20 Apr 2021

Who is Lance Christie?

From Morning Report, 8:10 am on 20 April 2021

Lance Christie, is a mild and polite type of critic. He quotes biblical scripture and insists on the goodness of the people still inside the Exclusive Brethren. He came to New Zealand looking for support for reforming the church.

Christie had been a high-profile Brethren member until three years ago. In March 2017, in what is a common story, the church hierarchy had him "shut up and shunned" by everyone he had known his entire life..

Christie is the visitor from England who received continuous day and night surveillance by Thompson and Clark. Other former members believe his visits to New Zealand triggered the surveillance against them.

A generic photo of a man in his car doing surveillance with a camera.

A generic image of a man doing surveillance in a car. Photo: 123rf

He had been booted out of his family home of 21 years, they changed the locks, prevented him from accessing his bank accounts, threw him out of his business and had his name removed as a shareholder at the UK Companies Office. His crime: questioning the leadership. He has until recently been in a legal battle for the return of some of the property.

But worst by far, he was cut off from most of his family.

Under the church's Separation Edict, instituted in 1959, if a family member leaves the church - or is thrown out - all other Brethren, including parents, siblings, spouse and children must "withdraw" completely from them.

Christie's grandfather committed suicide after being “put out of fellowship” in the 1960s, his parents were “withdrawn from” (expelled) in 1972, his son in 2004 and now him too.

He says “I will not give up until the awfully destructive doctrine of separation imposed on the brethren from 1959 onwards is obliterated.” The Brethren’s Separation Edict “destroys families by completely isolating those who have been expelled thereby causing them to lose everyone and everything they love.”

It was this fear of losing everything that kept Brethren "enmeshed in a mega system where members cede ultimate control" of their lives, afraid to voice criticism even within their own homes. "Ninety-nine percent of Brethren are good people but they are trapped.... Any claim that Jesus is the head of this system needs very serious examination.”

Largely inexperienced in the world of politics, Christie had come up with an action plan based on the bible. He enthusiastically quotes Matthew 18, verse 15, which says “if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” He decided to go to Sydney in June 2019, where a world meeting of the church was being held, to speak to Bruce Hales, the church’s Elect Vessel.

In Sydney he went to Bruce Hales’ house four times, on the basis of Matthew 18, but Hales would not meet him. He turned to the next part of Matthew 18, which says: “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” However Hales had all the Sydney Brethren men sign statements pledging that they would have no contact with Christie. He turned to the third part of Matthew 18: “if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church” and tried to attend the international meeting at the Brethren’s Ermington Hall. Once again he was turned away. Step by step, according to an ex-Brethren friend, Christie was being “reformed” into a determined critic of the church.

When Christie left Ermington Hall, on 23 June 2019, he wandered disappointed along Sydney’s George Street until, after two hours, he was approached by an unlikely Good Samaritan: a “criminal” who warned him that he was being tailed by some men. “He wondered if I was carrying a stash of drugs or something in the plastic carrier bag I was holding,” Christie explained. “He was worried that I was going to be arrested. I actually only had my bible and my notebook in the bag.”

The Samaritan pointed out the men following, and they ducked through the back door of a bar, and then through another bar, to shake them off.

If this sounds unlikely, two weeks later Christie arrived at Auckland airport to day-and-night private detective surveillance. On that first visit to New Zealand, in July 2019, Christie became aware again that he was being watched. One of the surveillance staff caught his attention by standing unnaturally close to overhear where he was travelling while he was checking his luggage through to Europe at Palmerston North airport.

Christie’s only crime, he believes, is that he has challenged the credibility of the leader. “I’m trying to shine the light of truth into what I’ve realised is a dark place. What I thought was a true Christian organisation, which made a few mistakes, has turned out to be a cult.”