Newspapers, TV newscasts, and blogs in New Zealand lit up this weekend after 700 new members of The Destiny Church swore an oath of personal loyalty to its founder, Bishop Brian Tamaki, which reads: “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.” According to TVNZ, “Mark Vrankovich from Cultwatch, says the covenant contains the type of mechanisms by which cults go askew. ‘The pattern is the risk,’ says Vrankovich who is upset that Tamaki seems to claim to be the mouthpiece of God. ‘Destiny Church is not a Christian church following Jesus Christ. It is a church following a man by the name of Brian Tamaki who claims to be the mouthpiece of God.'”
Tamaki’s organization is also involved in politics; its ultra-conservative Family Party’s stated agenda is to “uphold and protect marriage and the family.” In 2004, Tamaki said “I predict in the next five years, by the time we hit our 10th anniversary – and I don’t say this lightly – that we will be ruling the nation.”
It wasn’t so much the oath that roused the furor as the document which accompanied it, entitled Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons, which takes, Garth George of The New Zealand Herald noted, “1300 words to describe in jaw-dropping detail how the ‘spiritual sons’ shall behave towards their ‘spiritual father.'”
Under “Public Conduct”, the sons will in all conversation always speak of Mr Tamaki in a favourable and positive light; and in formal and/or public occasions, they will always address him and his wife, Hannah, first in acknowledgments and addresses at meetings “as a sign of respect to the father of the movement”.
If any “son” is honoured either by the church or secularly, he is to mention his “mentors and role models” – Mr and Mrs Tamaki – “because Bishop is one of God’s best-known representatives in our country”.
Under “Conduct Towards Bishop”, the “sons” are told that “Bishop is the tangible expression of God”, so they need to understand how to properly approach their man of God “to protect the anointing and not transgress this special relationship”.
They are always to be respectful and honourable in Mr Tamaki’s presence. “Even though he is very sociable and open – remember who he is!” They must never be “in his face” and must protect him from outsiders who attempt to do that.
They must ensure that Mr Tamaki and his wife are both honoured, cared for and given appropriate respect. “Bishop is a people person. Often it is better we offend others than him.”
And since “Bishop carries our vision and our anointing for the future and hope of our families and offspring, we ought to guard, protect and watch out for him and Ps [Pastor] Hannah”.
Under “Discernment”, the “sons” are told they must “feel Bishop’s flow and be attentive to his thoughts and directions”, which “gives unity and power to what God is saying and doing through him”.
They must endorse what Mr Tamaki endorses, fully support what he promotes and ensure that what he is involved in is supported and successful.
“Whenever Bishop speaks all other talking stops: give him your full attention. Be careful not to cut in on him when he is speaking and ensure others don’t either.
“Don’t start talking or gesturing to somebody else while Bishop is speaking.”
The “sons” must never openly disagree with Mr Tamaki in front of others and must “be careful not to become familiar (which can lead to contempt)” with him “due to his friendliness and openness”.
Under “Etiquette”, the “sons” are told that when Mr Tamaki and his wife enter a room, they must stand and acknowledge their presence. They may sit only after the Tamakis are seated.
And if they dine with him they wait until he has started eating before they start eating, unless he indicates otherwise.
Under “Church Service (in house) Protocols” the men are encouraged to sit as close as possible to the front of the church to be nearer to Mr Tamaki and to be vocal during his preaching, affirming what he has to say with “amen” and “that’s right”, clapping, shouting and laughing. This sort of participation is said to build “an atmosphere that is conducive to supernatural events”.
They are told to bring Bible, pen, paper or laptop to note down Mr Tamaki’s sermons which “shows how highly you value the Word of God from Bishop’s mouth”.
They should come to church anticipating that God will speak through Mr Tamaki and should always be dressed well at all meetings with him. “His dress code is your dress code.” They should also look happy and smile and be friendly to all and encourage people.
Under “Supporting Bishop’s Function & Ministry”, the “sons” are encouraged to find out Mr Tamaki’s speaking itinerary and travel to other churches and engagements to support him, because a team of men around their bishop “reflects his importance to them”.
They must never tolerate anyone (regardless of who they are) speaking or talking critically of Mr Tamaki and his wife/family or the church. “You are not only to stop them in their tracks but warn them that they criticise you when they criticise Bishop.”
They should celebrate Mr Tamaki’s special occasions with him with surprises on birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions or achievements.
“Don’t wait for others to do it. It is a sign of your love and respect for him: at times give gifts to him and/or Ps Hannah. A gift means many things – love, honour and blessing them: they will feel appreciated.”
The men are exhorted to be protective of Mr Tamaki and his family. The protocol says he “will be more criticised, scrutinised and demonised than most others because of who he is and what he carries”.
“You will hear all sorts of statements and opinions but you must be prepared to ignore them and consistently hold him in the same high regard no matter what you hear.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the protocol says that Mr Tamaki is human and does make mistakes.
However, the sons must “be prepared to defend against any problems arising out of his mistakes.
A loyal man is supposed to ‘cushion’ the effect of a mistake on Bishop and to protect him. NEVER intentionally expose his weakness.”
It says Mr Tamaki may downplay and even discourage “sons” in overtly honouring him, “BUT that should never stop the men from doing what is honourable and what is in their heart to do”.
“The bishop’s discomfort with honour should never rob the people of the spiritual rewards for such honourable and respectful actions towards him.
It is appropriate, says the protocol, for men to tell others of their love for Mr Tamaki, who is “one of the most well-known representatives of God in our country”. The “sons” must reinforce and emphasise what he says and preaches and quote him as often as possible in favourable terms.
Tamaki, a high-school dropout, grew up on a farm and became deeply involved in a succession of Pentecostal churches in the late 1970s. He launched the Destiny Church in a warehouse in Auckland in 1998 with 20 members; today it claims 9000 members throughout New Zealand (and has opened a branch in Australia). Destiny Church has a close relationship with the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia; Tamaki calls its pastor Eddie Long his spiritual father.
Appropriately enough, Tamaki preaches the Prosperity Gospel, which has by all accounts worked very well for himself. Members tithe to the church; they also provide an annual “first fruits” gift to the pastor and his family, amounting to $300,000-$500,000. According to a different story in the New Zealand Herald :
Bishop Tamaki’s six-figure salary is paid from church revenue, through the Destiny International Trust. He also receives revenue raised by the church’s Proton Bookstore – where his messages can be bought on CD or DVD for between $10 and $20 – and Proton Gym.
Bishop Tamaki and Hannah are the sole shareholders in the Proton Trustee Company Ltd. The couple are also shareholders in Tamaki Productions Ltd and Tamaki Investments Ltd.
They own a $1.2 million clifftop home with views of the Hauraki Gulf, which is now for sale, and a $100,000 boat and expensive cars and motorcycles.