Churches snub Christian party

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Plans for a new pan-Christian party may be foundering over claims by one of its co-leaders that he was ambushed, as churches distance themselves from the new venture.

Future NZ leader Gordon Copeland suggested yesterday he was ambushed by the Destiny Church into announcing his co-leadership of the new party early. Mr Copeland conceded that announcements about the new party had been "shambolic" and "Mickey Mouse".

He had been in "damage control" since the announcement that the Destiny Church's political wing, the Destiny Party, was deregistering to throw its weight behind the new party - and would not rule out it being wound up even before it had got off the ground.

Mr Copeland also stood by the statement that his new co-leader, Destiny NZ leader Richard Lewis, lacked experience - and made it clear that he considered himself to have been the one wronged, by saying Mr Lewis had "apologised profusely" for how events turned out.

"Not since Helen Clark had the Corngate thing and was ambushed by John Campbell has any MP been delivered a curve ball like that one. "

Destiny NZ, which is funded by the Brian Tamaki-led Destiny Church, announced on Tuesday it was deregistering to throw its weight behind a new Christian values party, backed by a pan-Christian body, the National Advisory Council.

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Mr Copeland and Destiny NZ said the advisory council brought together "seasoned" church leaders who wanted to avoid splintering the Christian vote, naming the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army and others.

But the Salvation Army denied being a council member.

An Anglican Church spokesman also denied official membership, saying he was not aware of anyone there in an unofficial capacity.

The Catholic Church said it had no representatives on the council - but it has emerged that a senior church spokeswoman had attended as an observer.

Ill-feeling between Mr Copeland and Destiny follows Destiny NZ breaching what Mr Copeland believed to be an agreement to hold off announcing the new party till after Christmas.

The announcement left Mr Copeland scrambling to explain why he had denied any knowledge of a new party just 24 hours earlier.

Mr Lewis said yesterday the church had thought it was important to be upfront and confirmed that he had flown to Wellington to talk to Mr Copeland. He said there was no indication Mr Copeland was having second thoughts.

The Dominion Post