The Zion Full Salvation Ministry:
Brothers tell of surviving cult
Southern Highland News
October 6, 2010
PSYCHOLOGICAL pain, drama, control and secrecy – these were all trademark qualities of a cult that once operated in the Southern Highlands.
A former member and leader of the Zion Full Salvation Ministry, David Ayliffe, shares his story of life in the cult in a book he co-wrote with his brother, John Ayliffe.
David speaks from the perspective of a cult insider while John shares his story of what he saw from the outside in the book My Brother’s Eyes.
Their different views had the brothers estranged for almost 16 years, but life after the cult has allowed them to reform bonds.
They will share their story as guest speakers at two launches of the book this month.
The Zion Full Salvation Ministry began as part of an inner city Anglican Church in Sydney in 1974 and was founded by a woman, Violet Pryor, who claimed to have Christ’s Stigmata and to be the embodiment of God on earth.
David Ayliffe had a promising career in journalism, which he gave up when he joined Zion. He became part of the inner circle and eventually became the pastor, leading the group after Pryor died in 1990.
David said that under the rein of Pryor most of the congregation had been stripped of their finances, investments, families and self-esteem. He said friends were set against friends, families deliberately broken up and assets appropriated.
The first chapter of his book refers to the strict rulings of Pryor, in which he and his family’s (a wife, Margaret, and three young children) lives were dominated by her expectations.
He said only he could answer the phone, he was abused if he did not answer it quickly enough, he was cut-off from other family members, including his mother, and Pryor even chose the names of two of his three children.
David reflects on a life that kept him “continually poor” and the efforts he would go to ensure he spared himself and his family from the “wrath of Violet”.
There was even a time when his wife had to secretly seek treatment after she was diagnosed and almost died from a melanoma.
Margaret said in the book that she grew to hate Pryor, who described the melanoma diagnosis as “God’s will”. It was Pryor’s belief that cancer was a punishment for sins.
David said he tried to bring a sense of normality and freedom to the lives of the group’s devoted members once he stepped into the leadership role.
The ministry bought the former St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Banyette Street, Bowral, and established it as a local place of worship, which was opened by the ministry in 1992.
Meanwhile, Zion Full Salvation Ministry became well-known in Robertson for the OHS (Our Holy Spirit) businesses run by various members of the group, including the Oh How Sweet Café, OHS Power Shop, OHS Builders and the OHS Stage Coach, which featured in weddings, tourist picnics and at official occasions such as Australia Day celebrations in Berrima.
The Zion Full Salvation Ministry was closed by 1996 and David has gone on to serve his community in a traditional Christian way as a vestry member of an Anglican Church in the Melbourne community where he now lives.
He has been the CEO of an overseas aid organisation, a member and past president of his local Rotary Club, worked for the Red Cross and now works in sales and marketing with a Christian television organisation.
But he is quick to point out that the “road back from cultic life” can be difficult.
He said he was in a support group, which is now forming to help people who have come out of destructive cultic groups, which was helping him settle back into “normal society”.
However, he said he was concerned about former members of the Zion Ministry and other cultic groups.
* The story of life in a cult from one on the inside and another on the outside will be shared with Highlanders over the next week.
Brothers David and John Ayliffe, co-authors of the book My Brother’s Eyes, will share their story of surviving the cult, Zion Full Salvation Ministry, from two perspectives.
They will speak of their experiences from the inside and the outside at St Simon and St Jude’s Anglican Church, Bowral, on Friday from 7.30pm and at Robertson Bowling Club from 4pm on October 11. The presentation will tie in with the Highlands launch of the book, which has attracted interest from ABC’s 7.30 Report and Compass.
The pair will be joined by Senator Nick Xenophon, who has been a keen campaigner against destructive cultism.
All interested people welcome to attend.
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