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Hillsong Controversy: The Latest Controversies Surrounding the Collapse of Global Megachurch Hillsong

It used to be that Hillsong Church was the poster child for Charismatic Christianity, or that it was a hipster megachurch. It seemed like Hillsong’s mission was to make evangelical Christianity hip. Not only did Justin Bieber attend, but so did a praise band that won a Grammy!

Within a few of weeks, however, its founder and worldwide head resigned in the wake of sexual misconduct accusations and a new Discovery+ documentary series, and more than half of its campuses in the United States severed ties with the organization. Religion News Service managing editor Roxanne Stone is available to elaborate. Welcome.

hillsong controversy

CHANG: Okay, I appreciate your time. To get things rolling, what precisely led to Hillsong’s massive demise?

STONE: So, I guess it would depend on who you interviewed and how far back you looked. Some would even argue that this, and especially the concept of covering things up, has always been there.

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The founder of the church in Australia, Brian Houston, is currently facing accusations that he covered up his father’s sexual abuse of a youngster. And his dad actually helped him get the ball rolling on that church. This may be the starting point for some.

In all likelihood, the latest scandals and the general implosion in the United States began a little over 18 months ago, when the superstar pastor of Hillsong New York City, Carl Lentz, was sacked for having an extramarital affair. This may be the first domino to fall in the United States.

hillsong controversy

Yes. CHANG Like we mentioned before, many Hillsong congregations in the United States eventually disaffiliated. How has top brass there responded to so many outposts breaking away?

A lot of it has occurred so rapidly, especially in the last two weeks, that I believe they’re still in shock, Stone says. And I – definitely, over the last two years, there was a lot of trying to distance themselves from Carl Lentz, saying, in a lot of ways, this was a Carl Lentz problem, and because Carl Lentz is no longer there, the problem has also disappeared.

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However, further controversies ensued, and the board continued to act rather impulsively in response to each one. However, it started to seem like, wow, this is a lot of explanation for occurrence after the incident. On what more fundamental level is this situation operating?

Yes. CHANG Hillsong, as we mentioned before, has a reputation for being a hip church. Simply said, I’m curious as to how huge it actually was. Can we estimate how far it will go?

STONE: Well, they were planning on having thirty campuses worldwide and more than one hundred and fifty thousand individuals attending before the epidemic.

hillsong controversy

That, once more, was the church’s official position. Because the church is so informal, it’s difficult to pin down an accurate membership count.

In certain countries, like Ukraine, it is more difficult to accurately gauge church attendance. In addition, there were also, you know, internet deals and such.

A large church with influential allies in the United States and beyond. Similarly, the New York campus was notorious for having queues that wrapped around the whole neighborhood. They planned on getting together in a concert hall and then…

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STONE:…Don’t open the doors until it’s time. That’s why you were feeling all hyped up.

CHANG: Do you believe the Christian community as a whole will be affected by Hillsong’s fall from grace?

STONE: Without a doubt (laughter). It’s partly because we’ve had similar discussions about other famous preachers who essentially embodied their congregation. But in many respects, Hillsong seemed to put form above function.

And I believe we’re going to have a lot of dialogues inside Christianity about, like, what is a local church, since Hillsong became a model for a lot of churches, and a lot of churches were striving to replicate what they were doing to grow the way that they were expanding.

CHANG: Roxanne Stone is the head editor of the Religion News Service. Much appreciation goes out to you for being here today.

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