Destiny Church (New Zealand)

Destiny Church (New Zealand)
For unaffiliated churches which share the same name, see Destiny Church.
Destiny Church headquarters: 18 Allright Place, Mt Wellington, Auckland.

Destiny Church is a Pentecostal fundamentalist[1] Christian movement, headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand. The church advocates strict adherence to biblical morality, and is notable for its position against homosexuality, its patriarchal views and for its calls for a return to biblical conservative family values and morals. It also teaches prosperity theology.[2] The Destiny Movement considers itself under the spiritual authority of Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Atlanta.[3][4]

The Destiny Church movement was founded in 1998[5] from 20 members of Lake City Church in Rotorua, initially calling itself City Church Auckland. It is led by Brian Tamaki, a charismatic orator whose actions and rhetoric have attracted criticism from the New Zealand media and other public figures. The church sponsored a nationwide rally against civil unions, issued a DVD asserting that the Government was "evil", ordained Tamaki as Bishop over all local Destiny churches, and recently held a gathering of 700 men who swore a "covenant"[6] oath of allegiance, obedience, and deference to Tamaki.



Brian Tamaki at a church conference in Auckland (22 October 2006).

Lake City Church started with a membership of 20 people which within two years had grown to 300, and adopted the name "Destiny Church". Destiny Church now has a network of 19 churches located throughout New Zealand, and in Brisbane, Australia, with a total membership in excess of 10,000[citation needed]. The church provides not only religious guidance but also a range of social services including budget advice, support for drug addicts and provision of food and housing. The church also operates a composite school (catering for both primary and secondary students) which uses the Cambridge system.[7]

Church services have a Pentecostal worship style, and sermons have a strongly conservative, literalist interpretation of Biblical teachings. Its membership is drawn mainly from lower socio-economic sections of New Zealand society and is multicultural, although predominantly Māori and Polynesian. Brian Tamaki is himself Māori, and the church has been identified as part of the Māori cultural renaissance of recent years.[8] Peter Lineham has compared Destiny Church to the Ratana movement and linked with historical Christianity in Māoridom.[9]

Destiny is in some ways very different from other Pentecostal churches. The latest Destiny stories have focused on its growing links with Ratana, its presence at Waitangi, its Legacy march down Queen Street and the title of bishop which its founder and leader, Brian Tamaki has taken ...

We must recall that it is Māori at heart, although not tribal Māori. It trains people in Kapa haka (and performed them all too vehemently at Waitangi); it captures the hearts of many Māori women, perhaps appealing particularly to detribalised Māori. And it has a political agenda which places treaty issues high on the agenda ...

Let there be no doubt, there are some deep tensions running through New Zealand society, troubles underneath the optimism, and fundamentally they are cultural differences. Culture and religion walk hand in hand. The issues facing us today involve a deep debate over values. We should never be confident that we know which side will win.[9]

The church's leadership demand strict obedience to its teachings[10] and its rhetoric has alienated other churches that have different approaches to Christianity.[11] In 2003, Tamaki, in what he described as a prophetic utterance, predicted that Destiny would be "ruling the nation" within five years.[12][13]

On his website "New Zealand: A Nation Under Siege" Tamaki has declared the government of New Zealand to be "inherently evil",[14] pointing out that some members of Parliament chose not to swear on the Bible, and one (Ashraf Choudhary) swore on the Qur'an, when being sworn in to government. In a later interview,[15] Tamaki said Destiny was ready to wage war on "secular humanism, liberalism, relativism, pluralism", on "a Government gone evil", on the "modern-day witchcraft" of the media, and on the "radical homosexual agenda".

Media articles using former Destiny Church members as sources have alleged that Tamaki's has an outspoken autocratic style and highlighted the church's frequent appeals for tithe contributions, and its insular culture.[16] The Sunday Star Times highlighted Tamaki's visible wealth and personal luxury, questioning its consistency with the church's tithing system.[16] Church pastors agree to a restraint of trade that applies in the event that they withdraw as pastors.[17]

The church's Brisbane pastor resigned in March 2010 over a difference in doctrine.[17] 25 members of the congregation followed him out of the church, some expressed their support for him to the media, saying that the church was a money-making cult.[18]

In late March 2010, controversy arose over allegations against two adult children of Destiny Church Taranaki Pastors Robyn and Lee Edmonds, it was alleged that their son had indecently assaulted a thirteen year old girl and their daughter had been involved with a sixteen year old boy in foster care. Charges were withdrawn by Police with their son as there was no evidence. The Edmonds resigned from Destiny Church Taranaki leadership[19][20]

Enough is Enough rally

Destiny Church has been active in campaigning for a return to what it considers to be "Christian moral values" in New Zealand society, particularly for the "sanctity of marriage between a husband and wife"[citation needed]. In August 2004, Destiny members met on Parliament under their "Enough is Enough" rally which drew 5000 protesters against civil unions legislation.

The rally attracted considerable criticism. The black t-shirts and track-pants worn by many of the marchers prompted negative comparisons with Nazi storm-troopers in the New Zealand media.[21][22] A second march occurred in Auckland along with the Christian Life Centre and the City Impact Churches in March 2005.

When the rally was in progress, accusations of cult-like tendencies followed this statement by Tamaki:[12]

"I have a higher calling than a politician, I am a man of God."

Plans for a "Destiny City"

On 29 October 2008 it was reported that Destiny Church was planning on building a holy city in South Auckland. The report was based on comments made by Brian Tamaki at the church's 10th birthday celebration, and released on DVD, where he talks about a 10-acre (40,000 m2) site the church had procured, with a budget of $2.4m. He said the community would have its own maraes and medical facilities and that "every child of every member of this church will never go to a state school again".[23]

The church subsequently denied the report, a spokesperson saying they only intended to build a new headquarters and supply "social help" programmes, despite Rotorua's Daily Post quoting Tamaki as saying Destiny planned to create a "city within a city" in 2006.[24]

Momentum conference and pledge of allegiance

In October 2009, about 700 male members of the church attended a conference called "MoMENtum" in which Tamaki likened himself to King David.[25] Attendees swore a "covenant oath" of loyalty and obedience to Mr Tamaki and were given a "covenant ring" to wear on their right hands. A document entitled "Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons"[6] contains the oath:

“Above all, we stand here today in the presence of God to enter into this sacred covenant with our man of God, Bishop Brian Tamaki” ...

“To you Bishop we pledge our allegiance, our faithfulness and loyalty. We pledge to serve the cause that is in your heart and to finish that work. Success to you and success to those who help you - for God is with you.”

The document asserts Tamaki's authority as "Bishop" and "spiritual father" of the church he founded. Another section, "Conduct Towards Bishop", states that "Bishop is the tangible expression of God", instructs the "sons" to follow numerous protocols, to defer to Tamaki with unquestioning loyalty and obedience, to follow his dress code, and to never tolerate criticism.[26]

Cult allegations

Following this pledge, the church was labelled as a cult by several New Zealand media outlets[27][28][29] and other observers.[30]

In an interview with TVNZ,[31] Mark Vrankovich of Cultwatch criticised the covenant, saying Mr Tamaki was "taking a kingship position", and

Within this document we see here the very mechanism by which cults go askew, Christians were sick of being identified with Mr Tamaki and the Destiny Church."

"I mean here you have a man who thinks he is a biblical character, in this case King David, and he's building himself an army of mighty men who will do want he wants. I have grave concerns for that, grave concerns."

In the same interview[29] following the reports of October 2009, Mr Tamaki and Richard Lewis defended the pledge on the basis that it was taken willingly, and simply attempted to set standards and codify established practice within the church. Lewis denied the "cult" claims, noting that church services are open to the public. Tamaki denied the existence of a "cult of personality", saying that he was simply setting a visible example for men to follow; and that the church helps a lot of people from difficult backgrounds.

A competing current affairs programme, "Campbell Live",[25] made use of a covert camera and an unidentified witness to critique church practices and the Momentum conference. The church later issued a response,[32] stating that "a number of comments made by the individual were grossly inaccurate", that the source was not credible, and the report reflected "poor practice".

In a separate report[33] Peter Lineham, associate professor at Massey University, expressed similar concerns but stopped short of using the word 'cult':

“I don’t feel very comfortable about this word cult, because we use ‘cult’ as a sort of slang word to mean something really over the top. The fact is, there is no precise point at which you move to a total rejection of other connections.”

Cult allegations resurfaced in 2010, when Cultwatch accused Tamaki of denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus,[34] the claims and Tamaki's denial of the cult status generated substantial media coverage.[35][36]

Other activities

Richard Lewis, a member of Destiny Church Auckland, formed the Destiny New Zealand political party in 2003. The party first ran candidates in 2005. Candidates from four different churches joined with candidates who came from Destiny Church. Despite Tamaki's prediction that the church would rule New Zealand by 2008, the party gained only 0.6 percent of the vote. This was well short of the five percent threshold required to enter Parliament without an electorate MP but was the best performance of any party that failed to enter Parliament.[37] In 2007, City Impact Church and Destiny Church collaborated in the establishment of a "Family Party", but the latter failed to gain public support and was dissolved in 2010[38]

Destiny TV, a televangelist ministry, was launched in 2001 and produced 30 minute programmes that ran every weekday morning on New Zealand's national television broadcaster. The programmes were funded by donations from Destiny Church members. The programme ceased to be broadcast by TVNZ in late 2004 just after the Destiny New Zealand political party was formed, but Destiny TV still currently broadcasts on Prime TV and also in the South Pacific and Australia. Programmes and live services are also broadcast worldwide over the internet on

Following a unanimous agreement by the 19 other pastors of Destiny Churches throughout New Zealand, Tamaki was ordained as a bishop during a ceremony performed by kaumatua Manuel Renata on 18 June 2005.[15]

In 2011 Brian Tamaki's wife Hannah campaigned to become national president of the Māori Women's Welfare League.[39] In her campaign material Hannah claimed that Brian "is a direct descendent" of Te Puea Herangi for founder of the League. Te Puea had no children.[40] Hannah released a statement saying My standing is NOT a ‘Destiny’ takeover.[41]


Destiny Churches were established in the following locations:[42]

Auckland - July 1998[43] Whakatane - March 2001 Tauranga - April 2001[44] Nelson - June 2001
Hamilton - June 2002 Christchurch - April 2003 Whangarei - June 2003 Wellington - August 2003
Wanganui - May 2004 Taranaki Rotorua Brisbane

See also


  1. ^ Chris Barton (12 February 2005). "Destiny's children on a mission". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  2. ^ Grimshaw, Mike (January 2006). "Religion, terror and the end of the postmodern: Rethinking the responses". International Journal of Baudrillard Studies 3 (1)
  3. ^ Eddie Long. (2008). New Birth Conference notes - pg. 11
  4. ^ Destiny Church > Our Church - About Us (Destiny have removed this claim from their website since controversy has emerged regarding Long. Google has cached the page here:[1])
  5. ^ Destiny Church: Our History,, retrieved 31 Oct 2009
  6. ^ a b Covenant Document, published on
  7. ^ Te Kete Ipurangi schools database: Destiny School
  8. ^ Peter Lineham contextualises Destiny Church as a part of a broader cultural phenomenon in "Wanna be in my gang?". The Listener. 195 (3357). 11 September 2004.
  9. ^ a b Lineham, Peter (5 April 2006). Among the believers. Massey University.
  10. ^ "Cultism in religion rings the alarm bells", NZ Herald, 13 August 2004.
  11. ^ "Enough is Enough". Challenge Weekly, Vol. 62 Issue 25, July 2004
    VISION Network, which represents a large number of churches, says that although they were supportive of the general message of Destiny Church’s "Enough" campaign, response from its Advisory Board had overwhelmingly indicated that they preferred to see this issue handled differently ... "The difficulty is that when any individual or group calls for unity on a single issue, but operates outside of a wider unity movement that others have committed to, it is more likely to create division rather than the unity which is sought"
  12. ^ a b "Is Destiny destined to rule?". Television New Zealand. 3 October 2004. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "A Government gone Evil", on Tamaki's personal website
  15. ^ a b Crewdson, Patrick (19 June 2005). "Bishop fulfils his destiny". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Making a pretty penny from heaven". Sunday Star Times, 20 June 2004. (Link is to Highbeam Research; the first few sentences are provided free, but payment is required for the rest.)
  17. ^ a b Tapaleao, Vaimoana (2 March 2010). "Destiny split triggers exodus". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  18. ^ Tapaleao, Vaimoana (3 March 2010). "It's a cash cult, say Destiny's walk-outs". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  19. ^ "Destiny Church abuse allegations". 3 News. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Fisher, David (6 June 2010). "Destiny Church members resign after official inquiry". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  21. ^ "March arouses Nazi fears". The Press. 24 August 2004.
  22. ^ "Black shirts spark anger". Dominion Post. 24 August 2004.
  23. ^ "Brian Tamaki announces plans for standalone community in South Auckland". 3 News. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  24. ^ Eriksen, Alanah (30 October 2008). "Destiny denies Manukau 'kingdom' plan". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  25. ^ a b "Destiny Church's inner workings revealed in secret video". 3 News. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  26. ^ George, Garth (29 October 2009). "Tamaki's 700 'sons' swear oath of loyalty". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  27. ^ George, Garth (29 October 2009). "Tamaki's church becoming a cult". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  28. ^ "Not Brian's destiny to be humble, meek". Otago Daily Times. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  29. ^ a b "Destiny's controversial covenant slammed". Television New Zealand. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  30. ^ NZ Cults & Religious Groups List,
  31. ^ "Destiny's Brian Tamaki answers 'cult' accusations". NZPA. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  32. ^ "Response to TV3 Campbell Live item"., retrieved 1 November 2009.
  33. ^ "Destiny's controversial covenant slammed". Television New Zealand. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  34. ^
  35. ^ George, Garth (17 February 2011). "Garth George: Destiny must be treated as a cult". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  36. ^ "Destiny, cult-watchers in clash over Christ". The New Zealand Herald. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  37. ^ 2005 election results by Party
  38. ^
  39. ^ "Hannah Tamaki for President". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  40. ^ "Destiny Maori welfare wrangle". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  41. ^ "Hannah Tamaki on Standing for MWWL Presidency | Scoop News". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ Destiny Church Auckland was initially named "City Church" but renamed to "Destiny Church" when relocated to Mt Wellington
  44. ^ Destiny Church Tauranga was formerly known as "Harbour City Church"

Further reading

External links

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