MORE than 100 followers of the controversial religious organisation, the Exclusive Brethren, has moved into the region and set up base on Gympie's Southside.
It is believed the organisation is looking to attract a number of members to the area. Over the past decade it has bought Southside properties and established a number of businesses providing employment for members and others in the community.
Gympie church elder Ken Baker said more members would be joining them, adding that the organisation “was always looking to grow its numbers” when they established themselves in a region.
“We don't believe in amassing in Brisbane... we would like to have a nice even distribution (of members) up the coast. It's important to us to support regional areas,” he said.
Mr Baker said the Exclusive Brethren had members in Maryborough and Nambour and Gympie's central location had drawn them to the area.
“We like to have contact to our nearby neighbours... we have a school in Nambour where our children attend.”
The Exclusive Brethren's numbers in Gympie has grown steadily in the past decade and there are plans to establish a school on their Copp Road property when numbers increase to a viable level.
And while their main place of worship is a church on Copp Road, the organisation currently has a development application for another meeting place on Groundwater Road now being assessed by Gympie Regional Council.
Exclusive Brethren is a close-knit and well-organised community, choosing to live in close proximity (walking distance) of each other and their places of worship.
Brethren works together as employers and employees, operating a number of businesses to support its growing community. It also employs non-members.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in 2007 he believed the movement to be an extremist cult and sect. “I am deeply concerned about their impact on communities across Australia,” he said.
Mr Baker agreed the church's beliefs brought forth opposition, in particular the doctrine of separation, but said the church's 108 members maintained the right to choose who they ate and drank with.