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Uncertain Destiny

Mon 9 Sep 2013 In: Politics and Religion View at NDHA

Gay Christian and religious historian Peter Lineham has published a fascinating book on the complex life and mind-set of anti-gay evangelical Christian leader Brian Tamaki, Destiny - The life and times of a self-made apostle. Politics and Religion correspondent Craig Young interviewed Lineham on subjects close to the hearts of our glbti communities. Young: Why didn't Destiny Church campaign against marriage equality? Lineham: Destiny's silence is very striking. They have had several opportunities to make comments - at the very least they could have signed the letter of the church leaders (although they weren't at the meeting where it was hastily produced). In my view their silence is quite deliberate. I think it is  based on crude calculation. They weakened their church by the earlier political escapade. Since then NZ has become more secular. They have abandoned direct political protest as a technique. They are also as straight as ever - except that Hannah Tamaki has been very friendly to her gay relations, and I think she sees this as strategic. Hence being  nice to me too! I don't think the Long fall was a factor. It would seem that the Afro-Pentecostal world is quite forgiving about "sexual peccadilloes", but Destiny is quite straight laced about this. One of Eddie Long's homoerotic selfies Young: African-American Pentecostal Bishop Eddie Long, has often been cited by Tamaki as a mentor in the past. He was a major presence at Tamaki's ordination as a bishop. Shortly after that Long was embroiled in a 'furtive, abusive gay sex scandal' in which he was accused of rewarding some of his young male flock with goodies including a car in return for their sexual companionship. That destroyed Long's Georgia-based "New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church" in 2011. Do the Tamakis still have connections to him? Lineham: In quite an interesting attitude, describing him as a brother rather than a "father". They paid him a visit to support him. They emphasised to me that his wife had not left him. So they chose not to see that what had gone on really implicated them. Young: How close is Destiny Church to other anti-gay religious groups, like Peter Mortlock's Pentecostal City Impact Church in Auckland? Lineham: All the pastors I spoke to about Destiny were not at all close to him and voiced criticisms. Some like Peter Mortlock would not speak to me, but mostly they had lost people or congregations to him, and didn't want to call him bishop. Of course, I was still struck by how similar he was to quite a number of them. Young: Has Destiny Church's membership declined in recent years? Lineham: Destiny has certainly lost a lot of people over the last five years. It has so far as I can see lost a lot more of its Pakeha followers than Maori. Maori and Pacific Islanders are still going to Destiny in very significant numbers and the new location in Wiri helps. But there are a range of new churches springing up in South Auckland all the time. Young: What happened to the Family Party, the collaborative fundamentalist micro-party that consisted of a joint initiative between Destiny Church and City Impact Church, both noted for their anti-gay political activity in the mid-2000s? Lineham: It was a disastrous failure which built no structure to continue apart than through the energies of the churches. Richard Lewis in particular wanted to get back into the church. Also I don't think there was full trust between Paul Adams and Richard Lewis. [Richard Lewis is a senior member of Destiny Church who was leader of the Destiny Political party and co-leader of the Family Party. Paul Adams was a former United Future List MP, who subsequently cut his ties to that party. Whilst an MP he voted against the Civil Union Bill in 2005, even went on a three week fast to cause his god to strike the bill down. He is apparently now an East Coast Bays City Impact minister.] Young: Is there a dividing line between iwi-affiliated Maori and morehu (non iwi-affiliated Maori) when it comes to Destiny Church membership, with iwi-affiliated Maori more secure in their cultural identity and less likely to support Destiny Church? Lineham: No, it is not an absolute line. Destiny aligns itself with kingtanga [the Tainui-based Maori King movement],  and accepts some sponsorship from this direction. Most Maori politicians crave some support from Destiny, and there are some clear links between the Maori party and Destiny members. Young: Does Tamaki see himself as part of a Tainui prophetic lineage, trying to secure charismatic authority to mobilise more supporters from the Tainui iwi in future political and anti-gay initiatives? Lineham: I think primarily they conform to the Black American pentecostal tradition, but I think some choose to hear them in traditional terms, and Tamaki has become more interested in the Maori prophets in recent years. Young: How did Hannah Tamaki react to the loss of her recent bid for the presidency of the Maori Womens Welfare League? One of the key individuals involved in repelling that effort was reportedly Prue Kapua, civil union partner of lesbian Maori MP Louisa Wall. Lineham: She was surprisingly subdued about it - some innuendo about the people  who had been nasty to her, but has not given up in finding a place here or somewhere similar to extend her interests. Undoubtedly MWWL would have helped to extend Destiny's influence in the Maori world, but Destiny is great at trying all the time for new possibilities. Partnership schools, for example. Young: How are the Tamakis reacting to the loss of their charter school bid? Many takatapui and whakawahine that I've talked to have been uneasy about what would happen if Destiny Church had been able to become one of the partnered private interests involved in this new Key administration education initiative. Lineham: They are angry and sarcastic about the inability of those who gained the right over them in South Auckland to deliver as good a product. But they will get over it. There will be some other opportunity to get state money. And in a sense they enjoy being in grievance mode. Craig Young - 9th September 2013    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Monday, 9th September 2013 - 7:02am

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