Wads of cash for Destiny Church

New Zealand Herald/May 24, 2015

By Lynley Bilby

Destiny Church is circulating images of wads of cash and the Twitter hashtag "#iwannagive" to followers before its annual conference. Hundreds are expected to attend next weekend's conference at the church's "City of God" headquarters in South Auckland.

Three-day attendance costs $65, and church members can also buy a $15 booklet of "personal revelatory notes" penned by the church's self-appointed bishop, Brian Tamaki.

On Friday, Tamaki tweeted to his 3344 followers a photo of wads of freshly minted $100 notes, with the message: "The Bible speaks of a Blessing (includes $$ too) that 'Overtakes You' ... time for you to be overtaken!!"

Massey University history professor Peter Lineham, who wrote the 2013 book Destiny: The Life and Times of a Self-made Apostle, told the Herald on Sunday Destiny annual conferences normally netted the controversial church leaders up to $500,000 in offerings.

He expected Destiny to again cash in, saying many followers would heed to direct money messages linking potential blessings to what they offered the church financially. "If you give generously to the church you can expect great prosperity in the coming year," he said of the philosophy. Lineham said Destiny had proven its ability to raise "truly amazing sums", adding: "It is an amazing testimony to the respect and the world within which Destiny flourishes."

Destiny Church officials would not respond to Herald on Sunday questions this week, including how much it had budgeted to receive at the "Born in the Fire" conference and for an explanation for the "iwannagive" Twitter hashtag.

Detractors on social media didn't waste any time responding to Tamaki's tweet.

One replied with a photo of money-mad Disney character Scrooge McDuck skiing down a mountain of gold, and another wrote Tamaki was "missing the message you should be spreading".

Last November the church received widespread criticism after Tamaki asked followers to "shower the stage" in money during a Sundaymorning service.

He posted tweets showing parishioners carpeting the stage with $50 and $100 notes, calling it "a sweet-smelling fragrance". It is understood up to $100,000 was raised.

According to official records the church received more than $6 million in donations and $1m in Government grants in 2013.

Accounts filed with the Charities Service show the church has amassed a $20 million fortune in cash, property investments and other assets as a result of its tax exempt status.

But it has been knocked in recent years by a series of high-profile defections, including Tamaki's former right-hand man Richard Lewis, who left to set up his own church, and a rebuff by the Education Ministry to have a charter school.

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