It seems to me that most people would be happiest if the clergy wore socks and roman sandals, short stubbies and drove a 1973 Hillman Hunter with well-blackened cross-ply tyres.

That they stood in the corner on special occasions sipping very hot weak tea and only spoken on request — and then not for too long.

Kiwis want men of the cloth to creep and stoop, not to swagger and stand upright.
The fact is that although we are happy for Christians in business to make a lot of money, within the bounds of propriety, ministers of religion must take a vow of poverty, or they just won't stack up.

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We want them in uniform, so they are readily identifiable, and we can see them coming and cross the street. Preferably with a white collar or Salvation Army navy blue.
The Christian ministers, pastors, vicars — call them what you will — that I know live humble lives, but the measure of their work is not clothes, cars, homes, or lifestyles. It is about the influence for good they have daily.

The best have heaps of good influence and the not so good, not so much.

I spent the evening last Saturday in Kaikohe at a Man Up Rally. The programme is run by Destiny Church and is having huge influence for good. Three years ago, there was one group of guys with murky backgrounds meeting to talk through family violence, drugs and alcohol and how to stop offending against those they love the most. There are now 450 groups working with thousands of men and many more thousands of women and children.

There is a similar group supporting women. These are people many of us never notice — and if by chance we do, we look the other way.

They are people who struggle, many with convictions and many with gang affiliations even those in leadership of gangs. But their lives are being changed and with those changes come lives free of alcohol, drugs, violence, stronger, closer and more loving relationships.

They no longer are the problem they were, but the tattoos and scars remain.
On Saturday night in Kaikohe, four former presidents of gangs such as Mongrel Mob, Killer Bees, Black Power and Rebels stood on the stage in front of their own townsfolk and owned up to the drugs they had peddled, the assaults they had inflicted, the crimes they had committed and apologised to their community for their behaviour. Some cried when they spoke. There is absolutely no doubt they have remorse.

I have listened to more confessions and promises than most over 40-plus years in the justice system, so I think my crap-o-meter is in good working condition.

These guys were genuine. The testimony of their women was that the difference in their lives before and after the intervention of the Man Up programme is like night and day. I believe them.


The work of the Man Up programme goes on without any support from the Government — in fact, the complete opposite. A visitor to prisons where he met inmates one at a time to talk about drug dependence, violence and the importance of family had his accreditation stopped for no reason. Later it was confirmed that it was because he was from the programme. Only Spring Hill Prison allows access. No explanation for this inconsistency is given. A copy of the programme was provided to SERCO Prison in Wiri 12 months ago, but no response has been offered.

When I posted on Facebook the events on Saturday night there were overwhelmingly positive responses and many slagging off the leader of the Destiny Church, but none doubting the good work of the programme.

Although I hold some of the traditional reservations about what I have learned through the media about the profile of Destiny, I have no qualms about the work. I disagree with some of the teachings, regarding gay couples for example, yet think it ironic that the huge changes being made in high-profile criminals' lives are being made with a comparatively small amount of money as opposed to the Government budget for rehabilitation.

Chester Borrows
Chester Borrows

The fact is that a gang member has zero reason to pull off his patch, because he immediately becomes the enemy. Yet so many have done just that.

A recent report from the Ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier has condemned Whanganui Prison for its gang culture with 40 per cent of inmates having an affiliation; many joining the gang when they got to jail.

The Man Up programme is gaining strength in Whanganui but is refused entry to the jail.
You don't have to belong to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, who own Sanitarium, to recognise the benefits of Weet-Bix and Marmite.

You don't have to buy the brand of Destiny Church to acknowledge and encourage the work they are doing with so many people that the influence for good seldom touches.
Is it just me that thinks we are missing a huge opportunity here?

Do we prefer our chaplains to be non-threatening, non-challenging, unless they are dressed in clerical collar or a Salvation Army uniform, or do we just not like the style of Destiny Church and Bishop Brian Tamaki regardless of the obvious good the church is doing?

Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government