Destiny's Brian Tamaki answers 'cult' accusations

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.

The covenant was described as "a solemn oath of commitment that is binding, enduring and unbreakable".

The spiritual sons must always be respectful and speak of Mr Tamaki in a favourable and positive light.

Whenever Mr Tamaki speaks all other talking must stop, the newspaper said.

The sons must never openly disagree with Mr Tamaki in front of others and must not become familiar which could lead to contempt.

The covenant also required the sons to stand when the bishop and his wife entered a room and not to begin eating before him.

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."

Mr Tamaki said the church had a helped many men and the covenant was a positive thing.

"You would think this a breath of good news, positively, over 700 men who represent families who've taken a covenant to be better husbands to their wives, better fathers to their children and better men all round - what's the ruckus?"

Destiny Church member Richard Lewis, who drafted the covenant, said the document put in writing a culture that already existed within the church.

"If you're going to look at that document you need to measure that against the lives of the men who have come into Destiny," he said.

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."

NZPA