Destiny, cult-watchers in clash over Christ

New Zealand Herald/February 19, 2011

Destiny Church has been branded a "cult" after Brian Tamaki said Jesus did not rise from the dead - but the self-styled bishop says he was quoted out of context.

Mark Vrankovich, director of Cultwatch, has released audio clips and transcripts of Bishop Tamaki preaching a series of messages to his followers.

He says the clips show Bishop Tamaki rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after he was crucified - the core of the Christian faith.

In the sermons, Bishop Tamaki said he had been preparing his followers for a year to receive the revelation God gave him about the resurrection, so they could "understand what the Bible is really saying".

He told the congregation they would doubt his teaching, unless they also had the revelation, because of "too many forces and too much teaching and too much backlog of religion".

"You must get out of your mind that, that Jesus Christ is now, ah, is still Jesus of Nazareth ... But Jesus did not come out of the tomb. The flesh Jesus died in the tomb."

Bishop Tamaki went on to say that theologians and other Christian teachers would have difficulty accepting his teaching.

"The first thing they would do is that they would immediately move into a spirit of condescension. They would say, 'You cannot say that'."

Mr Vrankovich said Bishop Tamaki's teaching showed Destiny Church had moved into the realm of a cult.

"It might be hard for some to grasp that Brian Tamaki and his church are no longer part of orthodox Christianity, but that is the reality of the situation."

Bishop Tamaki said the allegations made by Mr Vrankovich - "Who is he?" - were taken out of context and an attempt to attract attention. "I fully affirm the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, which has always been and continues to be a foundation doctrine of Destiny Church."

Bishop Tamaki said his teaching was pointing out the differences in the body of Jesus before and after the resurrection.

"I have never denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ but have given a more thorough and clearer understanding of the resurrected form of Jesus Christ, post-resurrection, and how it relates to the believers and the church today."

Mr Vrankovich said Bishop Tamaki was "backpedalling" to a more orthodox Christian teaching. He denied quoting Bishop Tamaki out of context and invited people to visit the Cultwatch website to decide for themselves.

"If what Brian was teaching in May 2010 was orthodox, why did he feel the need to prepare his people for a year to hear it?" said Mr Vrankovich.

"And why did he say that pastors, vicars, etc, would have such a problem with it?"

The Herald revealed in October 2009 that 700 male members of Destiny Church swore a "covenant oath"of loyalty and obedience to Bishop Tamaki at the church's annual conference in Auckland.

The oath requires them to stand when Bishop Tamaki and his wife, Hannah, enter a room, surprise the couple with gifts and, when dining with the bishop, start eating only after he has started.

Dr James Harding, a theology lecturer at Otago University and a Christian, said the covenant oath meant followers could not question Bishop Tamaki's teaching.

"The troubling thing is that, in the sermon, he is already anticipating opponents of what he is saying. And the reasons why anyone would disagree with him is because of a 'spirit of condescension'," said Dr Harding.

"What he is actually saying is that there is no room at all to question for themselves what has been said."

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