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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.
We’ve been waiting for months for the independent review commissioned by Arise Church.
The review that was ordered by disgraced former leader John Cameron, before he resigned on May 26.
It is clear that the report is not going to be released in the foreseeable future — Webworm understands a number of people have gone to the Employments Relations Authority to block the report, and John Cameron has been actively petitioning to get his old job back.
Webworm also notes the Pathfinding report recommends the entire existing Arise board resigns.
With this in mind, and considering the considerable public interest in the report, Webworm has decided to publish the report in its entirety.
We were leaked a copy of the report earlier this week from multiple sources, and have had time to take legal advice.
We have also taken into account the 545 people who came forward and spoke to Pathfinding, with the express knowledge that the information they provided would be made public.
All they got in return was what they’d already become familiar with: They were silenced, ignored and discarded in service of saving John Cameron’s job and reputation.
They were treated like they didn’t matter.
We believe they do matter.
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A Church Rotten to Its Core.
But the investigation he started — into his own church — continued.
Hundreds of victims came forward to detail allegations of sexual and physical abuse, exploitation, racism, and financial mismanagement at Arise. When it became clear that publishing their stories would be a damning indictment on the church and particularly its most senior leaders, founder John Cameron then tried to block publication with threats of legal action.
John Cameron was right to be worried.
The report by Pathfinding, led by the Christchurch counsellor Charlotte Cummings, paints a picture of a church rotten to its core.
It calls for the church’s entire board to resign and appoint a commissioner in their stead, saying it has “lost its moral mandate to govern Arise”.
“There have been significant and systemic failures in governance stretching back over many years including a lack of oversight and proper independence, little transparency in decision making, no recognised feedback channels for people to raise concerns, insufficient financial accountability, and an absence of policies in key areas.”
Those failures left lasting scars on many of the 545 people who completed submissions to Pathfinding.
Its report repeats many of the same allegations already raised by Webworm, but shows problems at the church run even deeper than what’s already been covered.
For example, Webworm has reported John Cameron’s brother and fellow pastor Brent Cameron chased a staff member through a Dunedin hotel in 2016. When the staffer barricaded himself in a room, Cameron stood outside saying he was naked, singing ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, and telling the staffer to open up and be his “little spoon”.
The Pathfinding report calls out “ongoing targeted sexual harassment” by one leader, understood to be Brent, and adds that another leader, who served as a board member at Arise, was allegedly involved in “unwanted nudity” which would amount to indecent exposure if proven.
It criticises Arise’s inadequate systems for dealing with instances of alleged sexual grooming, abuse, harassment, assault, or rape.
The report says victims who were abused either outside Arise, or at the hands of people within the church, felt they were disbelieved or blamed when they reported what happened to leaders.
The church failed to report, or keep proper records, of many of those assaults, and in some cases victims were actively discouraged from going to the authorities.
“We have heard clearly from the people who had allegedly experienced these harms that they wish no person in the future of any Arise Church community ever faces the unnecessary additional hurts they feel they experienced from their church at a time of such vulnerability and need.”
Racism among the church’s senior leadership is another running theme in the report, which refers to alleged racist comments from people in positions of power, along with “racist remarks” made privately by guest speakers and a former board member.
Some church members reported being told to “focus on white kids” in their outreach.
The report reinforces allegations that senior leaders including John Cameron were physically and verbally abusive to staff and volunteers at Arise.
Webworm understands that several submitters said they had been yelled at, pushed, or grabbed by the church’s founder.
Meanwhile, interns endured workplace bullying and unsafe working conditions. Some said they were made to drive in unsafe conditions and work long hours to the point of burnout.
While interns didn’t get paid, those further up the food chain appear to have been well-rewarded, with the report homing in on “great discomfort” from the congregation over “extravagant spending by senior leadership”, which allegedly included using church cash to cover “lunch expenses, family groceries, clothing, and home landscaping”.
After detailing this extravagance, the report recommends that children should no longer be allowed to tithe 10% of their income.
Although some have criticised the review process as a smear campaign driven by people who hate the church, organised religion, or God — most of the complainants are current members.
Of the 545 people who completed the submission process, 325 are still at Arise, and around 70 are current staff.
In other words — this isn’t an alarm being raised by disgruntled outsiders. It’s being raised by dozens of people who have been genuinely hurt by an institution they once loved, and in some cases still do.
The call is coming from inside the house.
That call has been silenced — for months. Until now.
Additional reporting by Hayden Donnell.
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