Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki says the coronavirus epidemic is a sign the world has "strayed from God" and his followers will be protected, a message an Anglican leader has slammed as "dangerous".
Tamaki told his regular Sunday service in Auckland that God allows "epidemics, pestilence and famine" when people have removed or replaced him from their beliefs.
He offered his followers what he called a "Ps 91 Protection Policy" taking his text from Psalm 91, which says: "You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday."
Tamaki said Christian believers should not fear the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.
"We needn't fear it. There is a lot of hysteria that has been engendered by certain elements about this pandemic," he said.
"I think the ministry of Christ brings hope, and that there is a way of combating these pestilences, pandemics and plagues."
He said the Ps 91 Protection Policy was "the best policy that a family can have to protect them from any of these plagues and pestilences".
"He [God] says, 'I provide a way out. If I have to allow these particular judgments on a nation because they are moving away, I want to let you know that there is a way of doing [avoiding] that.' He will protect you and your family from the pestilence."
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Reverend Dr Helen Jacobi, Vicar at central Auckland's St Matthew-in-the-City, said Tamaki saying followers of Jesus will be protected from coronavirus was "incredibly unsafe".
"People should be following public health advice. I think it is very dangerous and wrong for any public leader to contravene that. Certainly in the Anglican church we have been sharing the message to follow public health advice, and we follow it in our own gatherings.
"It is also quite offensive, saying his followers are safe and no-one else, which is the absolute opposite of the Christian belief."
Jacobi also questioned Tamaki's choice of Psalm 91 to offer his followers protection, which had been used by "the devil" to tempt Jesus.
"It is very amusing he has chosen that psalm, given it was used by 'the devil' to test Jesus."
In his sermon Tamaki said New Zealand had turned against God by removing Jesus from Parliament's daily prayer, restricting religious instruction in schools, talking about abandoning the national anthem God Defend New Zealand, and allowing other religions to flourish.
"I just think it's the right time for this, and it's sending a clear message that we need to consider this part of it - it's not just washing your hands, it's about thinking how we have strayed away from God," he said.
He told the Herald that plagues could be "judgments on nations".
"There have from time to time been judgments on nations, and it's clear right through the Bible, the word of God, that sometimes God allows those pestilences and plagues and famines," he said.
"When people remove and replace God, then those judgments were a way of getting attention back again and saying that he is the one true God.
"Nations toy with danger when they allow idolatrous religions and work to replace Christ in society.
"Western civilisation rests on the Christian faith. Really we are starting to tamper with those faiths, and I think I have a responsibility for my country as a Christian minister to bring that ministry of hope back again," he said.
"It's not one of judgment, it's one that God wants to bring us back to him and so that we reclaim the beliefs that we have had in our Christian faith, particularly in New Zealand.
"I believe they have been under attack for a long time. The Government has pulled Jesus's name out of the prayer, they want to pull religious instruction from schools, they want to change the flag, they have tried to tamper with our national anthem."
According to the Ministry of Health basic hygiene measures are the most important way to stop the spread of infections, including Covid-19.
These include washing hands regularly with soap and water or cleansing with hand sanitiser; staying at home if you are sick; coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow and then performing hand hygiene; and cleaning surfaces regularly.
People should also avoid contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses, and prepare food safely.
The comments come a week after Tamaki's wife Hannah sacked her Vision NZ political party campaign manager Jevan Goulter after he launched a tirade of abuse against The Project host Kanoa Lloyd.
Lloyd said on The Project show she co-hosts Hannah Tamaki should not be on Dancing With The Stars: "I love Dancing with the Stars, and I don't really think I want to see a homophobic paso doble or a xenophobic cha-cha," she said.
Goulter attacked Lloyd on social media, before later apologising for the "disgusting" comments.
TV Three last Tuesday announced Hannah Tamaki would be dropped from the programme.