Destiny Church's beleaguered Brisbane branch was putting on a brave face yesterday as a new preacher arrived to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Pastor Andrew Stock.
But his replacement, Phil Kingi, was vague about the church's future in the city, or its ability to woo back followers after almost half left with Pastor Stock on Sunday.
"We are excited about building the church. It will be great," he told Campbell Live yesterday.
"Things will unfold later on."
Spokesman Richard Lewis said Destiny was "committed to the ongoing success of the Brisbane church" and was pleased with the strong support of local members.
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"We believe our church will appeal to Kiwis and particularly Maori who are well numbered in Brisbane. The new pastors carry the Destiny vision strongly and have the experience to move this church forward so we are very excited about the future."
Pastors Phil and Patty Kingi - of Te Arawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa descent respectively - have been involved in the Destiny leadership for about 10 years. Senior church leaders - including Bishop Brian Tamaki - could not be contacted yesterday.
The practice of tithing, or donating a percentage of one's income to the church, has brought bad publicity to Destiny, but the custom is common in many New Zealand churches.
A former employee of Destiny Church said Bishop Tamaki was given up to $500,000 every year in donations from Destiny Church members, on top of a six-figure salary.
However, donations given to other churches are usually voluntary and used for church initiatives, property maintenance and stipends for ministers.
Dr Graham Redding of the Presbyterian Church said many of its 30,000 members donated money, though there was no requirement to do so.
In 2008, its 416 churches received $29 million in offerings.
About 10 per cent of a congregation's income goes towards the church's work throughout the country - including foodbanks, music programmes for children and community gardens.
David Bush, general secretary of the Methodist Church, also said it was not mandatory for its 20,000 members to tithe although many of its congregations were dependent on donations.
He said a significant proportion of donations was spent on stipends for its clergy.
Anthony Wilson, spokesman for the Church of Latter Day Saints, said many of its 100,000 members offered 10 per cent of their earnings to assist the church with its running costs and initiatives.
He said the clergy was entirely voluntary at the congregational level, and senior members of staff worked without receiving any remuneration.
Angela Pyke, communications adviser for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, said the church's 520,000 members were not required to tithe.
She said monetary gifts were spent on a range of church activities including education, property, clergy and parish maintenance.
The Herald's coverage of the inner workings of the Destiny Church - and its controversial leader Brian Tamaki - has sparked a number of reader comments.
"I was told never to speak out against the bishop or the church, or I would break the covenant with the church and bishop therefore damning me to Hell. I gave above and beyond the 10 per cent which left my family and I struggling, I was told to give more and pray to receive - I almost lost my family over this as many have or are about to." Api Grace
"I feel it is mainly a hotbed for the low income, disenfranchised members of our society to get together and try to lead normal lives but are being hoodwinked. I have attended many Pentecostal/born again-type churches over the years, but Destiny appears to be more centred on giving than on fellowship with the Lord." Wayne Marsh
"I found Destiny Church to be on a whole other wavelength to the kind of church service I've experienced. I can't understand why his congregation doesn't see through the theatrics of it all. I'm hesitant to label the church a cult, but I definitely think vulnerable people are targeted and exploited." MJ
"At last the followers are getting the picture. I do not notice any beneficiaries riding Harley Davidsons, on the water in flash boats or living in ever-so-flash residences. [Bishop Tamaki] has more than one residence. The audacity of it. How gullible are the weak." Lenice Hurndell
"My mate joined Destiny with his family on arriving in New Zealand from South Africa. They got expelled because his kid bit another child in Destiny's kindy. That bite probably saved the family a lot of grocery money." Hennie Reyneke
"I am so sick of the flak our church is getting and the lies being told. Destiny Church does extensive work out in the community (unlike cults who are closed doors!) - this is what should be reported on and encouraged." Kerri Bowman
"We do not worship Bishop Brian, we honour him as our spiritual father. The Bible in fact says the preacher is due double the honour. Honour your parents and all will go well with you, it says. Destiny Church worship and give All our praise to Jesus Christ the one True god, king of kings and lord of lords, we also honour our man of God as our Bible says to do." David Graham
"You can say whatever you want about my church, but we live what we preach. We preach the Gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached. So it doesn't faze us what you say. Keep giving us publicity and the airwaves. We will keep preaching the Gospel of the kingdom and continue to advance the kingdom of God in this earth, both persistently and relentlessly." Pouvalu Sefesi
"One word to describe my experience ... AMAZING! My husband is a covenanted member of the church, therefore I, also, am a covenanted member of the church. Every now and then the men have meetings where they play sports, have tugs of war and other men-related activities ... and we have women's meetings." Rachel Southey
"If Pastor Andrew Stock had a problem with understanding the Covenant or, as the paper has quoted, going against "his beliefs", why did he not go to Bishop Tamaki with his questions? Why did he stay in his role of Pastor?" Yvonne Peterson