Brian Tamaki, bishop

Jonathan M.
Brian Tamaki

The Greens think he’s bigoted and intolerant. Gays think he’s homophobic. And, in May, Reader’s Digest declared him New Zealand’s least trusted person after polling 5,000 Kiwis. Not even Nicky Watson or Winston Peters could take that accolade away from him. As if all that’s not bad enough, there are those who think Bishop Brian Tamaki looks like “a cross between Mikey Havoc and John Rowles”.

Look at it any way you will, Bishop Tamaki is a controversial man. He’s also a well-dressed Christian leader. Prism’s Jonathan M. invites him to ruminate on the interaction between Christian faith and fashion.

What attracts people to the Gospel and the Christian lifestyle?

The spirit of Christ and Biblical values lived through credible Christians in everyday life (and all kinds of circumstances) is one of the attractive things to non-believers (Matthew 5:16).

Why do you think Jesus’ lack of physical appeal is emphasised in Isaiah 53:2 (“no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him”)?

There was nothing extraordinary about His physical appearance that did the “attracting”, but that is not to say he wasn’t good-looking either. The real attractant was inside the man, His word and His spirit – His Father who dwelt within Him (John 4:13–14).

Did Jesus try to project a particular image?

Yes, he did portray a certain image – the image of His Father. In John 14:9, Jesus said to Philip, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

What effect does a church leader’s fashion sense have on their ministry?

I minister the same in a Tshirt and jeans as in a three-piece suit – clothes don’t affect my ministry, but they do complement the occasion and location when I am ministering.

You’re known throughout New Zealand as a very image-conscious Christian leader. Is that perception justified?

You mean “dressed well” or having “good appearance”. I personally like to dress well for formal occasions, as it is reflective of my attitude to serving the King of kings and representing the kingdom of God. I also like casual clothes. It is an attitude thing – it’s an excellence thing. (Genesis 39:6 and 1 Samuel 16:12)

Black appears to be Destiny Church’s colour of choice. Is that a fair comment?

This is an unfair comment. The colour black has not been designated as Destiny Church’s colour (although it is New Zealand’s colour of choice worn by our national teams in most sporting codes). There was one occasion at Parliament in 2004 where we utilised black Tshirts with white branding because it is visually effective – that’s all there is to it.

Who inspires your style?

To be honest, nobody in particular. My wife, Hannah, has an eye for good fashion and colour, and she is a big influence on my style of dress; otherwise it’s just my personal choice. I like stylish clothes, particularly suits and dress shoes. I also dress very casually in my private life – my style is just who I am at the end of the day!