Abuse, sexual assault, racism and homophobia alleged in damning Arise Church review

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Mental health stigma

People spoke of significant shortcomings in how Arise responded to people in times of mental and emotional distress, and that many leaders seemed ill-equipped to respond helpfully.

This included giving advice on the use of medicines and advising people to “pray harder” for healing.

“People also shared that they felt it was unfair for Arise to simplify their experiences of distress as spiritual issues.”

The members also said they felt deeply betrayed by Arise’s lack of protection of their privacy.

“Major breaches of confidentiality when people encountered personal difficulties led to people feeling judged and isolated.”

Those who submitted spoke of the devastating consequences this had on their physical and mental health and on their sense of belonging within their community of faith.

Intimidation

Former and current members have spoken of their moral outrage that bullying has been accepted within Arise.

Staff and volunteers were also angered and physically manipulated by management, often in front of others.

Individuals were also given derogatory nicknames which were used over a period of months.

Ageism

Church members found it difficult to fit into the church if they were older.

“We heard how saddening it was for these people to see younger generations overstretched as they sat with capacity, struggling to find meaningful places to engage and serve.”

Older members felt disrespected, undervalued and disengaged.

They were sought after for financial donations, but other opportunities were rare.

Internal pressure

The students at the ministry school lived in conditions of poverty and struggled to make ends meet.

“We have also heard of Ministry School students who have not received the support agreed upon by Arise.”

There were countless stories of exhaustion, exhaustion, and mental and physical depression during and after people’s experience in the ministry school.

“We also heard from people who have been pressured to continue working despite illness or serious injuries – broken bones, concussions, etc.”

People felt they had to be available to leaders 24/7 and were overwhelmed with unrealistic expectations.

Relationships outside of Arise were to be “limited to 20%” of a person’s life.

Poor financial management

The members felt disillusioned and deeply disappointed with the way their financial offers had been used by Arise.

They spoke of a deep unease with extravagant spending by senior management.

“We heard of a strong desire for greater financial accountability and full transparency around the use of church finances.”

The members also spoke of being pressured to donate money to Arise, despite the personal struggles.

Recommendations

Among the 72 recommendations for Arise, they must offer a genuine apology for the harm caused and redact the most recent public apology as well as comments that the abuse was confined to the ministry school.

They were asked to report any illegal behavior to the authorities and follow up on the charges, pay for the advice of former members, hire a restorative justice expert and report publicly on what happened.

Arise has been recommended to sign a statement confirming that they have not engaged in conversion therapy practices, create a tangata whenua group to identify, lead and advocate for tangata whenua inclusion and engagement in the future of Arise Church.

Arise has also been recommended to increase gender and racial diversity on the board, establish a standard for pastoral compensation, end the practice of whistleblowing people for health issues mental health, ensuring groceries and personal lunches are not paid for by the church, implementing transparency around donations, and prohibiting tithing for anyone under 18.

Arise was asked to stop the practice of having dress expectations for people on or off stage, to develop a clear sexual harassment policy, and to abolish VIP seating.

A religious expert, emeritus professor of religious history at Massey University, Dr Peter Lineham, said senior management should follow up on the report.

“As far as I know, there is no place for John Cameron, Brent Cameron and the board members after their massive level of failure.”

Arise’s survival would depend on her willingness to change, Lineham said.

“It seems like a pretty big operation with a lot of money, so it seems to me that failing in those areas could cost the survival of the movement.”

A former youth pastor said he was shocked by the extent of abuse within the church, but was relieved the allegations were written down.

“There have been a lot of people who have been abused by Arise and it’s really reassuring to have this come to light.”

The former Arise member said he saw with his own eyes how little Arise cared about vulnerable people after overseeing the child protection policy.

“Unfortunately this has not been taken seriously by the leadership at all, anything that doesn’t move the church forward takes a back seat.”

An apology would not cure the harm caused, he said.

“There are so many layers to the abuse and why it can be justified, so I think the best thing for Arise would be for them to cease to exist.”

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