‘Bishop’ Brian Tamaki has raised the stakes with his Destiny Church followers, exhorting them to leave behind houses, jobs – even family members – to join him at a “City of God” he is building in South Auckland, New Zealand.
At the church’s annual conference in Rotorua on Friday night, Tamaki spent his entire two-hour sermon talking about how God had told him to build the city and why his followers had to lose their “parochialism” towards their home areas, even if it meant leaving behind loved ones.
Cult expert Mark Vrankovich said the speech was designed to “soften up” Tamaki’s followers and the real pressure to move to South Auckland would come with one-on-one sessions with local pastors.
“Saying that the church family is more important than your physical family, that you must go with the spiritual family, is a classic cult idea. This will put great pressure on families and break up families.”
Vrankovich was also concerned that Tamaki appeared to be encouraging people to sell their homes. “They’ll be pressured to give the money from the house sale to the church, and they’ll never see it again. He’s extracting money from people for his dream, and something that he will effectively own. He wants to be mayor or king of this ‘city’ so he’s softening them up to get them to move [to Auckland] so he’s guaranteed not to be losing money on the deal.”
Tamaki announced at a New Year’s Eve service that Destiny Church had permission to build schools, a university and a massive auditorium at a property in Wiri, which he calls the “new Jerusalem”.
The church has put its Mt Wellington headquarters up for sale to help fund the move, which is due to happen in December. It hopes to get more than $5 million from the sale.
It is unclear if people would live on site or nearby.
Cult of Christianity
Mark Vrankovich is the founding director of the Auckland-based international organisation Cultwatch.
Sociologically the church has cult-like issues as well.
Tamaki, who calls himself the “tangible expression of God,” demands cult-like devotion. He has proclaimed himself the church’s “spiritual father” and designated the male members of the church as “spiritual sons”. In October, 2009 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.
Tamaki’s emphasis on money is of special concern. The preacher is a proponent of the so-called ‘prosperity theology,’ in which a Biblical concept it twisted beyond recognition and essentially turned into a scam.
Prosperity teachers claim tat God wants you to be rich (and/or healthy), but that He can not bless you unless you first demonstrate your faith by donating money (also known as a “seed-faith offering”). Naturally the money must be send to whichever televangelist or teacher tells you about this scheme.