14 things you might not know about Destiny Church

New Zealand Herald/October 18, 2017

Formed in 1998, Destiny Church was founded by Bishop Brian Tamaki in a small garage in Auckland's Pakuranga. In the mid to late 2000s there were claims Destiny Church had close to 10,000 members and followers.

From controversy to their highly popular and beneficial project "Man-Up", Destiny has remained in the news for a number of years.

But what do we know about Destiny Church? Here are 14 things you may not know about the church and its leader.

1. Destiny Church started from humble beginnings before membership rose and then fell

Destiny Church was launched on July 4, 1998 in a small commercial warehouse in Pakuranga. The church began as a group of 20 people, mostly people from Tamaki's previous church, Lake City Church in Rotorua. It quickly grew in popularity and peaked in 2003 when there were over 10,000 supporters - although Tamaki maintains that there were never more than around 5000 members - and 19 churches around the country. In less than a decade, eight churches closed and membership was down to around 3000.

2. Destiny Church has expanded into Australia

Destiny Church has two Australian branches, one in Brisbane and one in the Gold Coast. The Australian church is run by Tamaki's son Samuel Tamaki and his wife Kiri Tamaki.

3. Brian Tamaki's first child was born out of wedlock

After dropping out of school at 15, Tamaki met Hannah Lee and the pair had their first child, Jasmine, in December 1978. They married two years later. Tamaki is open about the difficulties he faced during his early years when he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. The Destiny Church is now well known for its stance on conservative family values.

4. Brian Tamaki was ordained as 'bishop' in 2005

It cost $70 to attend the ordination of Brian Tamaki at the TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre in June 2005. The first Pentecostal bishop in New Zealand, Tamaki was anointed with oil by Manuel Renata - a kaumatua of his own church.

5. Members sign an oath of loyalty and obedience to Brian Tamaki

The covenant first gained public awareness in 2005 when 700 male members of the church took an oath to abide by it. The Protocols & Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons states that proof of their covenant was how they "submit to God's chosen man... Spiritual fathers are extremely rare... For us it is about discerning the special anointing and function God has put on Bishop's life".

6. There is a protocol for interacting with Brian Tamaki

As a part of the protocols and requirements document, there is a section called "Conduct Towards Bishop". It includes details about how to properly interact with Tamaki, such as always being respectful and never being "in his face". Other instructions include stopping talking when Tamaki speaks, never disagreeing with him in front of others and standing when he and his wife enter a room and seating only after they have seated.

7. Brian Tamaki once thought Destiny Church would rule New Zealand

In a 2003 Destiny Church conference, Tamaki prophesied, "in the next five years by the time we hit our tenth anniversary, and I don't say this lightly, but we will be ruling the nation...this will be the first nation historically in the world to be under the governance of God".

8. Destiny Church members formed a political party in 2003

Destiny New Zealand was a Christian political party centred on the charismatic/Pentecostal Destiny Church. The party described itself as "centre-right" and placed a strong focus on socially conservative values and argued that the breakdown of the traditional family was a primary cause of many of New Zealand's problems.

In the 2005 elections Destiny New Zealand received just 14,000 votes or 0.62 per cent of the vote. Party leader Richard Lewis was a manager of Destiny Social Services at Destiny Church. In 2007 Destiny New Zealand was disbanded.

Some confusion exists as to how closely the Destiny New Zealand party overlapped with the Destiny Church. According to Tamaki and Lewis the two remained quite separate, however, a number of former church members indicated Lewis was just a "frontman" for Tamaki.

9. Brian Tamaki blames earthquakes on gays, murderers and sinners

In 2016 Tamaki came under fire when he blamed a gay priest and the people of Christchurch for the devastating earthquakes that hit the region in 2010 and 2011 which killed 185 people. "The land actually speaks to God. Out of the soil ... Abel's blood spoke to God from a murder. The earth can speak. Leviticus says that the earth convulses under the weight of certain human sin.

"It spews itself up after a while - that's natural disasters. Because nature was never created to carry the bondage of our iniquity," Tamaki said.

10. Destiny Church is strongly patriarchal

With a strong focus on the patriarchal status of men, Tamaki links femininity with weakness. Much of the church's work has gone into establishing males as leaders. From their website: "Just because you are born a male doesn't necessarily mean you are a 'man' according to Christ's standard of manhood. I am calling the man out of the male, the 'husband' out of the man and the 'father' out of the husband."

Their women's group, on the other hand, supports charities and raises money for people in need.

In a video on their website, Tamaki states, "There is a kingdom advance that has shifted in its spiritual intensity. What was before that was weak, lame, effeminate, soft, he says has now changed."

11. Destiny Church opens its doors to patched gang members

Early in 2017 Destiny Church opened up its doors to patched gang members. Gang members are usually discouraged from attending the church while wearing their patches, but an exception was made for those interested in hearing the Easter message. Former gang members shared their stories of rape, murder, and drugs - and how Destiny helped them turn their lives around.

Hannah Tamaki said former gang members are among thousands of men being helped in 93 weekly groups across New Zealand and Australia following the launch of a project called "Man-Up" - an initiative focused on tackling family violence, depression, obesity, addiction and suicide.

12. Destiny Church has a strong belief in prosperity theology

Advocates of prosperity theology believe that faith, positive speech and donations to churches will increase one's own wealth. This view has encouraged a 10 per cent tithing within the church, and the creation of an annual "First Fruits" offering in October to provide Tamaki with members gifting between $350,000 and $500,000.

There has been dissent both within and outside the church about Tamaki's opulent lifestyle and how members of the church have been left struggling financially.

13. Destiny Church has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars

The church has applied for, and received $860,000 for their youth programmes. The Ministry of Social Development provided the money for four Community Max programmes in Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty for 79 youth.

Despite their public stance on homosexuality, women, and money, both Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett and Whanau Ora minister Tariana Turia did not see that there was an issue with funding youth programmes from Destiny.

Turia commented to the Herald in 2011 - "I would never, ever discriminate against Destiny Church. My firm belief is that they do a really great job. We contracted them for Community Max, they did a great job, they do a great job with families, they run an excellent kura."

14. Destiny Church raises members to be ready for war

The church has repeatedly stated that it wants power since the Enough is Enough march on Parliament in 2004 against civil unions and a DVD claiming the government was "evil" with a "radical homosexual agenda".

Their website says, "It's time for true men of God to take their place as the leaders in our families and our communities."

Their Men's Ministry, Momentum, states it is "a covenant community of Destiny's men committed to Christ and the vision of Destiny Churches."

The last of five of the covenants is: "To raise men, fit for war."

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