Webworm's Megachurch coverage so far
All my writing on Megachurches so far - from Hillsong to City Impact, and everything in-between.
I have a long-standing fascination with Christian megachurches — recently expanding on some of my thoughts during an appearance on The Bible for Normal People.
I never intended to write about megachurches here on Webworm — but it became almost impossible not to, as I started to focus more and more on conspiracy theory culture.
Many of the the scenarios we have seen play out in the likes of QAnon, Covid-denial & the anti-vax movements, have their roots in Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity — which of course bleed into the megachurch phenomenon.
So in my mind, you can’t really write about conspiracies without understanding how certain forms of Christianity work and function.
I wanted to gather all the pieces I’ve written into one place, for easy reference.
This stuff ain’t going away anytime soon, so I like to think it’s important to keep across it.
Full disclosure: You’ll probably notice I write fairly passionately about this stuff. I do so because certain parts of organised religion make my stomach turn. I take a particular interest in Christianity, because that’s what I was raised in. I have some personal understanding of the thought processes, emotions and logic involved in belief.
I’m an agnostic these days, but look on in fascination as people get dragged into some of the big churches — which have very little to do with what Jesus taught, and have more in common with a cult like NXIVM: narcissistic leaders who use the structure of their church/cult to make a lot of money and exert control over their congregation.
I also recognise not all Christianity is like that. Not all churches are like that. Some of the pieces below reflect that, as I get commentary from former and current Christians, who are doing important work in the community.
Very early on in my journalism career, I got a small grant from one such church to help me study journalism. They were an incredibly liberal church that helped me see Christianity in an entirely new light. It’s not all bad.
But a lot of it is.
And a trigger warning: probably all of them, because this stuff gets pretty toxic.
PS: If you want to get in touch with me about your experience, you can reach me at email@example.com
Webworm's Megachurch coverage so far
From Hillsong to City Impact, Evangelical christianity to Pentecostal chaos — and everything in-between. Featuring essays from myself, and a variety of Webworm guest writers.
Life, City Impact, Arise: New Zealand’s Biggest Pentecostal Megachurches:
Hillsong allegedly commits fraud, evades tax, and pays Life Church $10,000 along the way
With governments increasingly breathing down their backs, there's no surprise the megachurches don't want to talk to me.
Thou Shalt Not Blog
Webworm answers a very long list of questions from a megachurch about ethics, standards, accountability, impartiality, bias, prejudice, intolerance and bigotry.
The Holy Hell of New Zealand’s Biggest Pentecostal Megachurches
When it comes to Aotearoa’s biggest churches, Arise wasn’t an aberration: it was the norm.
Full Emails from City Impact’s Peter Mortlock to Webworm
City Impact's Peter Mortlock responds to Webworm's enquiries.
Full Email from Life Church to Webworm
Life Church responds to Webworm’s enquiries.
Bethlehem College Coverage:
I Went To Bethlehem College
The school accused of “discriminatory beliefs” was once very much my home
Bethlehem College Snuck the Marriage Thing In
They've been told to remove it by the Ministry of Education, but they still haven't: violating their very specific Charter Agreement
Bethlehem College’s Internal Document on Gender
Ministry of Education: “This document will be a part of our ongoing discussions with the school to ensure it is meeting its legal obligations”
I’m going back. Of course I am
As if I ever had a choice: As a former prefect of Bethlehem College, this is all pretty strange. Let’s get into it
Bethlehem College Indicates They Won’t Change a Goddamn Thing
A letter just sent to parents shows the school is digging its heels in
Why The Good Guys Can Do No Wrong
As long as criticism is coming from the “enemy”, religious institutions will never understand the harm they're causing
Arise Church Coverage:
An Email Exchange From The Lower Depths of Hell
It was a series of emails with Arise church, of course.
Arise Church has left the person it hired with over $20,000 in legal bills
Charlotte Cummings was tasked by Arise Church to lead an independent review into its sick culture. They repaid her with lawyers & legal fees.
Arise & Me: Not a Love Story
An update on Arise megachurch. Plus: I got all of Arise’s internal emails and texts about me.
Arise Church For Dummies
A very basic summation of the Arise Church idiocy from April 3 through to today.
4.15pm: “The order is rescinded”
There is now absolutely nothing stopping the Arise board from releasing the Pathfinding report. No more excuses. The ball is now in their court.
The Independent Review Arise Church Tried to Block: We’re Publishing It
It was clear the report was not going to be released in the foreseeable future. Considering the 545 people who came forward, and the significant public interest involved - we're publishing it.
The Unstoppable Trauma Machine of Arise Church
Leader John Cameron may be gone (sort of), but the cogs of hurt keep on turning
Arise Church Just Keeps Getting Messier
Arise church is not run by God, or the pastors, or the board — it’s now run by lawyers. Oh, and Graeme Kirkwood is goneburgers
The Pathfinding Report is Blocked… Again
There will be no report anytime soon
John Cameron is Attempting a Resurrection
The results of the independent review into Arise Church have been delayed. There’s a reason for this: I'm guessing its name is John Cameron
John Cameron takes to the pulpit for a non-apology apology
John & Brent Cameron Descend Into Oblivion
The founder of Arise Church & his brother have resigned
The Incredible Multiverse of NZ Journalism
Looking at how the Arise Church story spread across the New Zealand media landscape
Tracking Your Soul To Heaven
Arise Church boasts 10,000 members. Most of them don’t know their personal details are being kept in a database and used to keep them in line
Zero Clarity: Dealing with the Arise Church Board
The Arise Church Board continues to answer my questions... by not answering my questions
Back From the Dead: Arise’s John Cameron Intends to “Return to Lead the Church”
An internal Arise Church communication shows John Cameron intends to pick up where he left off
The Downward Spiral of Arise Church: Part 3
Alleged sexual harassment and NDAs at Arise megachurch
Understanding Megachurch Culture
From the inside out... 18 Years at Arise Church
The Resignation that Wasn’t
Arise’s John Cameron hasn’t resigned — some important updates about what’s happening at Arise Church
The Downward Spiral of Arise Church: Part 2
Assault and Abuse at Arise Church
The Downward Spiral of Arise Church: Part I
How New Zealand’s largest megachurch lost its way
Full e-mail from Arise’s John Cameron
A formatting wonderland, this is what arrived in my inbox on April 10
Arise Church Hires a PR Agency
Damage control at the megachurch kicks in
Arise Church Responds by... Not Responding
Arise Church does the completely expected thing and ignores reality
Hillsong Isn’t the Only Abhorrent Megachurch
Meet Arise church. They’re rich, they’re powerful — and you’ve never heard of them
It’s Judgement Day for Hillsong Megachurch
Their reckoning has well and truly arrived: “I see the insanity of it now. I did not back then.”
Let us Prey: Inside the Secret Hillsong Staff Meeting
Last night, Hillsong church held a private staff meeting. I watched.
RIP Brian Houston
The founder of Hillsong Megachurch goes down in a ball of flames. Let's hope the church goes with him.
The problem of Hillsong & Stephen Harmon
The megachurch’s stance on Stephen Harmon’s Covid death speaks volumes.
City Impact coverage:
Worshipping at the Church of Anti-Vax
It’s been deeply annoying to see certain New Zealand churches hopping on the anti-vax bandwagon. Meet offender #1: Peter Mortlock of City Impact megachurch
Destiny Church isn’t the Problem
Giant white megachurches are getting away with far more than Destiny — but no one cares. Because they’re white. And they’re spreading health disinformation like wildfire.
Fear of a Changing World
I look at the mindset of Peter Mortlock and other white Christian Pentecostal leaders, who are panicking about vaccinations and restrictions. I argue that for the privileged, this pandemic is the first time they’ve experienced world-bending trauma.
The Church of Anti-Vax doth speak unto me
The pastor of City Impact megachurch writes to me about that decidedly anti-vax sermon he gave.
The Tale of Peter Mortlock and Sue Grey
What does the megachurch leader have in common with conspiracy theorist and lawyer Sue Grey?
Why are Anti-Vax Church Leaders All Weeping?
Peter Mortlock’s open letter to Jacinda Ardern and every New Zealand MP.
General writing on Christianity & Conspiracy:
The Dumbest Recommended Reading List You’ll Ever Read
How the extreme margins of the religious right in America is impacting 64 schools in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
A World Ruined by Confident Stupidity
Hayden Donnell writes a really excellent, funny, and insightful argument for agnosticism. This one is for paying Webworm supporters.
Religious Trauma: Some Resources
“Seven things I wish I knew when I was experiencing abuse and spiritual harm”
Squid Game for our Souls
An Atheist and a Christian put forward their cases for belief.
Evangelicalism is not just a religion; it’s a parallel culture
An essay from former Evangelical Christian, Joshua Drummond (scroll half way down the page).
Dr Helen Jacobi on Conspiracy Culture in the Church
Dr Helen Jacobi on conspiracy culture in the church.
The God Factor in the “anti-mandate” protests
Featuring an essay by retired pastor David Collins, Webworm looks at those protesting outside New Zealand’s parliament about vaccines mandates, and ask why so many fundamentalist Christians have been conditioned into supporting the movement.
Vaccinations vs Politics, God & Conspiracy
A look at why certain conservative Christians are saying “no” to being vaccinated.
The evangelical component to QAnon
“Part of the reason people are slipping into QAnon is that there’s a whole generation raised on 80s Satanic panic and 90s Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity. Their minds are already primed for this idea that a giant cosmic battle can be a reality. Their brains accepted it once, they can accept it again.”
I think I’ve grasped QAnon for the first time
I explore my own relationship with Christianity, and how it’s helped me understand QAnon.
A selection of feedback — positive and negative — from fundamentalist Christians about my Webworm coverage.
Meet My Favourite Batshit New Zealander, Brian Tamaki
The leathery Bishop of New Zealand who’s recently become obsessed with Marduk.
An Open Letter to Manukau Christian School
A letter I wrote to a Christian school in New Zealand, about their trolling teacher who went to a Black Lives Matter rally in a Trump hat.
An international assassin slips into New Zealand
QAnon absurdity has arrived in Aotearoa, as Brian Tamaki’s friend Billy TK Jnr spins a story about an international assassin sent to kill him.
The red-pilling of Billy TK Jnr
Let’s watch a conservative Christian and political hopeful go down the rabbit hole in real time, shall we?
Hopefully you enjoy what I write, unlike Bev.
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David vs Goliath
You are doing the world a great service through your mahi David, great to see your name pop up on Stuff this morning. I did feel the article/reporter touched too lightly on the gravity of the situation, no reflection on you e hoa. It finished neatly with the church statement, which made it somewhat seem like it's all under control, nothing to see here, without circling back to a focus on the people who are suffering. Again no reflection on you. Great work David, keep digging, you always get to the bottom of things, made my day to see your name on Stuff this morning, keeping the story in the light of day
You should check out Ministry Watch. They are a Christian organization that exposes churches that are committing fraud or other crimes. Though you might have heard of them. Thank you for these articles. It's insane what happens in the world of the mega churches. And it's a shame they get away with so much.