As a fellow Christian minister, with the same first name as Bishop Brian Tamaki, I am horrified at his announcement to keep Destiny Churches open on Sundays, in contra-response to government banning of indoor gatherings over 100 people.
I disagree with Bishop Tamaki’s bullish defiance and would hate for his position to be misconstrued as mainstream Christian thinking.
I too believe in the unlimited love and power of God to protect and heal. However, any suggestion that committed Christians are somehow more protected or immune from a disease like COVID 19 is unfounded in Scripture, short of taking passages from the Bible significantly out of context.
I find the published statements of Bishop Tamaki, defying the call for cessation of gatherings over 100 people, morally indefensible and outrageously arrogant. The pastoral risks in doing so—both for those within the Destiny Church and the wider community—are an abrogation of wisdom, common sense and ethical leadership.
To be sure, the ban on gatherings over 100 is a huge inconvenience to many large churches. But our responsibility to care for people, and their welfare, is a fundamental Christian mandate. In the church I pastor, we are looking for creative ways to safely and wisely maintain a sense of community. We will do this in small home-based gatherings, with the use of internet-based webcasting, YouTube and telephone.
Like Bishop Tamaki, we also do not “fear” this pernicious virus. But we also deeply respect the wise advice to practice social distancing and hygienic contact. We also plan to seize the opportunity this world-wide disruption offers to love and care for those who are sick, vulnerable and anxious. These are not new ideas for Christians who remember their history. In the second and third centuries, fledgling Christian communities cared for the sick during massive epidemics when well-meaning families simply abandoned them.
The advent of COVID 19, annoying and disturbing as it may be, could yet turn out to be the Christian church’s finest hour. Armed with the love and power of God, we will face the sick and vulnerable and show them help. But we will not be fool-hardy and defiant of what our government asks us to do.
I for one deplore the brash defiance of Bishop Tamaki’s statements on keeping Destiny Churches open. But do be clear, the vast majority of evangelical churches—who read the same Bible as Bishop Tamaki—do not share his view.
Rev. Dr Brian Winslade
Hamilton Central Baptist Church
33 Charlemont Street, Whitiora • Hamilton 3200, New Zealand
Private Bag 3120 • Waikato Mail Centre 3420
M. +64 21 419-521 P. +64 (7) 838-0375 (ext 208)