NZ lawyer warning on John Avanzini Ministries

February 21, 2000
By Teresa Watanabe

Wellington -- A Texan-based group was using the religious beliefs of some Australians and New Zealanders to unfairly extract money from them, a New Zealand lawyer said today.

John Avanzini Ministries, which has branches in Lower Hutt, New Zealand and Brighton in South Australia, promised donors an abundant financial return from God if their offering was divinely guided, said lawyer Peter McLeod. Avanzini could not be contacted for comment through either his Lower Hutt or Australian message services.

McLeod, a parishioner at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Lower Hutt, said the scheme 'preyed' on people's spirituality. It could persuade the devout to draw out their savings in the belief that such action was blessed by God, he said.

He had recently received a manuscript from John Avanzini Ministries called The Offering God Must Multiply.

In a covering letter, Avanzini said the manuscript, when published, would be 'one of the most powerful books God has ever given me'. "When it was delivered I noticed the courier had a pile of similar envelopes for others," McLeod said

He had never heard of Avanzini before. He said the manuscript used carefully selected quotations to distort Bible teachings by highlighting money. In the 19-page manuscript, Avanzini told potential donors ' ... God has a portion of this world's wealth set aside for you'.

To receive it, people had to make their offering to Avanzini's Christian ministry both cheerfully and willingly.

"However, if you allow the pressure from your insufficiency to influence the amount of your offering, God will not accept it ... you must never allow your concern over the temporary shortage or insufficiency you are facing to decrease the amount of your offering."

The manuscript also said the amount of money given was the visible evidence of the intensity of a donor's faith in God. The Office of Fair Trading in Victoria was warning people about the scheme just over a year ago.

At that time, the group was promising to set people 'financially free' if they sent in a donation with copies of their bills and mortgages which would be burnt in a special ceremony .

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