$58 million in homes sold as church members left Sydney

“Our congregation met and collectively decided in March 2021 that the safest course of action was to close the churches in the Windsor area and members to move their homes and businesses to other PBCC congregations of their choice across the country.”

Bruce Hales is the worldwide leader of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

Bruce Hales is the worldwide leader of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

The collective nature of this decision has been dismissed by former Windsor brothers, who instead point to global leader Bruce Hales, known as the chosen ship, as the sole authority in the church.

One of these former members is Woodbury’s nephew, Ben Woodbury, who was born and raised in the Windsor Brethren community. He resigned from the church in 2016 and was excommunicated shortly thereafter.

“That was an order from Bruce Hales. What Bruce Hales says is as good as gospel,” said Ben. “It’s common knowledge that Bruce Hales never liked the Windsor community being here because of the bad history between him [late] Father John Hales and the founding elders of the Windsor congregation.

“The late one [former] The leader has never consented to the brothers forming a community here, and the current leader bears his father’s long-standing grudge.”

Ben, who remains in Windsor where he owns homewares store Manor on George and children’s boutique Manor Little One, says his family was sent to the Blue Mountains, causing much grief to those still trying to “make peace with it.” “.

Recently completed on a lot purchased in 2018 for $950,000, this six bedroom mansion is now for sale.

Recently completed on a lot purchased in 2018 for $950,000, this six bedroom mansion is now for sale.Credit:

“My mother would never have moved to Katoomba willingly,” Ben said. “I was told firsthand by another parishioner that their mother wouldn’t stop crying when they were told to move to Picton.”

A text seen by this legal notice from another member shares a joke about joining the Anglican Church “because they don’t seem to force you to move out”.

The extent of the church’s isolation from the surrounding community was illustrated last week when just one of about a dozen shopkeepers in Windsor city center said they knew the brothers had left.

Hawkesbury Deputy Mayor Barry Calvert was also unaware that the brothers had left but was not surprised that they had, as there had been six floods in the last 18 months, three of which involved the closure of Windsor Bridge forced.

This five bedroom, four living room home with children's play equipment in the back sold for $1.18 million in June.

This five bedroom, four living room home with children’s play equipment in the back sold for $1.18 million in June.Credit:domain

However, estate agents in the Windsor, Bligh Park and Pitt Town suburbs were keenly aware of the spate of homes for sale, dubbing it ‘the great migration of the brothers’.

“From a real estate agent’s perspective, it pays to engage in conversation with the brothers and talking to the media about them will not persuade you to sell more of their homes,” one real estate agent said on condition of anonymity.

The move comes at a peak in the real estate cycle, domain data shows. In suburbs like Bligh Park, Pitt Town and South Windsor, where most of the brothers’ homes were located, values ​​rose 15.3 percent, 26 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively, in the 12 months to September.

Of the four local meeting halls, two in South Windsor and Pitt Town and the main church (which seats 500 people) in South Windsor were sold. These three sales raised a total of $6.5 million for the Church.

The two storey home in Bligh Park has a five bedroom main dwelling and a two bedroom rear dwelling. It sold for $1.73 million.

The two storey home in Bligh Park has a five bedroom main dwelling and a two bedroom rear dwelling. It sold for $1.73 million.Credit:domain

A handful of houses and meeting halls are still for sale.

Agents uniformly declined to be quoted for this story for fear of jeopardizing future listings, but many of them spoke of the immaculate condition and presentation of the brothers’ homes, which have a penchant for pianos and bars but rarely televisions or had swimming pools.

“These houses are so plush,” said Russell Dent, a former member of the Brethren who has now been excommunicated. “It shows that the brethren really are not shy about flaunting their wealth now, which was so against the teachings of previous leaders like John Hales.

“From the early days of the church government to the time when it was headed by John Hales 20 years ago, the church government lived modestly, but now the brothers and their family live in these huge mansions.”

This Bligh Park home had a pool when it last traded for $652,000 in 2014. It has since been renovated and the pool filled in before selling for $1.28 million in July.

This Bligh Park home had a pool when it last traded for $652,000 in 2014. It has since been renovated and the pool filled in before selling for $1.28 million in July.Credit:domain

When Windsor’s Brethren fraternity was dissolved this year, the Hales family’s lavish taste in housing made headlines after they bought some of the most expensive houses in Epping and Dural.

In November, Gareth Hales, son of Bruce Hales, bought a weekender in Dural for $9.5 million. The property was purchased with cash and includes a swimming pool as well as a tennis court, golf driving range, home cinema and billiards room.

Russell Woodbury recently relocated to the Blue Mountains from Windsor as part of what local agents are calling

Russell Woodbury recently relocated to the Blue Mountains from Windsor as part of what local agents are calling “the great migration of the brothers”.Credit:LinkedIn

A few months earlier, Gareth’s brother Dean Hales had peaked at $7.5 million for a home in Eppingen, beating previous suburban records set by other members of the Hales family of $4 million in 2016 and $5.75 million surpassed US dollars in 2019.

The church said the decision to leave Windsor was not taken lightly.

Russell Woodbury’s statement said: “A committee was set up to ensure that all community members had somewhere to relocate and that they received the support they needed to find a home and employment in their new community.

“Approximately 200 members have been involved in the move to other parts of NSW as well as interstate and as you will understand it has taken some time for the families involved to complete this.

“Proceeds from the sale of the Windsor area churches will be shared back among the parishes where members are building their new lives.”

Woodbury recently bought a new home in Leura.

A private bus service for school children between Windsor and the Brethren’s OneSchool Global campus in Oatlands was discontinued this year.

According to Dent, this isn’t the first time the church’s Elect Vessel has ordered a congregation to leave an area.

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Dent said he and other brothers living on the north side of the Hawkesbury River in Wilberforce and North Richmond were told to return to the central Windsor area after former global leader John Hales came to power in 1987.

“At the time there was flooding that was affecting the roads, so we couldn’t meet the demands of the meeting calendar by going to church every day,” Dent said. “It was always a temporary stop for us, just a couple of days when the flooding was at its worst, but it was enough to get us all moving across the Hawkesbury.”

Dent dismissed claims that climate change was a problem.

“That’s a load of crap,” Dent said. “The brothers typically take the conservative view, as we know from their support of previous Liberal governments, particularly the Howard government, and that includes a belief that coal is in the ground to be used and that God is in control and the climate has change is not man-made.”

The brothers’ support for former Prime Minister John Howard was first revealed by Age and The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Michael Bachelard, who reported that the ballot ban did not include generous political donations and lobbying for conservative causes.

But that support from the federal government appears to have ended in 2007 when Kevin Rudd was elected prime minister. He labeled the brothers an “extremist cult” which he claimed had destroyed families and was bad for Australia.

https://www.smh.com.au/property/news/the-great-brethren-migration-church-in-mass-exodus-from-windsor-20221214-p5c6ew.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_property $58 million in homes sold as church members left Sydney

Brian Lowry

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