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Monday 10 April 2017

After the Exclusive Brethren: Craig looks ahead

Posted in: True Stories
By Matt Akersten - 29th November 2009

Since Craig Hoyle, aged 20, left the Exclusive Brethren a few weeks ago, his life's been busy - and his brave story has made waves.

Brave journey: Craig Hoyle
We met Craig two weeks ago. He told us about his struggles after coming out as gay in the notoriously isolated church, even spending some weeks under a hormonal suppressant drug before finally being 'excommunicated' and forced to say an emotional goodbye to his parents and siblings. We published his story in two parts - here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

Craig's had an action-packed few days since then, and has been impressed with the reaction he's received. "I've had lots of people contact me. Some of them didn't know anything about my past, and were completely shocked. So that's been amazing, getting their reactions."

The official ex-Brethren website, a place where former Exclusive Brethren members support and network with each other, has also linked into Craig's articles. He's enjoyed seeing them get frenzied attention worldwide. "One news website referred to my story with the tags 'world-news, christianity, gay, abuse, New-Zealand, extremism, homosexual, bampots, loony-fundies, hate-mongering, NZ-news, exclusive-brethren'. What a combination," he laughs.

A TV3 crew called him last week, and quickly lined up an on-camera interview for a 60 Minutes expose on the Exclusive Brethren. Craig was a little nervous, but accepted and says the team treated him well.

"I think the priests are worried about me telling my story though," he adds. "They've screwed up so badly in so many ways."


We asked Craig why he was so keen to share his experiences with us. "I think the Exclusive Brethren have been behind closed doors too long," he replies. "And at the moment, the stuff that's coming out about the Destiny Church that the media are making a big deal of, well the Exclusive Brethren have been doing that stuff for decades.

"The way Destiny is getting all their men to commit to Brian Tamaki? That happened in the Exclusive Brethren a few years ago."

Just like Destiny Church is doing now, the Exclusive Brethren also laid out a lot of things you can and can't do in a letter to its members, says Craig. "Men aren't supposed to wear faded jeans to church, or dye their hair. Women can't wear short skirts, men shouldn't have long sideburns, cellphones and digital cameras are forbidden. Drugs and alcohol are banned. There should be no large gatherings of Exclusive Brethren in public spaces. And a lot of other extreme stuff. Everyone over the age of 12 was supposed to commit themselves to this letter, and if you didn't support it, there was trouble. You're forbidden to question the leader - he's right on everything. 'If you don't understand it, don't question it' we're told, because 'to question is evil'. The other catchphrase is 'We'll do the thinking, you do the doing'. They call us 'followers'!"


Happily, Craig is now getting to know some very special people he'd hardly seen before. "I've been seeing my grandpa as well as a couple of aunties and uncles and cousins who have been thrown out of the church a few years ago," he smiles.

He might have left the Brethren, but does he still have faith? "I still have strong personal faith," he confirms "I refused to let them take that from me too.

"It was my Christian faith that helped me get through everything that happened - without something outside of myself to believe in, I would have gone crazy! My relationship with God? I see him as a friend and confidant more than anything else."

It's been a turbulent few months but the determined and independent 20-year-old knows he has some decisions to make. "I want to travel overseas, and go to university perhaps, but I won't study until I know what I really want to do in life. I'd also love to write a book about my experiences."

Meeting guys and starting a relationship isn't top-most on Craig's mind at the moment though. He's just enjoying making lots of new mates through networks like Rainbow Youth. "We'll see what happens," he smiles.

Craig's remarkable story will feature on TV3's 60 Minutes programme at 7:30pm on Monday 7 December.

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Matt Akersten - 29th November 2009