EXCLUSIVE - The leader of Destiny Church, Brian Tamaki, who not long ago anointed himself bishop of the church he founded, has now proclaimed himself the church's "spiritual father" and designated the male members of the church as "spiritual sons".
At a special service during the church's annual conference in Auckland at the weekend, about 700 male members of the church swore a "covenant oath" of loyalty and obedience to Mr Tamaki and were given a "covenant ring" to wear on their right hands.
A church document describes the covenant as "a solemn oath of commitment that is binding, enduring and unbreakable. You are bound to covenant ... Covenant is an irrevocable, undissolvable oath of commitment".
The document, entitled Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons, contains the text of the "covenant oath", the guts of which is that "Above all, we stand here today in the presence of God to enter into this sacred covenant with our man of God, Bishop Brian Tamaki".
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It says: "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."
In its introduction, the church document says that proof of a man's covenant with God is how they "submit to God's chosen man ... We are blessed to our spiritual father through whom this principle is being restored. The fruit of his ministry is self-evident, so much so that his call and influence is discerned at many levels in both the Christian and non-Christian communities here in New Zealand ... Spiritual fathers are extremely rare ... For us it is about discerning the special anointing and function God has put on Bishop's life ... "
The requirements of sonship, the document says, are to give Mr Tamaki obedience and honour, to imitate him and follow his faith and to give him "your loyalty and your strength".
A church statement last night said the initiative was launched by Bishop Tamaki.
He said the covenant ceremony was witnessed by several thousand church-goers, and marked the culmination of a six-month programme aimed at "helping men to become better husbands and fathers and standout contributors to local community".
The Destiny Church statement said many of the men had emerged from social dysfunction, crime, alcohol or drug-related problems and domestic violence to become functional members of society.
In the document comes a section entitled "Protocols towards our spiritual father", which takes 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.