'Jesus was criticised too' says bishop

Sunday Times, New Zealand/March 14, 2010

Bishop Brian Tamaki has likened constant criticism of him and his Destiny Church to that directed towards Jesus and the early Christian church.

Tamaki opened up to Sunday News in his only newspaper interview following the highly publicised walk-out of the church's Brisbane pastor Andrew Stock and some members of its congregation.

The Destiny founder, who has been under fire for his lavish lifestyle and the amount of money directed his way from his congregations:

Confirmed plans for a community base in Manukau were "on hold",

Rubbished allegations he was stripping the church's assets,

Condemned claims Destiny Church was a cult,

Insisted his church had helped positively change the lives of thousands of followers,

Revealed it was set to return to mainstream television on TV3.

Responding to ongoing criticism of him and his church, Tamaki said: "If you look at the life of Jesus and the early church in the Bible, they were constantly embroiled in controversy, because the culture of the kingdom is in direct contrast to the culture of this age.

"I would expect that if I am accurate with the Bible and God's requirement of the church then cracks at Destiny should be normal.

"In the gospels I don't find a church that blended in with the world and its ways."

Last weekend, another newspaper reported that Destiny had appeared to have stripped money and assets from some of its affiliated churches, including $370,000 raised by its Wellington congregation.

But Tamaki said: "The allegation of stripping assets is a gross inaccuracy.

"We cannot set up an enduring house for many generations to come by stripping assets out of it.

"For instance, my three married children and my 10 grandchildren and every Destiny member has their future educationally, socially and spiritually in this church for many years to come.

"I would be a fool to reduce or decrease this church financially and asset-wise. All assets and capital gains belong to the church and the people."

Critics have also branded Destiny a cult. Mark Vrankovich from Cultwatch said recently that it was "not a Christian church ... it is a church following a man by the name of Brian Tamaki who claims to be the mouthpiece of God."

But Tamaki responded: "Destiny is and always has been open to everybody - cults aren't. Our tenets of belief are the same as other mainstream and Pentecostal Christian churches. So if we are are a cult they all are."

Tamaki said criticism for "doing what God has called me to do" only deepened his resolve.

"The results speak for themselves - that is thousands of changed lives.

"I am in my element when I am encouraging, inspiring and moving people's aspirations and faith to greater levels - to believe that they can be more than what they presently are now. My sole purpose is to build the church so that I can do the above week after week."

Destiny did "huge work" in the community, with members involved in police-backed initiatives involving at-risk youth in south Auckland, he said.

"We seem to have the ability to reach into those involved in gangs, drugs and crime."

A planned Destiny community in Manukau was temporarily "on hold" because of the unavailability of suitable property.

The church was now committed to remaining at its present Mt Wellington headquarters.

Destiny was returning to mainstream television, with and early-morning slot on TV3 from March 24.

Congregations were committed long-term to Destiny, Tamaki said.

"They see the church as their future for their children and their children's children long after we have gone."

Media criticism would not sway the faith of the congregation.

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