It's better to be honest and upfront. And if someone really matters to you, they're not going to turf you out. If someone is going to reject you because you're gay, it doesn't say much for that person.

I chose to be honest about who I was. I knew it would mean losing everything I had, but at the end of the day, being true to yourself means more than conforming to what other people want you to be.



This weekend: Craig tells us why he chose to go public with his story, and shares his hopes for the future.

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Craig Hoyle, as told to Matt Akersten - 26th November 2009