Destiny Church (New Zealand)

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Destiny Church
Classification Pentecostalism
Theology Prosperity theology
Region New Zealand
Founder Brian Tamaki, Hannah Tamaki
Origin 1998
Auckland, New Zealand
For unaffiliated churches which share the same name, see Destiny Church (disambiguation).
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 Church movement was founded in 1998[3] 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 held a gathering of 700 men who swore a "covenant"[4] oath of allegiance, obedience, and deference to Tamaki. Destiny Church had a close relationship with New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, USA, the church of Bishop Eddie Long.[5] In his autobiography Tamaki described meeting Long, "my spiritual father", in 2002.[6]


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". At its peak in 2003, Destiny Church had a network of 19 churches throughout New Zealand, with a total membership in excess of 5,000. By June 2012 it had 11 remaining churches, with fewer than 3000 regular attendees. Churches have closed in Porirua, Wanganui and Dunedin.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] Peter Lineham has compared Destiny Church to the Ratana movement and linked with historical Christianity in Māoridom.[10]

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.

— Peter Lineham, Among the believers[10]

The church's leadership demand strict obedience to its teachings[11] and its rhetoric has alienated other churches that have different approaches to Christianity.[12] In 2003, Tamaki, in what he described as a prophetic utterance, predicted that Destiny would be "ruling the nation" within five years.[13][14]

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 and Destiny Pastor[15] Manuel Renata on 18 June 2005.[16]

On his website "New Zealand: A Nation Under Siege" ( Tamaki declared the government of New Zealand to be "inherently evil",[17] 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 into government. In a June 2005 interview, 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".[16]

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.[18] The Sunday Star Times highlighted Tamaki's visible wealth and personal luxury, questioning its consistency with the church's tithing system.[18] Church pastors agree to a restraint of trade that applies in the event that they withdraw as pastors.[19]

The church's Brisbane pastor resigned in March 2010 over a difference in doctrine.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21][22]

Enough is Enough rally[edit]

Destiny Church has campaigned 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 marched 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.[23][24] When the rally was in progress, Tamaki indicated that he did not want to be a politician, saying, "I have a higher calling than a politician, I am a man of God."[13]

A second march occurred in Auckland along with the Christian Life Centre and the City Impact Churches on 5 March 2005.[25]

Plans for a "Destiny City"[edit]

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".[26]

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.[27]

At the Church's 2012 annual conference in Rotorua, Tamaki presented plans including a library, bookshop, early childhood centre, three schools and a university and encouraged tithing, saying "I don't care what the media say, I don't care what your relatives say, I don't care what the world says, nobody should be not tithing."[28]

Momentum conference and pledge of allegiance[edit]

In October 2009, about 700 male members of the church attended a conference called "MoMENtum" in which Tamaki likened himself to King David.[29] Attendees swore a "covenant oath" of loyalty and obedience to Tamaki and were given a "covenant ring" to wear on their right hands. A document entitled Protocols & Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons contains the oath:

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.[30]

Cult allegations[edit]

Following this pledge, the church was labelled as a cult by several New Zealand media outlets[31][32][33] and other observers.[34]

In an interview with TVNZ,[35] Mark Vrankovich of Cultwatch criticised the covenant, saying Mr Tamaki was "taking a kingship position", and

In the same interview[33] 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",[29] made use of a covert camera and an unidentified witness to critique church practices and the Momentum conference. The church later issued a response,[36] 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[37] Peter Lineham, associate professor at Massey University, expressed similar concerns but stopped short of using the word 'cult':

Cult allegations resurfaced in 2010, when Cultwatch accused Tamaki of denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus,[38] the claims and Tamaki's denial of the cult status generated substantial media coverage.[39][40]

Other activities[edit]

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's 42 candidates gained only 0.6 percent of the vote. This fell well short of the five percent threshold required to enter Parliament without an electorate MP but proved the best performance of any party that failed to enter Parliament.[41] In 2007, City Impact Church and Destiny Church collaborated in the establishment of the "Family Party", but the latter won just 0.35% of the party vote in New Zealand's 2008 general election and dissolved in 2010.[42]

Destiny TV, a televangelist ministry, 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. TVNZ ceased to broadcast the programme in late 2004 just after the formation of the Destiny New Zealand political party, but as of 2012 Destiny TV still broadcasts on Prime TV, on TV3 and also in the South Pacific and in Australia. Programmes and live services are also available worldwide over the Internet on

Hannah Tamaki[edit]

Brian Tamaki's wife Hannah, is described as "co-founder" of the church. Named in official documents as Hannah Radclavina Huirangi Tamaki,[43] Hannah has three children by Brian: Jasmine, Jamie and Samuel. All play roles in the Auckland church,[44] with Samuel also serving on a number of charity boards.[45]

In 2011 Hannah campaigned to become national president of the Māori Women's Welfare League.[46] 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.[47] Hannah released a statement saying "My standing is NOT a 'Destiny' takeover."[48]


Destiny Churches were established in the following locations:[49]

Auckland - July 1998[50] Whakatane - March 2001 Tauranga - April 2001[51] Nelson - June 2001
Hamilton - June 2002 Christchurch - April 2003 Whangarei - June 2003 Wellington - August 2003
Wanganui - May 2004 Taranaki Rotorua Brisbane

By June 2013, Destiny Church Wanganui was no longer listed on the main church website[52] Moreover, according to one Destiny Church critic, the church originally also had branches in Kaitaia, Opotiki, Taumaranui, Porirua, Hawkes Bay and Dunedin, all of which have either subsequently closed or merged with other church branches[53]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Destiny Church: Our History,, retrieved 31 October 2009
  4. ^ a b Covenant Document, published on
  5. ^ "Our church". Auckland: Destiny Church. 2010. Archived from the original on 20 August 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2012. The church corporate relates closely with New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta USA, which is the home of Bishop Eddie L. Long, spiritual father to Bishop Tamaki. 
  6. ^ Tapaleao, Vaimoana (24 September 2010). "Tamaki link to US sex-case bishop". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Hurley, Bevan (4 June 2012). "Destiny family firm: for theirs is the kingdom". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Te Kete Ipurangi schools database: Destiny School
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b Lineham, Peter (5 April 2006). "Among the believers". Massey University.
  11. ^ "Cultism in religion rings the alarm bells", NZ Herald, 13 August 2004.
  12. ^ "Enough is Enough". Challenge Weekly, Vol. 62 Issue 25, July 2004
  13. ^ a b "Is Destiny destined to rule?". Television New Zealand. 3 October 2004. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b Crewdson, Patrick (19 June 2005). "Bishop fulfils his destiny". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "A Government gone Evil". Retrieved 2005. Archived 30 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ 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.)
  19. ^ a b Tapaleao, Vaimoana (2 March 2010). "Destiny split triggers exodus". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  20. ^ Tapaleao, Vaimoana (3 March 2010). "It's a cash cult, say Destiny's walk-outs". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  21. ^ "Destiny Church abuse allegations". 3 News. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  22. ^ Fisher, David (6 June 2010). "Destiny Church members resign after official inquiry". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  23. ^ "March arouses Nazi fears". The Press. 24 August 2004.
  24. ^ "Black shirts spark anger". Dominion Post. 24 August 2004.
  25. ^ "Auckland civil union march noisy but peaceful". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 5 March 2005. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  26. ^ "Brian Tamaki announces plans for standalone community in South Auckland". 3 News. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  27. ^ Eriksen, Alanah (30 October 2008). "Destiny denies Manukau 'kingdom' plan". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  28. ^ Weekes, John (3 June 2012). "'City of God' dream becomes Destiny". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  29. ^ a b "Destiny Church's inner workings revealed in secret video". 3 News. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  30. ^ George, Garth (29 October 2009). "Tamaki's 700 'sons' swear oath of loyalty". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  31. ^ George, Garth (29 October 2009). "Tamaki's church becoming a cult". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  32. ^ "Not Brian's destiny to be humble, meek". Otago Daily Times. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  33. ^ a b "Destiny's controversial covenant slammed". Television New Zealand. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  34. ^ NZ Cults & Religious Groups List,
  35. ^ "Destiny's Brian Tamaki answers 'cult' accusations". NZPA. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  36. ^ "Response to TV3 Campbell Live item"., retrieved 1 November 2009.
  37. ^ "Destiny's controversial covenant slammed". Television New Zealand. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ George, Garth (17 February 2011). "Garth George: Destiny must be treated as a cult". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  40. ^ "Destiny, cult-watchers in clash over Christ". The New Zealand Herald. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2011. 
  41. ^ 2005 election results by Party Archived 29 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ "Hannah Tamaki for President". 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  47. ^ "Destiny Maori welfare wrangle". 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  48. ^ "Hannah Tamaki on Standing for MWWL Presidency | Scoop News". 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  49. ^
  50. ^ Destiny Church Auckland was initially named "City Church" but renamed to "Destiny Church" when relocated to Mt Wellington
  51. ^ Destiny Church Tauranga was formerly known as "Harbour City Church"
  52. ^
  53. ^ Craig Young: "Comment: Uncertain Destiny?" Gaynz.Com: 28.03.2007:

Further reading[edit]

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