It seems the Destiny franchise loves to practice the "give" way of life... by giving to Brian.
Brian Tamaki is given up to $500,000 every year in donations from Destiny Church members on top of his six-figure salary, according to a former employee.
The 7000-strong congregation is encouraged to donate money in an annual "First Fruits" offering in an October service, which is gifted to the self-appointed bishop for his own use, rather than funding church activities.
The practice... is based on Old Testament scripture, in which the people of Israel would give the first produce of the land each year to the priests to eat...
Lynda Stewart, a former financial administrator for Bishop Tamaki and his wife Hannah, was a member of Destiny for seven years but left after he was appointed as a bishop in 2005...
Soon after, the congregation were encouraged to give personally to Bishop Tamaki which was justified with scripture, which Ms Stewart says was taken out of historical context.
"The Bible was being used to manipulate people to give money for his personal use to fund his flashy lifestyle," said Ms Stewart. "And the people blindly accept what Brian says."Nice! I'm all for it. Imagine a half million dollar bonus where the humble sheeple show their deep appreciation for you, the Lord's anointed. Of course, Bishop Brian's flock tend not to include the wealthy, educated and well off. Those generous donors tend to live in less salubrious suburbs and pull in a modest paycheck, while some receive welfare. Brian however is a different kettle of fish. He and wife Hannah do live in a mighty fine home with all the flash toys provided. Funny that...
Dr James Harding, a lecturer of theology at Otago University and a Christian, said the "First Fruits" offering was given in the Old Testament era because the Levite priests had no land to make a living from.
"[The offering] was to give them a living wage, so to speak, it was in that context. Quite a different context to Auckland in 2009," said Dr Harding."It is somewhat of a strain, quite a stretch I think, to use passages from the Old Testament to justify this. I'd be very interested to hear how they justify it theologically."
Indeed. Even for those of us with some small prior experience of money-grubbing apostles and empire-building evangelists, the rationale behind this particular cash-grab is stunning. Not even Herbert Armstrong on his worst day was quite this crass.
You can read the full story here.
I'm put in mind of a bloke called Byron Klein, who was pastor of the church my family attended when I was a kid. Byron drove an old VW Beetle with a lot of ks on the clock, including not a few in dropping us brats off home after confirmation classes. He and his wife Dawn, who worked as a nurse at the public hospital, adopted a child before raising their own family. Byron could see the potential in a lot of people when nobody else could, including alcoholics who were battling the bottle. Their home was open to any and all. He'd put the hard yards in to graduate from seminary, with a working knowledge of all three biblical languages (Greek, Hebrew and German!) and like most ministers then and now was rewarded by being underpaid and under-appreciated. You didn't have to be a Christian to know that he was a thoroughly decent and compassionate human being. He and Dawn were inspirational in a very down to earth way that had nothing to do with liturgy, doctrine or theology, and they weren't atypical.
The bloated pulpit parasites of the prosperity gospel (their prosperity!) seem to be another species altogether.