Bishop Brian Tamaki has asked up to 50 members of the rainbow community to attend an event at the Destiny Church conference, while maintaining his belief being gay is a sin.
The event has been greeted with doubt and suspicion by the rainbow community given Brian Tamaki's strong anti-gay position, including blaming same-sex relationships for the Christchurch earthquakes.
The event follows Tamaki's wife Hannah, a Destiny Church pastor, saying on Radio NZ this month she believed being gay was a sin "as much as somebody who beat their wife".
The event has baffled the rainbow community, largely because of the Tamakis' previous statements, but also because no one considered to have a leadership role is known to be actually going.
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The Tamakis' close friend Jevan Goulter, who is gay, told the Herald the evening was to promote the message that "love is greater than hate" and to create "a new relationship going forward".
Those who were invited would be given the opportunity to speak to the thousands of Destiny Church members expected at their annual conference.
It is planned for Saturday evening, which is said to be one of the most significant times on the church's calendar.
Goulter said it was an evening which had been planned before the recent announcement of the political party, Coalition NZ, which was launched at the church and was led by Hannah Tamaki.
"It's something Brian had been thinking about for a while. It is a message of love. I think it is good for them to have the opportunity to engage with each other."
The event created an opportunity for those invited to speak to the congregation, then later privately to the Tamakis, to develop a relationship into the future, he said.
The Tamakis had been "very respectful" of his sexuality in the eight years they had known each other, Goulter said.
"Hannah has been the first person I ring when I've broken up with someone."
Brian Tamaki has been prominent in rejecting the rainbow community, leading marches in 2004 and 2005 against the Civil Union Bill before it was passed into law, the earthquake comments and offering support to rugby player Israel Folau.
He has underpinned his church with talk of New Zealand being a "Christian country" and called for a return to Christian moral values.
In his sermon during which he blamed sin for the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, Tamaki quoted the Leviticus book of the Old Testament, which is most commonly linked to anti-gay Christian rhetoric.
During the sermon, he pointed to a former Christchurch MP driving gay marriage as a cause. He said: "Leviticus says that the earth convulses under the weight of certain human sin. Massive earthquakes have already hit in Christchurch. You could have almost predicted that one."
Historian Peter Lineham - who wrote the biography of Destiny Church - said a genuine embrace of the rainbow community by the Tamakis would be "an incoherent position".
He said Destiny Church's theology adopted a prosperity gospel philosophy which promised earthly reward for those who worshipped God according to its strictures.
It saw New Zealand perceived as God's chosen land and our laws reflecting a covenant with God "and if we don't honour it, we come under a curse".
"[They believe] the same-sex relationship will defile the land of God ... [that] same-sex relationships will bring filth and evil and the consequence of evil and judgment on the land."
Lineham said he believed it likely any shift to soften its stance towards the rainbow community was likely tied to its political aspirations.
If so, he said he expected congregation leaders would have been briefed beforehand and offered assurances they had God's approval to change their public position.
Any such briefing, he said, would carry the message: "You know what we really think. Trust us."
Rainbow New Zealand chairman Gresham Bradley said he had received an invitation but would be attending a family event instead.
"The hypocrisy is self-evident. My position is wait and see but with very little expectation this is real."
Bradley said cynicism suggested it was a political ploy although he preferred to hope "Brian has been visited by the Angel Gabriel and been given an insight into the LGBTQI community" and found an appreciation of "the true principles of Jesus".
Rainbow New Zealand trustee Craig Watson said he had been invited, wasn't going and was concerned for the wellbeing of those who would take the stage before thousands of Destiny Church members.
"Personally, I'm worried about their pastoral or mental health after the event. I don't want to stop them from going but I do want to have a conversation with them.
"I think there's a lot of fear in the gay Christian community about what is going to happen there."
Watson said he had been told Brian Tamaki would not be apologising for past comments.
"My recommendation to Brian is he first apologise for his hideous words towards our community."
Another trustee, Jacquie Grant, said she was unaware of the event but believed dialogue with Destiny Church was a positive step.
She said she had not spoken to the Tamakis - other than shouting "f*** you" at the Enough Is Enough march in 2004.
"It's better than them spewing hate. I'm sure it's not going to change their views but if it motivates them to lay off a bit, it would be a good thing."
Grant, who was the first trans person in the world to receive a royal honour, said whoever was going would need courage to take the stage before thousands of congregation members.
"You'd probably have to have really big balls. I've had mine chopped off, so that's no good."
In a statement, Brian Tamaki said: "This event will be the first step in a new relationship between our communities, creating space for something greater to continue to evolve between us."