The leader of Destiny Church, Brian Tamaki, who not long ago anointed himself bishop of the church he founded, has now proclaimed himself the church’s “spiritual father” and designated the male members of the church as “spiritual sons”.
At a special service during the church’s annual conference in Auckland at the weekend, about 700 male members of the church swore a “covenant oath” of loyalty and obedience to Mr Tamaki and were given a “covenant ring” to wear on their right hands.
A church document describes the covenant as “a solemn oath of commitment that is binding, enduring and unbreakable. You are bound to covenant … Covenant is an irrevocable, undissolvable oath of commitment”.
The document, entitled Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons, contains the text of the “covenant oath”, the guts of which is that “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”.
It says: “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.”
In its introduction, the church document says that proof of a man’s covenant with God is how they “submit to God’s chosen man … We are blessed to our spiritual father through whom this principle is being restored. The fruit of his ministry is self-evident, so much so that his call and influence is discerned at many levels in both the Christian and non-Christian communities here in New Zealand … Spiritual fathers are extremely rare … For us it is about discerning the special anointing and function God has put on Bishop’s life … ”
The requirements of sonship, the document says, are to give Mr Tamaki obedience and honour, to imitate him and follow his faith and to give him “your loyalty and your strength”.
A church statement last night said the initiative was launched by Bishop Tamaki.
In a related opinion piece — titled “Tamaki’s church becoming a cult” — Garth George says “In requiring its men to swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to Brian Tamaki, the Destiny Church – having glorified the messenger above the message – has begun to transform itself into a cult.”
The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines a cult as “a system of religious devotion directed towards a particular figure or object” and “a relatively small religious group regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members”.
This self-glorifying rule-making, in which Mr Tamaki has obviously been aided and abetted by other Destiny leaders, makes, for instance, Catholics’ deference to, and reverence for, their spiritual father, the Pope, look positively casual.
But what bothers me most about all this is that those who prepared and published the document Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons actually believe what they wrote.
And how 700 Kiwi men could accept this nonsense and swear lifetime fealty to a mere fallible mortal is quite beyond me. It reeks, if not of spiritual blackmail, then of a deep spiritual sickness.
Things like honour, loyalty and obedience have to be earned and freely given, not appropriated and imposed, and when they are imposed, particularly under oath, they are fragile indeed.
Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki says he does not understand the “ruckus” over a new oath describing him as a “spiritual father” and “king”.
The self-proclaimed bishop gave himself another spiritual role at Destiny’s annual conference in Auckland last weekend when he proclaimed himself the church’s spiritual father and designated 700 men of the church his spiritual sons.
The men swore a “covenant oath” of loyalty and obedience to Mr Tamaki and were given a “covenant ring” to wear on their right hands, The New Zealand Herald reported today.
Mr Tamaki said the covenant was similar to protocols found in “most organisations”.
“These are by no means out of the way. We believe that they are respectful and they are things that the men themselves have put together with the leaders,” he told TVNZ’s Close Up.
Some examples from the covenant had been taken out of context and he had never referred to himself as a king, he said.
“No, I’ve never proclaimed myself as a king, it’s difficult enough being a bishop.”
He denied Destiny was a cult.
“We’re an open book”.
However, Mark Vrankovich, spokesman for Cultwatch, an organisation that monitors cults, said the covenant was about making Mr Tamaki look like “a big man”.
“Within this document we see here the very mechanism by which cults go askew,” he said.
Christians were sick of being identified with Mr Tamaki and the Destiny Church, he said.
Mr Vrankovich also told TV3’s Campbell Live said Mr Tamaki was “taking a kingship position”.
“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.”