The letter sent to Elim's Board follows:
Truth Watch New Zealand was appalled to see media accounts of the blatant advantage taken of a man, Whetu Abrahams, by Napier Elim. Taking large amounts from a man, who clearly needed the money far more than any church, was appallingly bad judgment and defies the love thy neighbor command which should be the centre piece of the Church’s witness to the unsaved world.
The damage done to the cause of Christ and his Gospel will have been widespread, especially as there is a common belief among the unsaved that churches are "˜just after your money’.
Napier Elim took advantage of a man who is clearly unaware of the import of his actions. The witness to the world is awful, and the pastor’s inability to see the error of his ways is equally disturbing. Your 'in hindsight' argument, reported in the latest Challenge Weekly, to partially justify the pastor's actions, suggests you are not facing up to the problem as squarely as you should. In effect this sort of news story drives people away from a knowledge of the truth, the very thing Christians should avoid at all costs.
As you may have gathered we in Truth Watch do not accept contemporary teaching on the tithe as a New Testament imperative. There is no apostolic teaching to the first century Church about giving 10% of ones income to a local church. We do however acknowledge that giving to the poor, especially among the brethren, is good and proper. Supporting a ministry is also appropriate, but in acknowledging this we do not accept that having a paid "˜priesthood’ and large amounts of money spent on buildings is, in any sense, biblical. We should, however, be cheerful givers when the occasion, or God’s call on us, demands it.
It is not the first time Elim has been caught taking from those who can ill afford it. We well recall the wholesale stripping of people's assets by Wellington Elim at their Breakthrough Conferences about 10 years ago. Monies taken were then disbursed to a private television station to which the Elim pastor and church members had some connection. Despite the money given by Elim to prop up a shaky enterprise the TV station still became insolvent and closed shortly thereafter. The whole sorry affair was front page news.
We protested, but our pleas to do what was just and right fell on deaf ears. We note that the pastor behind this debacle is on your national leadership team. That scandal and this latest fiasco highlight some entrenched attitudes regarding church funding and tithing which are profoundly unbiblical. This latest public manifestation of church sponsored avarice at the expense of mercy and love only goes to show that the axe needs to be taken to the root of this sort of activity. It is clear that deep within the Elim movement there is a sharp divide between biblical principles and actual practice.
Truth Watch New Zealand would be greatly encouraged to hear how the Board of Elim New Zealand plan to ensure the sort of travesties to which we have referred do not happen again.
For Truth Watch NZ
Authorised by TWNZ standing committee