New pastors have been appointed to run Brisbane's Destiny Church after their predecessor and more than half the congregation walked out of last Sunday's service.
Dozens of members walked out in support of Pastor Andrew Stock, who resigned from Destiny over a recently introduced covenant that clashed with his beliefs.
In a statement released today, church spokesman Richard Lewis said the movement was committed to the ongoing success of the Brisbane church which had been reflected in the swift change of leadership there.
Former churchgoers contacted the Herald with new revelations of the inner workings of the church after news of the walk-out was published.
One man said the church was a "cash cult" and he was "not happy with the fact they had eftpos machines in the middle of the church".
Another described the church as "Destiny Bank".
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One man said he was at the church's Hamilton branch and was about to sign up to Destiny when he received a nasty surprise. "I was promptly asked to sign a tithing/AP form agreeing to give 10 per cent of my income to the church from then on."
The Destiny covenant also requires the purchase of a church signet ring, at a cost of $300.
But Bishop Brian Tamaki last night struck back in a fiery sermon at his Mt Wellington church.
He dismissed reports of a split within Destiny as "grossly exaggerated" and accused the media of being "funny and weird".
Followers were told to ignore people who told them they were too poor to give money to the church.
"They'll tell you and try to get you to believe you are too poor and that you have nothing to give.
"What they're trying to get you to do, do the opposite and you'll always be on the right side [with God]."
He spoke of opening up a "channel of giving" to the "house of God".
"When they [followers] stop giving, the church is poor and it cannot fulfil its wonderful vision or its purpose for God.
"God has a plan to restore the lost wealth back into the church."
Bishop Tamaki said he would happily speak to the media about church troubles "if they would just print what I said, and the facts, but they don't".
The media were banned from last night's service, and earlier attempts to speak with the bishop were not successful. The service was streamed live on the internet.
Former members of the Brisbane Destiny Church yesterday told the Herald that they supported the pastor who had quit.
Frank Coleman, a 58-year-old bus driver, said numbers at the church began declining shortly after Bishop Tamaki held a one-day covenant camp with male members in Brisbane last year.
"Unfortunately it was all being done by stealth and there was no opportunity for discussion, nor was much information made to those who did not attend.
"I guess that's when the murmurings began and there were people like me who totally disagreed with the covenant."
Another member, who asked not to be named, said there were about 265 Destiny Church members at the Brisbane branch before the covenant was announced.
"People then started asking, 'Is this right?' and they started walking out.
"As a Christian, you worship God, but under the covenant you had to worship Brian Tamaki and it wasn't right."
Mr Coleman said he doubted the Brisbane branch of the church would survive.
Pastor Stock issued a brief press statement saying he had resigned on Sunday.
"I did this willingly, and wish to express my kindest regards to Bishop Brian and Pastor Hannah Tamaki, acknowledging their extreme graciousness throughout thisprocess."
Last night, Bishop Tamaki told supporters that members of the Brisbane branch were "excited" about changes that were happening there, and that some of the families who walked out had returned.
"I can't say much, unfortunately, because the Brisbane situation is still in progress ... I am just bound by some legal labour contracts."
Police were called to Destiny's Mt Wellington church about 8pm last night when a man arrived carrying a mortar shell during Bishop Tamaki's sermon.
The man stopped his vehicle in the middle of the street and took an object from the boot.
He moved to the front of the church and pointed what appeared to be a knife wrapped in plastic at parishioners standing outside.
He stood for several seconds repeatedly threatening the parishioners with the knife.
He then threw the weapon at nearby media representatives before driving off.
Destiny Church last night said Bishop Tamaki would have a weekly half-hour programme on TV3 at 6am on Wednesdays.
Destiny Television programme manager Janine Cardno said securing more mainstream television time was a goal for 2010, and would complement live internet streaming of church services.
The programme would be produced and paid for by the Destiny Church.
- With NZPABy James Ihaka Email James, Eloise Gibson Email Eloise