Controversial healer visits Auckland

By Jonathan Marshall

Nobody can get the sick out of their wheelchairs quicker than Dr Benny Hinn.

So claims the controversial US-based televangelist, who is headed for New Zealand armed with promises of instant cures for those suffering from Aids, cancer and arthritis. Hinn will hold forth in Auckland for two days in June.

Flamboyant and highly theatrical, the "faith healer" has long been the focus of allegations that he operates a successful prayer-for-profit regime, with reports his income exceeds US$100 million ($136m).

Hinn Ministries management are bringing their religious personality to Auckland for three free "international crusade" services at the new Vector Arena on June 8 and 9, in a bid to increase membership. Hinn and his minders visited Auckland last year to inspect the new Vector stadium, according to one Kiwi based ministry member who did not want to be named. She said there was "significant" support in Auckland for the infamous healer, who held an event in 1999 at the then WestpacTrust Sports and Entertainment Centre in Christchurch that drew a crowd of 15,000 and raised $40,000 - but she understood that some Kiwis had difficulty grasping the Hinn concept.

"People are sceptical because it is a supernatural realm, and we are not used to that in New Zealand.

He is a bona fide minister," she told the Herald on Sunday.

The host of TV2's early morning series, This is Your Day with Benny Hinn, was recently criticised by church funding watchdog Ministry Watch, which reviews the financial transparency of religious organisations.

Ministry Watch said in a report that Hinn's expenditure revealed that the organisation had far more money than was required to carry out its international operations. Ministry Watch urged members to "prayerfully consider withholding contributions to Benny Hinn". Because US tax law does not require religious organisations to disclose financial papers, it is not clear exactly how much money Benny Hinn Ministries earn. However, overseas reports suggest his income is more than US$100 million per year.

In his book, He Touched Me, Hinn talks of his "life-changing spiritual experience" - as a young boy in a small church in Oshawa, Ontario, to the largest stadiums and arenas in the world, preaching as "one of the great healing evangelists of our time".

The Auckland-based director of Catholic Communications, Lyndsay Freer, said she neither agreed nor disagreed with Hinn's practices, but it "appeared there was a commercial element to his type of proselytising".

Nielsen Media research figures show that an average of 7500 people aged over 5 watch the TV2 infomercial programme on weekdays.


Where to see him

* What: Benny Hinn International Crusade
* When: Friday, June 8, 7pm and Saturday, June 9, 10am and 7pm
* Where: - Vector Arena, 34 Mahunu Cres, Parnell, Auckland

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