Is Hillsong Church just a hotbed of abuse? Peer inside the allegations
From infidelity to accusations of homophobia, racism, psychological abuse, and more, Hillsong Church and the names associated with the organization have made headline after headline this past year for all the wrong reasons. Is it time for the organization to rebuild themselves from scratch all the way from the bottom up, or is it too late for them to save themselves at this point from all the harm they’ve caused?
Considering all the hurt they’ve inflicted, we can’t see them ever getting out of this mess. However, let’s take a look at all the allegations Hillsong Church has piled up against them so far, and see if you believe this religious organization ever has the chance for redemption.
Let’s begin with the issue of Carl Lentz, the former Hillsong Church celebrity pastor whose reputation & career was tarnished after being exposed for infidelity through cheating on his wife numerous times. An audio recording from Carl Lentz’s firing even leaked where a Hillsong co-founder said “these issues were more than one affair, they were significant. And at least some bad moral behavior had gone back historically”.
Ranin Karim, a jewelry designer, came forward to numerous publications to talk about many drunken nights shared between the two and even creepy nicknames Lentz gave her such as “Middle Eastern unicorn woman”. The head pastor of Hillsong Church, Brian Houston, fired him for “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures” in an open letter.
You don’t even need to step foot in a church to know that adultery is one of the biggest no-no’s in Christianity, so it’s a bit ironic that a pastor who stands on a podium weekly telling others how to live “righteously” can’t even do it himself. However, while this may sound bad, this was just the initial spark of the later wildfire of allegations & issues Hillsong Church would eventually be exposed for in the coming months.
Soon after this scandal, an exposé from the New York Post was released where former members of Hillsong Church accused the organization of being a “cult” and making them perform unpaid “slave labor”. Stories ranged from the church making individuals sign a non-disclosure agreement upon working there to manipulating workers to drop any interests that pertain outside of volunteer work for the church.
Yolandi Bosch said that: “They convinced me to drop anything I was interested in becoming. You had to ask a pastor’s permission to date. They had to choose the person you dated as well. If they don’t think your relationship is what they like, they’ll tell you it’s not permissible”. Bosch also added she had to work unpaid manual labor, and that other students from the program even became suicidal because of them.
“They were obsessed with trying to change me – they tried to break me down”. Bosch believed it was all a test to see “who can be onstage and who they can misuse for volunteering. It felt like a reality show – it’s really a cult.” Another source said: “It was the most toxic work environment I’ve ever been a part of. You get up there on a Sunday and talk about tithing and giving and you literally don’t do that to your workers.”
Other forms of abuse
Hillsong Church has also been accused of psychological, verbal, mental, and sexual abuse. In February 2018, Hillsong interns wrote to the church leadership about multiple abuse allegations, and wrote: “What do you do when you discover the shepherds are part of the problem?” There have also been accusations of homophobia & racism.
Ashley Jones, an African American former volunteer, was reportedly excluded from a Black History Month celebration, and discovered that the church had scheduled a “blue-eyed, blond-haired woman who has a reputation for singing ‘black’ to perform ‘Amazing Grace’ backed up by black singers in the shadows”. When asked about this, leadership responded with a popular Hillsong saying: they “qualified the called”.
As for the accusations of homophobia, Elliot Page already called out the organization for their anti-LGBTQ stance on live TV. However, it seems that Hillsong Church still has a large celebrity following which includes Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, Chris Pratt, and more. Will these celebrities and other followers of Hillsong Church continue to turn a blind eye to all this controversy, or do they just simply not care?