David Farrier – “churches are the problem (and let me throw in some racism too)”

I read this today and wanted to put down some thoughts, so here goes.

OPINION: Over the weekend in New Zealand there was a large anti-lockdown protest – and as you can see from the headlines above, the focus was all on Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church.

You get the idea. And this isn’t the first time Destiny Church has been taking up headline inches.

No, the media does love to bash Destiny. Destiny is a cult that is far removed from ordinary churches in a number of aspects, and is rejected for those reasons. But they also are very vocal against the liberal agenda. So they’re a good enemy – one that is both on the wrong side and isn’t going to be defended by anyone else.

(Farrier will give us his (rather bizarre) ideas why this is shortly.)

To be clear – it’s really fun to write about Destiny Church. I certainly have. Self-appointed Bishop Brian Tamaki is an easy target; he blames earthquakes on homosexuality, dresses like a member of the Village People, and has either tattooed or beaded his eyebrows.

Just to get one thing off my chest, Tamaki is not “self-appointed”. You literally can’t appoint yourself as a bishop, because a bishop is a leader of multiple churches. for some reason, people get really uptight about this, yet it’s actually not a controversial title at all. Well, outside the whole “it’s a cult not a church thing”.

As for the rest,

  • yea, he did that earthquake thing
  • he’s just like anyone always on the TV, sometimes he dresses funny, sometimes not. meh.
  • this is literally the first time I’ve seen his eyebrows mentioned, but yea, that is a bit weird

In short, a weirdly un-substantive list for a guy who has quite the record in the NZ public. How about his false prophecy that they’d be running the country? How about his black-clad marchers? Na, he has weird eyebrows.

Brian Tamaki is masterful at getting media attention – whether he’s flouting lockdown laws, launching various failed political parties, or just generally acting like a cult leader with a penchant for pig hunting.

Yes. His style makes him easy to hate and hard to defend, making him an easy media target.

But there’s another thing that sets Destiny Church apart, and I’d argue it’s the fundamental reason it’s constantly appearing negatively in the press: the congregation isn’t white.

[record scratch] uh, WHAT?

Of all the things about Tamaki’s church, the one thing that is never discussed, is the fact that his congregation is predominantly brown. The press studiously ignores it, as much as they can anyway. People talk about his wealth, his positions, his forcing tithes, but they never, ever, talk about his parishioners (or himself) being Maori and PI. (Check out this profile for one such example,) And there’s a good reason for this – it’s the one thing that he actually has going for him in the PC stakes – he’s not one of the “evil colonisers”. He may be straight, cis, (sort of) Christian, non-disabled, but he does get a couple of points for being Maori.

So this is my first big problem with Farrier’s piece, the “appeal to racism” trope he trots out so quickly and so lazily.

Oh, and here’s a quote from Farrier himself.

When I see people in positions of power spreading disinformation to people who might take it seriously, I form some opinions about their character.

Yea, we all do.


A large proportion of those making up Tamaki’s church are Māori and Pasifika. They’re brown – and it fits the very tidy, ongoing narrative in New Zealand that they’re the bad ones.

Farrier goes from calling Destiny’s critics racist, to calling the entire country racist. Brown people are “the bad ones”? Who says that?? I mean, seriously, when did this appear in any media, anywhere? Answer: it didn’t. It never has, and it never will, because our media is dominated by lefties who’d scream blue murder if anyone ever said something like that.

Note: Farrier is currently living in the USA. This may explain his obsession with race. Maybe he’s forgotten that we don’t have the same racial divisions here? Or maybe (like a lot of people on the left) he’d just rather we did. Who knows?

The media focus on him has allowed other, much more powerful New Zealand churches to quietly get on with their bulls… – generally out of the general public’s eye.

And now we get to Farrier’s real agenda – he’s going to use Tamaki’s actions as a hook to “get” another NZ church. – City Impact.

I’ve written about Mortlock before – in Worshipping at the Church of Anti-Vax and The Church of Anti-Vax doth speak unto me – but I’m writing about him again.

Because while the New Zealand press was collectively losing it over Tamaki leading the 1000-odd person anti-lockdown protest over the weekend – other forces had also been at work. Namely, a giant New Zealand megachurch full of white people. A church that dwarfs Tamaki’s in terms of size and influence.

Seems to me that Farrier is waving a big flag at the press here. “Hey, stop going after Destiny, there’s a much bigger church that we can get people really scared of, and there’s none of the racial drawbacks, cos those mofos are white!”

And City Impact isn’t exactly subtle about it. The day before the protest, senior pastor Peter Mortlock did a sermon telling people about Brian Tamaki’s lockdown event. …His words perfectly captured the way he operates. He’s smart with his language, always couching things in “it’s your choice” and “I’ve taken a back seat”.

Let me do something weird here: I agree with Farrier on this point. Churches should not be interrupting a sermon to promote something like this. Vaccination is not a clear-cut issue in the Christian faith – there are really good arguements to be made either way. It’s not like say, abortion, where the church is almost universally agreed that it’s a really evil thing, or homosexuality where the Bible is really clear about it’s sinfulness. And this vaccination campaign is different, because it’s new technology and being pushed in a hurry.

It’s genuinely an area where Christians could go both ways, where the theology isn’t as well established as it has been for other recent issues. I’ve personally got people in my facebook feed arguing both cases.

A church service is for preaching, teaching, and worship. Use the subject to present a sermon examining the ethics: sure. Use a sermon to promote a protest against a something where the gospel is clearly silent – very dodgy ground. And saying “it’s your choice” doesn’t change that.

That said, Mortlock is right about one thing, in one area. I think sooner or later we are going to have to make a stand – a stand for our rights, the way our freedoms are being stripped away.”

This government has been open in it’s distain of churches and church ministers’ position in the community. They have told pastors they are not critical workers (even when someone is dying and needs the last rites), that churches cannot meet (that is, when pubs etc are open), and have been restricted in various other ways. My church has chosen to turn the other cheek on this, preferring to accept temporary restrictions due to the virus. But the government may find that changes if they keep forcing their opinions of how churches should be valued, on people who actually value them.

Who is Peter Mortlock and what is City Impact Church? Well, he’s a cookie cutter of most megachurch leaders in New Zealand, Australia and America.

I’m cutting out a bit around this point, but read the article if you want to see what I left out.

Mortlock founded City Impact in 1982, the year I was born. Its main campus in Auckland seats 2000 people, but it has other churches… Following Hillsong’s lead, it has attempted to go international – opening churches in Canada, India, Mexico and the Philippines (it’s unclear how big these are – some of the addresses listed just point to generic office spaces).

Yes, they’re slavishly copying Hillsong (who to a liberal like Farrier is a code-word for “evil Christians”), couldn’t possibly be that a big part of Christianity is…. spreading the gospel. [eyeroll emoji]

Also, I think Farrier is clearly trying to imply some of the overseas churches are really small. One can only assume that Farrier thinks churches should just spring from the ground with ready-made congregations of 50 or something.

Before he was a Man of God, Peter Mortlock was a real estate agent. That made him very good at selling.

And again, we have the commenting on something totally unremarkable as if it’s meaningful. I had a pastor who was previously a lawyer, does that make him good at arguing his point? What about my former accountant pastor? Or the guy who used to be a scientist? Or the guy who used to be a cleaner? Or the guy who used to be a fitter and turner?

Because he teaches prosperity gospel…

Second [record scratch] moment.

Where did that come from? The prosperity gospel is a serious heresy, and it’s not something churches will agree-to-disagree on. This is like saying “after a brief stretch in prison for statutory rape…”. Nope, you can’t just say that without backing yourself up, and Farrier doesn’t even bother to even attempt to do so. What sort of editors do they have at stuff, that they’d let something like that slip through?

Well, time to google. I mean, if a church has been in NZ for 40 years preaching the prosperity gospel, there’d be quite a lot about it, right?

There is not. Googling “Peter Mortlock prosperity gospel” and “city impact prosperity gospel” showed Farrier’s own article (i.e. the one discussed here) as the top source outside the church’s own site. I did find a few disgruntled ex-members that claimed off-hand they taught prosperity gospel, but I didn’t find the extensive condemnations from other churches you’d expect to pop up if a large church like City Impact was being so heretical.

(Compare this to “St Matthew’s in the City and gay marriage” – immediate, clear results and lots of them.)

Ok, so what does the church itself say?

Jesus established the Church to be His vehicle to continue the work that He started here on earth. The Bible describes the Church as the Body of Christ. We have a contemporary style and maintain a conservative theological position. We believe in baptism by immersion in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for all believers. We believe in participating in Communion together. We believe all that the Bible teaches and seek to live faithful, fruitful and fervent Christian lives. Our mission is to see souls saved, to grow people into unity, maturity and wholeness and to worship and glorify God.

That’s strongly suggestive of a negative position, but not equivocal. I guess I could troll through hours of sermons, but I don’t really think I need to do that, since Farrier himself doesn’t bother to ever explain himself – his assertion is completely evidence-free. In fact, he doesn’t mention that charge in either of the other 2 articles he’s written on the church.

It’s astonishing that any journalist would do such a thing, let alone one that regularly appears in major NZ media. And then a major media outlet printed it! The mind boggles.

Well, let’s continue.

 …all his riches are seen as a hugely good thing to his flock.

One of the reasons Brian Tamaki is so reviled is that, unlike most pastors (when he was an actual pastor and not a cult leader) in NZ, he is very well paid. That, and he pumps his congregation mercilessly.

A lot of people think that paying pastors well is a biblical principle. It’s not. The reasoning is that it keeps the pastor humble, but it also makes life as a pastor harder than it needs to be.

Either way, so long as the congregation agrees to pay a pastor a set amount, that is their decision. If a church chooses to pay their pastor well, they need to be happy with that decision. And the pastor also needs to be accountable, and not dominating the congregation and making all decisions – but that’s a whole ‘nother thing. (See also: Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, and we’re back to cults again….)

His congregation is urged to tithe 10 per cent of their monthly income (Eftpos machines are available during service) and they do so, happily.

People should expect their church to remind them to tithe to their church. After all, the church is them. It’s not (or it shouldn’t be) a separate organisation, it’s an organism made up of each and every member. The problem arises where there’s an excessive focus (as in Destiny) of reminding people to tithe, and heavy-handed pressure to give, and give what people can’t afford. But simply tithing 10% is an unremarkable teaching, perfectly standard stuff so long as it’s not overdone.

They aren’t annoyed their leader is massively rich. He is aspirational to them. His congregation thinks that if they give to God (ie: City Impact Church) then God will give back to them (spoiler alert: God won’t).

I don’t know what Mortlock owns, or owned before he started the church. Chances are, he’s been in the Auckland market for a very long time. Anyone who had a house in Auckland since 1982 is pretty much rich by default.

As for the assertion of what the congregation thinks, this seems to be another evidence-free assertion. How on earth does Farrier know what the congregation thinks? On what basis does he make this claim? And how did such an inflammatory, evidence-free statment get past the editors?

As a church, City Impact qualifies as a charitable organisation, meaning it is exempt from paying tax on its income.

And yet again, as a journalist, Farrier should know better than to say things like this. It’s simply a false statement. Churches, and all organisations including companies, pay tax on income minus tax deductible costs. If the church has $1m in donations and $1m in expenses, no tax would be due even if the church was not tax exempt. And in my experience, most churches run like this – they budget a guessed income (which is often too ambitious) and then divvy up costs between running the printer, paying the staff and mortgage etc. If money is left over, then it’s put into something else. Over the years, costs and income match – unless there’s a deliberate decision to build up capital for something.

What churches do have is a tax exemption on donations, and an exemption on certain rates for the sanctuary (i.e. the church part of the church, not the hall).

That didn’t stop it getting paid out over a million dollars in Covid-19 subsidy payouts from the Government:

The church claimed, and the government considered the claim and paid out. If the government didn’t want to pay church staff during the shutdown, then it’s up to the government to change the rules. If they claimed illegally, Farrier should put up his evidence. I’m guessing he’s just leaving he implication out there, again. Are you starting to see why this column annoyed me yet?

I am never going to understand how entities like City Impact are tax-free, their leaders living in multimillion-dollar homes. Like many things in life – my brain is too small to grasp things so fundamentally out of sync with how I feel the world should operate. But the world sucks, it’s on fire, I get that.

Cute “I’m just a simple guy, I can’t grasp this”. I seem to recall a journalist condemning these “I’m just pointing this out” implication tactics. Who was that? Hm…

Yes – they qualify for being exempt from paying tax. And like all megachurches, their annual returns show expenditure often meeting or exceeding their income:

All churches. Literally, he’s just saying “megachurches” so you are reminded – “these are the bad guys”.

The church is exempt. The employees, including pastor, aren’t. But notice how he just lets slip that he knows there’s no tax due, but frames it like they’re doing something dodgy? He continues on this track.

Which isn’t all that surprising when you look at something like their most recent return, with that $13,419,399 in outgoing costs.

Read the report, and you can see that over $8m of that ($8,069,266) goes to “employee costs”. A cool $2,020,901 is listed as “Other”. And they have over $22m tied up in “non-current assets” like property.

No doubt, that’s a lot of money. But these are headline costs – there’s nothing in the return to say how those costs are split, how many staff are paid, what other employee costs are etc.

What is in the returns is that the Mortlocks are the trustees of the church. That’s a red flag. Worse, I checked the Balclutha church which is equally flush (considering) and Peter is also listed on that church too. That’s not a good look, and raises some questions. But Farrier chooses not to highlight that, just that there’s a huge wage bill divided who knows how many ways.

It pays to be a church. Or more specifically, a church leader.

Citation needed.

Regardless of what work City Impact does, in my view their main purpose seems to be paying their pastors money to say completely idiotic s….

I think we’ve established that they’re not the only organisation that pays people to say idiotic… stuff.

Ok, at this point he picks apart a (ahem) “sermon”. I’m going to take his word on this part, and I think I’ve outlined my opinion above. But I’m happy to admit that I have not see the message, and if I get around to it, I might see if it’s as bad as he says it is.

Then he gets to his conclusion.

So while the media continues to point the finger at the relatively obscure cult of Destiny Church (it appears bigger than it is thanks to excess media coverage of its every move) – City Impact – and churches of its ilk – continue to go on, unchecked.

All perfectly true. Destiny is a cult that looks bigger than iti is, and churches are not checked by the government. That pesky separation of church and state eh?

In a large part because its leader is white, and it’s less weird when white people are surrounded with wealth and property. His members are largely middle-class white people. They are harder to portray in the media as being taken advantage of. They don’t fit the stereotype of “idiotic religious person”.

Oh, you forgot that Farrier was trying to make this a race thing? Yea, he’s trying to make this a race thing. The guy has spent too long in LA.

But isn’t it funny that he can’t decide if these are dupes, or competent middle-class people capable of forming their own opinions?

And City Impact’s impact reaches far beyond lockdown protests and anti-vax rhetoric.

One thing churches like City Impact are very good at doing is turning their flock towards political causes. Their congregations generally have good jobs and good lives. They have the leisure time available to them to fill in forms and sign petitions.

The left really hates the way that churches are a group of organised people that can oppose their agenda. They really hate it.

So in 2014 Peter Mortlock was turning his flock towards blocking “gay marriage”:

They also don’t forgive opposition to their agenda. Even if that opposition is about as expected as the sun coming up in the morning. Literally every faithful church in NZ opposed that law, and a few unfaithful ones too.

“Peter Mortlock, head of Auckland’s City Impact Church, has emailed his flock asking them to rig a New Zealand poll on marriage equality by casting multiple votes.”

Because no one else ever does that. [eye roll emoji]

And earlier this year, Mortlock actively encouraged his congregation to vote against New Zealand changing its law in regards to so-called “gay conversion therapy”.

How many times has Farrier done this now? Outlined a perfectly ordinary and expected thing as if it’s some sort of scandal? The bill will make it illegal for churches to help gay people leave their lifestyle, even if they want to. Of course they’re going to speak out about it!

He personally appeared before the Parliamentary Select Committee, making an oral submission. He began with chastising barbaric practices (while at the same time calling these barbaric doctors “sincere”):

“We know in past history there have been many injustices done to many people. For example, medical experiments. Even though I am sure that many of the Doctors were sincere in their endeavours of practising medicine…”

Again, ordinary but pretend it’s not. Yawn.

From there, he said that was all okay anyway, because it doesn’t happen any more:

“However I will say that these practices are not being practised today anywhere in New Zealand…”

Yea, because it doesn’t. the US practices that the panic was all about never came here. Which is demonstrated in the bill, which doesn’t restrict itself to those abusive practices. Hm.

He closed by hinting he’s (un-barbarically) converted plenty of sexual deviants who are now “happily married”:

“As a pastor I have had countless number of people, from all walks of life come to me for guidance.

“We have seen a number of people and many of whom are in my church today that are living a completely different lifestyle today to that of their past; now happily married, with children.”

Yes. One basis of the bill is that sexuality isn’t changeable. But he testified (one assumes quite truthfully) that that’s false. That’s why we have select committees – to tell the MPs where they missed something due to their narrow perspectives.

I don’t want to get into it here – but I had Christian leaders actively try and tell me to bottle up and change my sexuality and it really messed with me. But Peter Mortlock sees no issue with it, proudly posting his submission on his Facebook – but limiting the feedback pretty darn quickly.

Yea, he helped people. Therapy, properly done, helps people. What, you think just because you don’t like the results it should be made illegal? You think that because you falsely think it can’t work that he should be ashamed of what he did? You think the world should conform to your expectations?

The sad thing is that while churches like City Impact remain free from the burden of paying tax, they’re not going anywhere.

Translation: churches don’t agree with my worldview, so let’s punish them by changing the tax laws. How pluralistic of him. Yea, I’m so old, I remember when the left was all about live and let live. Man, I miss those days.

Sometimes these leaders fall, and the schadenfreude is healing. Hillsong’s Brian Houston is in trouble yet again for covering up his father’s sex offences.

As for Mortlock – I wish the media would drill into him and his white masses like they drill into Tamaki and his congregation. I really do.

So let’s review: Mortlock and his church are bad because:

  • It’s a giant New Zealand megachurch full of evil “white people” (no evidence presented)
  • It dwarfs Tamaki’s in terms of size and influence (except it gets way less media attention because the media don’t like highlighting actual churches racism!)
  • He did a sermon on the covid vaccine, referencing conspiracy theories (yes, this is actually bad)
  • It’s a cookie cutter (read, evil American!!) megachurch
  • It’s like Hillsong, and does weird stuff like “overseas missions” (spooky!)
  • He teaches the prosperity gospel, but probably doesn’t
  • He’s rich (maybe because he owned a house in Auckland since 1982) and paid well (which isn’t normal but isn’t unbiblical)
  • He tells his congregation to tithe (like almost all churches)
  • His congregation aren’t annoyed their leader is “massively” rich
  • They’ve avoided taxes by the dastardly plan of “being a church” (I bet they even pray and stuff!)
  • They got a COVID subsidy payout (like every other employer)
  • Farrier’s brain is too small to grasp simple tax policy (wait, what’s that doing here?)
  • They also avoid taxes by the super-sneaky method of… running their budget the same as every other church!
  • Did I mention that they were a “megachurch”? (spooky noises and hand waves)
  • They have a big budget, which means the church leaders must be doing well financially. Because that’s how salaries work, right?
  • They go on, “unchecked” (horrors!)
  • Because, racism (seriously man, leave LA, it’s screwing your brain)
  • Also, they are conspiracy theorists on COVID (again, this is bad)
  • And they opposed that law we did for the gays
  • And that other law we’re doing for the gays
  • He even claimed that he’s made gay people not gay. (There’s probably a torture chamber in the basement)
  • And it’s all because they don’t pay tax!

I have to admit, I don’t know much about City Impact Church. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the guy on Rhema when we played that station back 10+ years ago. Looking through this and the sites I’ve google do to write this up, I’m concerned that the guy may be too close to Brian Tamaki, that there may not be proper oversight in his church, and that he’s spreading COVID conspiracies when he’s supposed to be preaching the gospel. He may be a bit more political than ideal, and he may be overpaid, and there’s some very unsubstantiated accusations that he’s doing prosperity gospel. This may be a local version of Mars Hill in the making, or maybe it’s just a strong church that’s gotten a bit too political in response to our government’s actions over COVID. And like any church worth it’s salt, it opposes the gay agenda (which clearly doesn’t exist, I denounce myself).

What annoys me, is that eventually churches probably will lose their tax free status because of agitation like this. And then people will wonder where all the money went, because there won’t be any extra tax collected – all that’ll happen is that church treasurers will have a slightly harder life. And churches won’t bow to the liberal/gay agenda and then they’ll look at more repression. (We’re “unchecked” don’t cha know.)

I’d like to end with a quote.

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