Morals campaigner Pastor Brian Tamaki has allowed a man who destroyed his own family with adultery into a senior Destiny Church position, says the man’s daughter-in-law.
Lynley Bilby says her father-in-law, Ian Bilby, betrayed his wife with an affair while he was the senior minister of the Elim Church. He admitted the affair in 1998, and resigned.
In a statement read out to the Auckland City Elim Church at the time, Bilby said: “I am not fit to be a leader in any sector of society, especially not the church.”
Bilby is currently the director of the Destiny Training Institute.
The row has erupted as a Sunday Star-Times investigation has found:
Questions over the seed money used to start the Destiny Church. An elderly Northland couple says $150,000 of a $450,000 loan given to Tamaki a decade ago had not been paid back and the funds diverted into a project they had not approved.
A new Sunday Star-Times poll shows the country’s other Christian political party may be benefiting from Destiny’s public profile. In the week Destiny Church supporters marched on parliament in an anti civil union demonstration, United Future saw a sudden jump in poll support to 4% from 1% the previous month.
Lynley Bilby said her father-in-law’s affair emerged after his then-wife Margaret discovered a letter he had written to his current wife, Sophia. The letter was given to church elders, prompting the wife of one elder to confess she had been having an affair with the church leader.
“It was unbelievable. You trust people and believe that they are walking the walk and talking the talk. It was a frightful time for Margaret. It was a nasty wound and it has been left.”
She says the family was torn apart by the discovery, and Margaret devastated.
When Bilby was appointed as training director at Destiny Church, it astounded the family. “We couldn’t believe it. We just couldn’t believe it,” said Lynley Bilby.
Bilby’s promotion also prompted the Elim Church to write to Tamaki.
In June, Elim national church leader Luke Brough told Tamaki that Ian Bilby should not be in a position of responsibility.
Brough wrote: “The seriousness of Ian’s actions in many responsible professions would have resulted in deregistration.”
Brough commended Tamaki for helping Bilby but said there was no moral, ethical or biblical justification for his reinstatement to public ministry.
Brough told the Star-Times that the statement from the church to the congregation at the time spoke of “a number of immoral situations” while Bilby described himself as living “a life of seasons of immorality”.
“It became clear it wasn’t an isolated incident. It was devastating. Ian had been our national leader for 18 years. He pastored our largest church.”
At the time, Bilby and Tamaki were already friends, and had run Christian conferences together. Bilby was taken into Destiny Church after Tamaki spotted him at a church service in Kaitaia.
The statement from Bilby read: “I am a disgrace to the name of Christ and now bring shame to His church. I bring the church into reproach both here in this city and beyond. I have destroyed lives, especially my dear wife Margaret.
“She has loved me and believed in me, bearing much personal pain. I have betrayed her in the grossest way. I am ashamed and deeply sorry.”
Brough said: “When it comes to church leadership, there is a higher level of expectation. We were not unhappy with Ian attending one of our churches. But to be involved in leadership in any way – we feel there is no place for Ian.”
Bilby is on holiday in Bali but a spokeswoman for Brian Tamaki said the church was comfortable with the position he held in the church.
In a letter written to Christian Witness Ministries in July 2003, Bilby admitted teaching “various classes under the supervision of pastoral staff”.
The Destiny spokeswoman said Bilby’s role was a move towards his restoration with the church.
She confirmed he had spoken at some services but said it was not uncommon for church members to do so. “We want to see him restored and back in the church.”