The Destiny Church‘s first birthday has been marked by a protest accusing it of homophobia.
In the hall at Wellington High School, where the church held its birthday celebration yesterday, a lone pupil sat in the back row, in silent protest at the group’s pushing its message on the school grounds.
“There’s a fine line between tolerance and intolerance,” year 12 pupil Sonny Thomas said. “Destiny has crossed that line. No longer can people be tolerant of their beliefs and their hate.”
Sonny organised a 603-signature pupil petition. But there was no obvious animosity to him in the congregation.
Six Victoria University students supported his stand, holding placards in the bitter cold outside. They were ignored by the churchgoers.
During the service, Pastor Campbell Bond distanced himself and the church from last week’s march against the Civil Union Bill, under which the state would recognise same-sex relationships.
“The Enough is Enough public stand is over,” he said. “We are not politicians, we are not Christian activists.” The church was now getting on with the real job.
“We are not here to condemn, we are not here to hate. We are here to tell the message that God is a good god.”
But the congregation sang:
We are here to take over, not here to take sides.
We are here to take over, no room for compromise.
Entering the car park, visitors were greeted by stocky, besuited men with earpieces. They eyed up visitors, who might be forgiven for thinking they were entering a London nightclub.
Indeed, those on the stage looked more like a B-list pop band than a church music group – perfectly staged and styled, without a cardie in sight.
On male vocals: sleek buttoned black suits and black shirts, set off with red ties. On female vocals: immaculately groomed groovers with black pants, hefty heels and gypsy red shirts. On guitar: more black suits splashed with knots of red.
You could not fault the welcome, however. Within 50 metres there was a handshake and introduction, a kiss on the cheek and three warm “welcomes”.
So why the men in suits? David Graham, who joined the “awesome” church about 11 months ago, said they were a mark of respect, and were not intended to intimidate.
“You are in the house of the Lord. If you were going to speak to someone important, you should be dressing up.”
Already a Christian, Mr Graham was attracted by the strong leadership the church offered. Since he joined he had given up drinking and nightclubs, which he said had got him into trouble. Though the church is family-focused, Mr Graham said he was unquestioningly accepted as a divorced man. Wayne and Rose Sicely said becoming Christians had changed their lives. Mr Sicely reformed himself from a “big-time druggie”.
The pair went from going nowhere in life, to a stable family with Mr Sicely working as a mechanic and his wife as a social worker.
“It’s all good, that’s all I can say,” Mrs Sicely said.
The church is pulling in the crowds. In Auckland, the congregation is cramped in a 1400-seat auditorium. In Wellington, about 200 attend every week.
Sonny was unimpressed by the service, but contributed to the collection. “I gave to the building fund so they could build a building in Wellington and get out of our school.”