Details of a letter sent to Hillsong Church by former classmates and friends of abuse victim Anna Crenshaw have been partially revealed; after an Australian news site got their hands on the missive.
By way of brief background, (See more here) several months ago student Anna Crenshaw’s shared her experiences and aftermath of being sexually assaulted by Hillsong worship leader Jason Mays during her 4 years at Hillsong College and Hillsong Church in Australia. She recounts how during a party:
Jason grabbed me, putting his hand between my legs and his head on my stomach and began kissing my stomach. I felt his arms and hands wrapped around my legs making contact with my inner thigh, butt and crotch…
Mays would later plead guilty to “assault with an act of indecency” in 2019. The sentenced carried two years of probation and mandatory counseling by the courts. Hillsong suspended Mays from ministry for one year but eventually welcomed him back, putting him in an administrative role in 2020 and having him sing on stage as a backup vocalist for church events.
His return to his old job, plus a dissatisfaction with the way Hillsong handled the abuse prompted Crenshaw to quit this past September. Following the story, Brian Houston responded on Twitter, calling the story ‘factually wrong’ and publicly revealing that Crenshaw was also sexually abused as a child at her father’s congregation, explaining that this made the abuse at his church all the more “sadder.
After widespread criticism for exposing the past sexual assault history of one of the victims who was also sexually molested at his own Church, Houston deleted the Tweet and issued an apology, explaining that “I foolishly included information that was wrong for me to share.”
The letter, written by members of the student body, was sent to Hillsong Church on April 13, 2021, a week after Crenshaw went public. It details how they were upset and disappointed that Mays was allowed to remain on staff following the incident and “back into a position of power and influence”. They write in part:
“Before Anna’s case became public, many current and past students shared experiences of mental and emotional abuse. We are so proud Anna has come forward…It appears Hillsong College has not provided adequate care to the victim of this crime….The college has not made it clear to their students what care pathways are available to them should such incidents occur. Additionally, it appears that existing pathways are not effectively structured and used.”
They further asked that anyone found guilty of this sort of crime should not remain on staff, continuing:
Such persons cannot serve in any leadership or platform positions within a Hillsong volunteer team in perpetuity. The care and comfort of the victim within the church community should be prioritised over that of the perpetrator…We pray that you can hear the heartbeat of a student body who is afraid that their institution does not care for them first in incidents of sexual assault.”
The church for their part defends its handling of the Mays case. They wrote a letter back to the aggrieved students, defending their actions as having gone above and beyond what had to be done in that situation, but quietly acknowledging, but that “Obviously, we have some areas that need to be addressed and improved.”
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