Celebrity was a long time in coming; it will go away. Everything goes away. Carol Burnett
I bet that title caused you to take a glance at this post. I would venture to guess that you may not have heard of this church, considered the largest megachurch in New Zealand. Before I get into some of the antics surrounding this church which is now in the news, here is some information to get you up to date.
Arise Church is one church in 14 locations throughout New Zealand. It is a relatively young church, having been founded in 2002. It appears to be charismatic in its beliefs.
We believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an essential part of the Christian experience, designed to empower for service and witness.
It was founded by John and Gillian Cameron and other family members. It appears to pattern itself after Hillsong, perhaps too much so. It is youth-oriented, and according to Wikipedia:
According to Paul Morris, Professor of Religious Studies at Victoria University, Arise is part of a “religious revival” in New Zealand’s youth culture. Radio New Zealand‘s youth channel, The Wireless, compared Arise to Australia’s Hillsong Church, and other papers have described Arise as having, “a big youth following.”
Misusing interns in more ways than one
So what happened? According to Christianity Today, which published New Zealand Authorities Investigating Nation’s Largest Megachurch
New Zealand’s largest megachurch is being investigated by the country’s Department of Internal Affairs following a damning report that the church commissioned but then refused to release. According to the 49-page report, there were “egregious and systemic” failures in the leadership of Arise Church. The independent review, conducted by Pathfinding, a Christian critical response management company, called for board resignations and new leadership to address widespread problems, including the ill-treatment of volunteers and interns enrolled in the Arise Ministry School.
According to Christianity Today:
Interns were reportedly asked to work excessively long hours and do cleaning, driving, babysitting, and gardening for pastors. There were also allegations of sexual harassment, bullying, and manipulation. Pathfinding surveyed 545 current and former members of Arise, a 10,000-member, 13-campus Pentecostal church. (ed. Note: Their website says they now have 14 churches.)
Jonty Dine wrote Former Arise members allege naked pastor chased intern for RNZ. He got much of his information from journalist David Farrier who has been reporting in his online newsletter, Webworm, allegations from ex-members about Arise church and its leadership.
Confidential payouts were made to keep them silent about the treatment they received.
Former churchgoers allege Brent Cameron, pastor and brother of the church’s founder John Cameron, was notorious for getting naked in front of interns, labelling them with derogatory nicknames, and boasting to his colleagues about his behaviour.
Matthew, who worked closely with John Cameron, saw events that took place on a tour in 2014 as a particularly unpleasant experience for one young intern.
“[What] took place makes me sick to my stomach to this day. What’s worse is that other pastors knew about it, encouraged it and would frequently ask Brent to retell the stories.”
During a night in Dunedin, he claims that while sharing a room with the young man, Brent Cameron took off all his clothes and began singing ‘I was made for loving you’.
He then chased the intern around the hotel room until the man locked himself in the bathroom to get away.
Matthew claims Brent Cameron did not let the intern forget about the night, often saying to him “we will always have Dunedin”.
According to Tracking New Zealand’s Arise Church and their problematic media statements on Instagram:
Journalist: “This story has been researched and written over the last six months.” (Source)
The above quote was from an article published on April 04 2022, the article that started it all: Hillsong Isn’t the Only Abhorrent Megachurch. The truth is that a journalist took “allegations extremely seriously” and started investigating allegations that were “serious in nature” around November 2021. This date is important for point 3. It was a journalist who initiated this. Not Arise Church. Not the Arise board. Not the Arise leadership.
“In December 2021, the Arise Board approached a New Zealand law firm to conduct an independent HR review. The Terms of Reference and Letter of Engagement was signed on March 16 2022.”
December 2021 was when the Arise board finally started caring about a potential threat to their image of Arise Church. This statement provides major insight as to what Arise Church was doing behind the scenes months – before this media report, published on April 04 2022, made headlines across New Zealand.
Wikipedia accurately portrays the chronological order of what happened.
Things were so bad that Pastors John and Gilliam Cameron and Brent Cameron, the nude intern chaser, had resigned from the church.
In mid April 2022, several ex-members alleged that Arise Church used unpaid volunteer labour excessively, that interns were made to pay in order to take part in internships, and students were encouraged to donate portions of their student loans to the church. In response to these allegations, Pastors John and Brent Cameron temporarily resigned from their pastoral duties and Arise’s governing board pending an internal review.
In mid-May 2022, independent journalist David Farrier and Radio New Zealand reported that former members had alleged that Brent Cameron bullied interns and had stripped naked in front of one. This behaviour had allegedly occurred during Arise church’s annual tour of other New Zealand churches. It was alleged that this member received a confidential payout to ensure their non-disclosure of Cameron’s behavior. Another former staff member claimed that Pastor John Cameron was more concerned with financial donations than the wellbeing of church members. In response to the allegations, an independent investigation was commissioned. By 16 May, at least 190 people had contacted the team conducting an internal review of Arise Church.
In late May 2022, Arise Church’s board confirmed that Pastors John and Gilliam along with Brent had formally resigned from the church’s leadership in the wake of the exploitation and bullying allegations. In addition, Radio New Zealand reported that Arise Church had made confidential payouts to interns who had reported allegations of bullying and inappropriate behaviour by both Brent and John.
Here is where it gets interesting. Pathfinding started its investigation in April 2022 and finished in July 2022.
I’m impressed at how quickly it completed its task. According to Christianity Today”
When he announced in April that he (Cameron) was “stepping aside from his pastoral duties” and Pathfinding was opening the independent review, he promised that things would change.
“We are going to listen and learn,” Cameron said. “We are open for dialogue, and will be making the organizational changes recommended.”
The following month, Cameron resigned as senior pastor. In July, Pathfinding made 92 recommendations. They ranged from the formation of a Māori group to encourage diversity to an independent review of the church’s finances and pastors’ discretionary spending. Pathfinding also called for resignations, saying the church board “has lost its moral mandate to govern.”
Pathfinding said that board members should not include Arise pastors in the future so the governing body can more effectively provide oversight.
Now the gloves come off. I want readers to tell me what happened when this report was given to the church. Pro Hint: Think Foursquare church. The Roys Report posted Review Finds ‘Systemic’ Leadership Failures at New Zealand Megachurch, Recommends Board Resign Immediately.
At the same time Pathfinding was commissioned to begin the review, the church also hired an independent law firm, Duncan Cotterill, to review employment policies.
Arise Church says it plans to pass along the report findings, as well as those from other reviews, to an advisory council made up of church representatives. This council will make final recommendations to the Arise Board by February 2023.
First problem: Nothing is going to be released until February 2023.
The church claims they are being sued over thevrrelase of the report. According to 1 News NZ ARISE church faces legal action, delays releasing review publicly.
The embattled ARISE Church said in a statement on Wednesday it’s facing legal action over an independent review.
It revealed that an “urgent non-publication order” was now in place over the review’s report, delaying its initially planned release.
Could it be that a few people are afraid of this coming out?
Second problem: The authorities temporarily blocked the investigation’s release.
I bet you can guess what happened. The yep-the investigation got leaked. Only Sky posted Leaked investigation into New Zealand’s ARISE Church reveals widespread abuse.
Here is a link to the full report.
According to Hemant Mehta, writing for Only Sky:
The saddest thing about this is how, reading through the report, the allegations aren’t all that shocking in part because other evangelical megachurches have done many of the same damn things. They thrive in secrecy, they take advantage of their followers by using Christ as a carrot, and leaders feel beholden to no one. They know that their faith gives them a shield against criticism and oversight, and church leaders surround themselves with people who only know how to nod at their every suggestion. That’s not unique to ARISE. That’s common within all kinds of insular religious institutions. They suck people into their orbit, make them fear ever leaving the fold, then use that unearned trust to their advantage. Even if it’s not always criminal, it’s highly unethical.
And in this case, it only came to light because a bunch of courageous members and former members of ARISE were willing to share their stories with someone outside the bubble who had no allegiance to the Camerons
Third problem: The leaked report
Since this has just happened, I have yet to hear of any board members who have resigned. They were given a holy duty to protect the church of Jesus Christ. Instead, they invented and perpetuated a free for all with pastors who were not held to account.
Every one of them should resign. In the meantime, I’m sure the Camerons are gearing up for Round 2 of The Cameron Show, with Brent “in the buff” Cameron keeping things lively.
there is nothing new under the sun
I keep thinking it can’t get any worse, and it does. Glad someone(s) had the courage to release the report. I wonder how much they’re paying off the Camerons, and how soon they’ll be back with a new church.
Arise Again seems to be the pattern in the church at large when leaders go off the rails. Apparently once is not enough when sullying up our faith fellowships with indecency and deception.
Dealing with this is about as much “fun” as whack-a-mole.
Anyone claiming to be a church-at-large “leader”, spokesperson, writer, or authority (pastor, professor, theology maker) seems worthless unless they are addressing straight on these cancers that are sickening and literally killing our churches. (The Dones are increasing.)
Who deals with the plagues head on? Kristin DuMez (Jesus and John Wayne) for one. Dee and Todd here at TWW for another. They are no more Mr. Nice Guy with regard to the whack-a-doodle dudebro deceivers.
No shortage of material for posts and writers who document the truth about the snakes in churches. Unfortunately the truth tellers are few while the deceivers are commonplace.
Ever grateful for those on patrol.
yes, exactly . . .
another ‘example’ of supposedly ‘human’ nature gone awry – while clothed in the garments of the Church, or wait a minute, in this case, stark naked
some things are universally seen, especially when people seek ‘celebrity’ and privilege based on their positions/connections to the Church . . . . they are there not to serve but to gain
poor young intern – what a baptism into the world’s ‘celebrity’ religious leaders for whom it seems there are no limits to greed and corruption
the Church endures in spite of these leeches
and then we have ‘the ANNOINTED ONE’ at the top of the pyramid – the one of whom they make golden statues and carrying them through the hallways of political power for the taking of ‘selfies’ – a strange form of homage in a stranger world that no longer makes sense and never shared a connection with Christ –
idolatry and celebrity-worship ?
it would be funny if it weren’t for those scared innocent interns being chased by crazed naked ‘pastors’ around hotel rooms –
and still the sheep send money . . .
its a business, but what’s the point?
Boy, am I embarrassed, I thought the title was an missive!
Well, the neighbors weren’t impressed.
Can anyone spot me some cash for bail?
If Robert Morris “restores” them, they will be back in the pulpit within 6-12 months.
The beat goes on …
Thank you for the laugh.
I keep thinking of the passage in Ezekiel where the glory of God left the temple. I fear this is happening with his church.
“Ichabod” is written over the door. It is all about ‘our’ glory now.
Amen both of you! But as long as we ditch the system Jesus taught in favor of choosing one man to stand in for God for us, this will continue to happen. Power is in the hands of the people. Walk away from the craziness, and take your wallet with you. Shut it down.
Will the bounds of idiocy (Arise Church) keep expanding?
However, Jesus spoke of himself as the temple, and later in the NT, believers themselves are a temple indwelt by the HS.
1 Cor. 6.19:
“You surely know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
So church “believers” may likewise, as in Ezekiel regarding the Temple at large, may be exited by the Holy Spirit.
What to look for that evidences church?
Followers of Jesus… ministering to the least of the least without collecting a shekel from anyone, for starters.
God has changed His line of sight to us since 2018, and not His doctrines (which no-one knew anyway).
Failure to discern the Body = ships steered by skeletons.
Due to lack of providential supplication, the world and the churches are led by the minds of minnows. We need to have the minds of whales, deep calling to deep.
Declaring moral justice “sub judice” smacks of “do as thou would not be done by the police”.
“Priesthood of the believer” and “soul competency” have largely disappeared from teachings in the American church. These are Biblical truths that should be at the forefront in every believer’s walk, but have been forfeited in favor of “choosing one man to stand in for God for us.” And, as we continue to see, “one man” rule keeps wrecking havoc in the church. There IS one man … His name is Jesus! We better get that right!
As long as spiritual idiots rule the roost.
We grieve and quench the Holy Spirit within us when we choose to attend and support churches outside the will of the Father. What is pure and undefiled religion? To care for orphans, to care for widows, to remain unspotted from the world. I’m afraid our spots are showing, folks.
This has already happened in most all of our churches. We have to want Jesus Himself and not some second-hand priest telling us what to think and how to act. We are still frightened to approach God’s presence on the mountain like ancient Israel. To know Jesus himself, one on one, and to actually make that priority number one over all others is to live out a discipleship process. But we do not want it. So we lack the fear of the Lord and also lack thankfulness to God as we neither see God nor Man as He does. I think pride blocks this process from happening. To follow Christ is to have that stripped away.
And I am not just talking here about the Hypocrites in religious power but also about many of the folks who read these posts and comments. You do not have to be a Christian to hate hypocrisy nor to bathe in some of it yourself while thinking that you are superior to the rest of the people.
As a sign of hope, never forget that the dry bones became flesh and walked around. Not only was it a sign that God’s people would be restored to the land in nehemiah, et al, but it looked ahead to the time when the geentiles would be grafted in. Even in the midst of this nonsense, God can rise up those dry bones and build his church.
Well, at least Chandler didn’t get naked and chase interns (I don’t think).
Waiting anxiously for your piece on the recent news about this dudebro, Dee.
“Chandler has said he and Acts 29 have learned over the years to better guard against narcissistic leaders … has been critical of social media’s impact on pastors … ‘This has been and will remain a place where it is okay to not be okay’ ”
And that, Dee, is why I still have hope for the institutional church … that ‘the’ Church will rise up within what we call church and restore what the locust have consumed. When the people of God have had enough doing church without Him, things will get better … we aren’t there yet, but I have a feeling those days will be coming soon.
The leave of absence will be both “disciplinary” and “developmental.” If it’s a paid leave of absense, I wonder what makes it disciplinary.
If Chandler has to go to Robert Morris to be restored, it will be humiliating. But he left with a standing ovation and will return to one in a few months. The beat goes on.
Only after we tear down the altars to other gods which have been raised in His absence.
He should be required to be under the authority of a woman pastor “for a season.”
According to the YRR and the resurgents, and their Roman lookalikes, everyone is supposed to be nasty to everyone. Cue the pop videos with gorgeous women AND gents . . . I know which is “more like it”
(BTW we can leave the forsaken admins and commerce out of it)
When will it ever end!
True. Perhaps this is why there is an unending supply of stories for Dee to post.
The church seems to have lost her first love, gotten side tracked and thus repeatedly gets in trouble. Lots of posts. Lots of trouble. Not good trouble but bad trouble.
Arise is clearly a rotten church. I feel sorry for members, and hope that they recover in every way. They need justice of the earthly kind.
Still. It is not a typical church.
I’m willing to admit that I learned the basics about Christianity in actual churches. I still go to a fairly healthy church.
What would happen if every church closed because of places like Arise? We would have synagogues, mosques, temples, and other worship centers, but no churches. Is that a good vision for our country or world?
When an unsafe bridge collapses, it usually gets repaired or replaced. Meanwhile, people use another bridge to cross the river. They don’t say, “Bridges used to be good, but they can’t be trusted now. Teach yourself how to swim.”
Ken F (aka Tweed),
For these guys, not being FRONT and CENTER is “disciplinary”..
All I mean is, where is there less, and more, straightforwardness? “Closeness” or friendliness? The meaning of chastity in midnight cry time will not be shown forth by browbeating.
God created us “male and female” TOGETHER. Even when we are alone and apart.
NOT zero sum.
No girl or woman could guide me how to relate to her. Nor could bloke / dude
That is because authorities politically procured us in 1969 (incidentally when the Hotel California “hadn’t had that spirit”)
let no fundamentalist nor resurge nt put asunder by their lack of supplication
A few quotes from his book “A Mingling of Souls” (2015).
“ For both men and women, but especially for men, our initial attraction may have little to do with the person’s character or competency but rather emerges simply from liking the way he or she looks. This is only logical, because physical appearance is the first thing we notice, and it takes a while longer to get to know someone’s character. For the moment, we look across a room and see someone who is physically appealing. It ought to go without saying, but it doesn’t, so I’ll say it: There is nothing wrong with this process of being physically attracted to someone. It’s completely natural.”
“ God’s design for romance is more than physical attraction, but it’s not less than that. Nor is it even something we are advised to outgrow.”
“ In the Bible we see a reflection of a pervasive cultural recognition: it is very often the more physically attractive who prove to be more spiritually deceptive. We can be easily baited by our attractions down the wrong paths.”
“ We’ve all been attracted to someone before. We know what it is like to have that initial captivation, to find somebody pleasing to see and to be around. When we want to become intentional about pursuing this attraction further, we begin to find ways to hang out with each other. We watch how the other person lives his or her life. Most of us, if we are thinking wisely, will not be too quick to throw our hearts out there.”
Lots of good advice there.
For more advice you can go here
I recommend reading George Burrowes “Commentary on the Song of Solomon” (1853) orJames Durham’s “Clavis Cantici” (1668) for a better understanding of Scripture.
Certainly we all need critical thinking skills to move past infatuation. Parenthetically, a lot of the deceivers we read about on TWW are not classically attractive.
In isolation, this quote blames the beautiful man or woman for being spiritually deceptive: “Pretty people are untrustworthy.” But people don’t choose the looks they were born with, and they also don’t control standards of beauty where they live.
Attractive people often find themselves pursued by people who try to get them drunk and seduce them. When that attractive person says no, the retort often is, “You were leading me on.” Who was deceiving whom?
I should make clear that I am not endorsing the book in any way. His exposition is on a par with Mr Driscoll’s treatment of Esther, in my view.
“… you do not love as you did at first. Remember then how far you have fallen. Repent and live as you lived at first. Otherwise, if your heart remains unchanged, I shall come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:1-7)
We see counterfeit “lampstands” being exposed … wicked lampstands being removed. In many places, another gospel is being preached that is not ‘the’ Gospel. Love for Christ and for each other is missing in much of the institutional church. The power of pulpit personality has replaced the power and presence of Jesus. He has no authority and influence in the Christian Industrial Complex.
Side note: Christianity is the only religion that needs no special building, no special rites, no special clothing, and no shamans to be practiced fully.
Jerusaleum fell and temple Judaism with it. The walls may be falling now on the institutional church if our Lord so desires, and we may finally do church His way.
The Church of the Living God has never closed and never will. While finding the genuine among the counterfeit can be tough, it’s still there. The sad thing about places like Arise is that it gives mockers yet another reason to say “See, there’s nothing to it.” But across the American landscape, there is indeed a true Church with faithful believers worshiping a real God … that will never change. The Church within the church will never let it die.
Indeed. Narcissists have an excessive need for admiration. They are self-centered, arrogant, manipulative, intimidating, dominating. They thrive on accolades, they need applause, they require power. Being away from the pulpit will be agonizing for Chandler for all the wrong reasons.
Somehow, I don’t think that should include a pastor using social media to directly message a woman he was attracted to for whatever reason. Chandler and his elder board realized that and dealt with it … but only after they were confronted with his inappropriate behavior. If “see something, say something” had not been activated, it would have been business as usual at TVC.
Well, he did replace Driscoll when the potty-mouth from Seattle fell from grace. The Acts 29 bunch have had their share of bad-boys.
meant to say that he replaced Driscoll as head of Acts 29
Thanks for the follow-up comment. I was trying to extend the discussion without making assumptions. Now I’m not completely sure which book you are talking about, but that’s okay. We all just want to live in a world without deception.
Amen! The great deceiver is having a heyday in the American church. But as I’ve said before, the problem with deception is that you don’t know you are deceived because you are deceived. Lies are accepted as truth. Good is spoken of as evil. Darkness has been turned to light, light to darkness. We’re living in a world (and church) which has been turned upside down.
“Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13)
Sounds like a Night of a Single Long Knife coup.
Remember that historically, there have been TWO archetypes of Antichrist: The Fanatic Persecutor and The Slick Deceiver, who work very well together as “Good Cop/Bad Cop” tag team. (“Hot and Cold team” for those of you in the UK.)
And for decades, all the Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist types have been running to and fro over the earth concentrating on The Fanatic Persecutor. Until The Slick Deceiver was completely forgotten.
“Stupidity is like Hydrogen – it’s the basic building block of the Universe.”
— Frank Zappa
And the money resumes coming in in buckets.
Big, big news for this blog about a favorite subject: https://julieroys.com/matt-chandler-steps-down-after-admitting-inappropriate-online-relationship/
I know from personal experience that this is true. God made my once dry, hopeless and miserable bones live. The means was primarily one-on-one with Him. God used some people along the way to help me inside an institution. That church was as messed up as any and so were the people. God uses them and us as well in spite of ourselves, not because of how great we all are. In my opinion nothing good comes out of the institutions by themselves. It is a mistake to give the credit to institutions or people instead of a God big enough to use flawed people like you and I.
“Matt did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him”
So what else is news? This is modus operandi within Acts 29 churches! The dudebros are known for potty-mouth preaching and poor treatment of women.
Chandler’s quote has the appearance of wisdom, but lacks it. Judging someone by their looks is foolish. Whether you judge someone to be deceitful because they are beautiful or trustworthy because they are not, or vice versus, you are still ultimately judging character based on something that has nothing to do with character.
I’m going to risk stepping in the mud here, because, as I learned a long time ago, I’m supposed to be un-aware that I am attractive (even though it’s not hard to figure out) because being oblivious to the obvious is somehow “humility,” but I am also supposed to be aware of it so I don’t accidentally lead anybody on… it’s quite the fence to walk and I have never figured out how. But here we go: As a young girl who grew up a) being told she was beautiful by complete strangers and b)hearing nonsense from the church implying or blatantly stating that beautiful people had bad character – I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to cut off my own nose to spite my face (clothing and make-up choices) and also feeling like I had to make up for something the Bible never calls sin. As a teen and young woman, I felt like I had sinned against any man who showed interest in me, if I didn’t reciprocate their feelings, even when I could not under any circumstances be accused of leading them on. That was ultimately an enormous and dangerous burden to carry just for existing. Dangerous because you can be guilted into tolerating behavior from men that is predatory just because you feel like its your fault they are predatory. (This plus courtship can lead to marriages that the woman never wanted in the first place).
When individuals like Matt Chandler say things like “…it is very often the more physically attractive who prove to be more spiritually deceptive” he is objectifying people who are physically attractive. I suspect he is also trying to talk himself out of being attracted to beauty by convincing himself he doesn’t really want it because it’s bad. His point of view is not scriptural. Proverbs 31:30 says charm is deceitful, not beauty! Beauty is simply temporary (which is true, outside of modern interventions). But he cannot actually preach that because he relies on charm and charisma to keep his job. So instead he twists the verses to make beauty the warning sign rather than charm.
Very well put ES. This (placed by the predominant bad religion) is also a heavy burden for young men as we can’t for the life of us guess our way through this nexus of conundrums.
No wonder the world decided we should bypass marriage. The world has only taken it a step further in its hope to take it a step back.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry you had to endure the bad teachings and the unwelcome attention—all too predictable, acted out by predators and their righteous enablers. Kudos to you for finding your way out, and developing a deep understanding that they will never know.
I have long wondered if this dynamic prevented some really good men from getting married to women who would have welcomed their respectful attention – but the men had been taught that beauty was bad, and therefore we have a mess. I am confident I missed out on some options in college because I was too busy trying to dodge the problem guys and hadn’t been given any tools to identify and show interest in the men who were good. The only reason I managed to get married was because I found my way out of the mess first, and kind of made the first move on my now husband. He then felt liberated to pursue me, because it was obvious that I didn’t think of him as an unwelcome creep.