A BBC documentary that is making a splash after one of the pastors explained during the photoshoot that he has the ‘Hillsong Starter Pack’: Fedora, Leather, Boots, Skinny Jeans, and Hot Wife’ has been repudiated by Brian Houston and Hillsong in a press release, claiming that the film is ‘grossly out of context” and has been “grossly exaggerated” in order to emphasize the scandals.
Houston explained that they were under the impression that when they gave the documentary crew access to film, it would be with the understanding that it would be a favorable and “uplifting” story about the church. He expressed his frustration that “unbeknownst to us, he also interviewed several critics of our church” and that that the whole film, being not 100% positive, was ‘misrepresented from the start.” He vents:
“Much of the footage has been taken grossly out of context and sewn together to create storylines that simply do not reflect reality. Numerous other elements are either grossly exaggerated or intentionally skewed. Most of the footage that demonstrated the positive impacts of our church were relegated to the cutting room floor and erased from the final cut of the documentary. We strongly refute the many aspects of the film that fail to meet a basic level of journalistic integrity and a commitment to the truth.”
In an act of both retconning and revisionism, Hillsong is insufferably offended that anyone would dare suggest that they’ve mismanaged funds, as suggested in the film, by releasing links to their *current* practices and declaring:
Hillsong Church has a record of excellence in fiscal accountability globally and an unwavering commitment to financial integrity, with numerous structures and auditing procedures in place to protect against misuse.
No Hillsong staff member has unrestricted access to church funds. Period.
Credit card statements are reconciled and reviewed on a monthly basis as part of our internal controls.
Personal expenditures are not permitted to be charged to church credit cards. If this occurs, it is addressed with the staff member, and the church is fully reimbursed for such expenditure in a timely manner.
Maybe now then do, but not then, and not when this film was shot. This propaganda from Houston is all after the fact. We’ve already revealed that many Hillsong pastors were living and acting like rockstars with incredibly lavish lifestyles; including racking up spending on PEX cards, which were loaded up after the service from the tithes and given to the staff to out on the town. These were eventually discontinued on account of such widespread misuse.
This monetary scandal led Houston, not even 5 months ago, to write “We know that Hillsong East Coast has failed to be the kind of church it should be. On behalf of the Global Board and as Global Senior Pastor, I accept responsibility for these failings and apologize unreservedly.”
It wasn’t just the east coast branch, but Dallas too was a flurry of scandal and monetary misappropriation- all of which contributed to Houston shutting the church of hundreds down. At the time of his apology, he pledged to implement “improved financial accountability policies” and “improved supervision and accountability of all pastors and staff” noting that “although we had comprehensive policies and procedures in place, they were not always followed.”
Ultimately, the film is alleging the same thing: that the policies weren’t always followed, and yet Houston clapping back and defending their record, seemingly forgetting about the apology and mea culpa he gave mere months ago, is disingenuous and dishonest- not unfamiliar territory for the head honcho and his spiritually abusive denomination.
In 2016, a filmmaker approached the leadership of Hillsong Church U.K. to request access to capture footage for a documentary. The filmmaker communicated that this would be a fair portrayal and uplifting story about the impact of our ministries there. We accepted the filmmaker’s words in good faith and filming started in 2017.
For two years, this filmmaker spoke with people who visited the church and traveled with various team members. Unbeknownst to us, he also interviewed several critics of our church, including many people who have not been a part of Hillsong in more than a decade and have made baseless claims.
While the filmmaker expressed to us that he felt pressured to shift the focus to more controversial storylines and to avoid painting our church in an overly positive light, we now question if this project was ever intended to be fair or balanced. Though our staff in London felt they had established friendship with the filmmaker, it is clear to us that this project was misrepresented to us from the start.
Much of the footage has been taken grossly out of context and sewn together to create storylines that simply do not reflect reality. Numerous other elements are either grossly exaggerated or intentionally skewed. Most of the footage that demonstrated the positive impacts of our church were relegated to the cutting room floor and erased from the final cut of the documentary.
We strongly refute the many aspects of the film that fail to meet a basic level of journalistic integrity and a commitment to the truth. Here are some facts that we hope will be helpful in clarifying these falsehoods and communicating the true heart of our church:
Racial Equality: We are proud of the work that we have done toward racial equity. Our Racial Equity Committee launched in 2020 and has conducted training with every staff member. Read here about our commitment.
Frank Houston and the Royal Commission investigation: Please find factual information on this here.
Hillsong East Coast: The former Lead Pastor of Hillsong East Coast was terminated due to personal misconduct and leadership failures. Read Senior Global Pastor Brian Houston’s letters to Hillsong East Coast here, here and here is our commitment to addressing areas of concern.
Volunteer Policies: Hillsong Church values each and every person who visits one of our church locations. Like every church, volunteers are an integral part of our ministry. We appreciate their dedication and commitment to our church. We will continue to work with our leaders and staff to ensure volunteers are respected and treated well.
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