Church gives Tamaki huge bonus

By Jared Savage

Brian Tamaki's congregation is encouraged to donate money in the `First Fruits' offering. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Brian Tamaki's congregation is encouraged to donate money in the `First Fruits' offering. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Brian Tamaki is given up to $500,000 every year in donations from Destiny Church members on top of his six-figure salary, according to a former employee.

The 7000-strong congregation is encouraged to donate money in an annual "First Fruits" offering in an October service, which is gifted to the self-appointed bishop for his own use, rather than funding church activities.

The practice was first introduced to Destiny Church by a visiting American pastor and is based on Old Testament scripture, in which the people of Israel would give the first produce of the land each year to the priests to eat.

Church-goers would give between $350,000 and $500,000 to Bishop Tamaki in the "First Fruits" offering each year, says a former Destiny Church insider.

Lynda Stewart, a former financial administrator for Bishop Tamaki and his wife Hannah, was a member of Destiny for seven years but left after he was appointed as a bishop in 2005.

She told the Weekend Herald that the "First Fruits" donation was spoken about between American minister Michael Pitts and Bishop Tamaki privately before the idea was discussed with other Destiny pastors at the Tamaki family home.

Soon after, the congregation were encouraged to give personally to Bishop Tamaki which was justified with scripture, which Ms Stewart says was taken out of historical context.

"The Bible was being used to manipulate people to give money for his personal use to fund his flashy lifestyle," said Ms Stewart. "And the people blindly accept what Brian says."

Dr James Harding, a lecturer of theology at Otago University and a Christian, said the "First Fruits" offering was given in the Old Testament era because the Levite priests had no land to make a living from.

"[The offering] was to give them a living wage, so to speak, it was in that context. Quite a different context to Auckland in 2009," said Dr Harding.

"It is somewhat of a strain, quite a stretch I think, to use passages from the Old Testament to justify this. I'd be very interested to hear how they justify it theologically."

Destiny Church spokeswoman Janine Cardno was unable to send an email response to Weekend Herald questions, as the church computer system crashed.

Instead, she sent a text suggesting to read Bishop Tamaki's autobiography to answer questions about the church and money.

Mrs Cardno did not reply to subsequent phone messages.

The "First Fruits" offering is donated by churchgoers on top of money given in tithes - 10 per cent of income - and other financial donations to help fund the church.

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. The Herald this week revealed that 700 male members of Destiny Church swore a "covenant oath"of loyalty and obedience to Bishop Tamaki at the church's annual conference in Auckland last weekend.

The oath requires them to stand when Bishop Tamaki and Hannah enter a room; surprise the couple with gifts; and when dining with Bishop Tamaki start eating only after he has started. A church document titled "Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons" encourages the men to tell others of their love for Bishop Tamaki.

- NZ Herald

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