TV3's head of news has rejected Destiny Church's claims of "gross inaccuracies" in a Campbell Live news item, and challenged the church's assertion it has an "open-door policy towards the media".

Mark Jennings also defended the decision to keep the identity of a Destiny Church informant a secret, saying the informant feared for his safety if his identity was revealed.

Earlier today Destiny Church struck out at TV3 over a Campbell Live item featuring hidden-camera footage of the church's Labour Weekend conference.

The church objected to what it alleged was inaccurate commentary by an "unidentified" individual in the news item, and the hidden camera footage.

The statement also said Destiny Church "had always had an open-door policy towards the media and general public and believes this trust has been breached by TV3 in their covert approach in this instance".

But Mr Jennings told nzherald.co.nz Destiny Church had stopped his network entering the conference.

"On Saturday a TV3 reporter and camera crew were refused entry," Mr Jennings said.

"So an open door policy is not TV3's experience."

He said an offer was made for Destiny Church to come on Campbell Live and they refused.

He defended Campbell Live's handling of the story and its use of an anonymous informant.

"Our informant was an eyewitness and he recorded it."

Destiny Church has come under intense media scrutiny this week after its supporters parted with tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of watching 700 worshippers swear an oath of allegiance to leader Bishop Tamaki last weekend.

Church officials have confirmed "several thousand" people paid $30 each to attend the ceremony, with a $60 concession for family groups.

About 700 male members of the church last weekend swore a "covenant oath" of loyalty and obedience to Bishop Tamaki at the ceremony, and were given a "covenant ring" to wear on their right hands.

A church document describes the covenant as "a solemn oath of commitment that is binding, enduring and unbreakable. You are bound to covenant ... Covenant is an irrevocable, undissolvable oath of commitment".

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Though the church could not give exact numbers yesterday, some who watched the oath ceremony estimated that about 3000 people were present - an audience which alone would have raised at least $90,000.

The church said there was a subsidy for "those who couldn't afford it", but it is not clear what the amount was.

But costs didn't stop at the door. Oath takers paid $295 - plus a $5 administration fee - for the ring symbolising their loyalty to Bishop Tamaki. Some were given the option of paying the ring off over time.

Members were also asked for $10 to fund the Destiny School building extension, and a gold-coin donation to Destiny Television Ministries.

Those costs were separate from ordinary tithes, named "first fruit" and "harvest" offerings.

In a statement, the church said its buildings had large operational costs and its social programmes were funded out of the goodwill of its members.

"An individual's decision to give towards the vision and ministries of the church is purely based on their own free will."

Peter Lineham, associate professor of religious history at Massey University, said that with a congregation drawn largely from the Pacific and Maori working class, Destiny would have very few "big earners". Most would struggle with the costs.

"There would be a very strong pressure to pay. This is the maintenance of your membership."

- NZ HERALD STAFF