Destiny leader Brian Tamaki yesterday struck back at criticism of his church and oaths of allegiance sworn to him by parishioners.
At an Auckland service that began with a request for cash and ended with the congregation vowing not to live with "a carnal mind", the self-proclaimed Bishop Tamaki said he had received hundreds of supportive emails, text messages and phone calls.
"What have I done wrong? ... I didn't steal or sleep with the church secretary," he said.
Bishop Tamaki last week proclaimed himself the "spiritual father" of the church and 700 men swore a "covenant oath" of loyalty and obedience to him at the annual conference.
The oath requires they stand when the bishop and his wife, Hannah Tamaki, enter a room, surprise the couple with gifts and commands them never to be the first to begin eating when dining with the bishop.
A church document entitled "protocols and requirements between spiritual father and his spiritual sons" requires the men to tell others of their love for Bishop Tamaki and defend against any problems arising from mistakes he might make.
It was also reported that Destiny's 7000 members were encouraged to donate money to the bishop in an annual offering known as "First Fruits". The couple were said to get between $350,000 and $500,000 on top of his six-figure salary. But Bishop Tamaki yesterday dismissed the reports as "low-level stuff" generated by people who were upset that others were doing better in life.
Yesterday's service in the suburb of Mt Wellington began with Mrs Tamaki asking the congregation of 1000 for tithes and donations. She said the church considered money as seeds to be sown - helping the church fund its operations, which included employing 22 staff, running a school and producing a television programme.
"Thank you for being obedient to God, it's just awesome," she said.
Last year, the church revealed plans for creating a self-contained "Destiny City" in South Auckland - to include a 5000-seat church, marae, medical centres and schools - that members would never need to leave.
Destiny spokeswoman Janine Cardno said the church was not a cult and its fundamentals were the same as other Christian churches.
She said media reports last week had not affected church support.
Members of the mainly Polynesian and Asian congregation did not want to comment on the matter.