Wednesday, March 29

Hillsong Church pioneer blasts leaders now entangled in sex scandals, splintering ministry in US

A pioneering leader of Hillsong Church, the Australian Pentecostal powerhouse with 130 congregations in 30 nations, has come out and blasted the group for “canceling” him and focusing more on money and power than faith.

The church is now struggling to shake a child sex abuse scandal and a string of resignations by church leaders and breakaway congregations in the US

Geoff Bullock, a musician who co-founded Hillsong Church alongside Brian Houston, the Hillsong “global pastor” who resigned in February, said the church had lost its way.

“I look at Hillsong now, I see that every service has to be better than the last service,” he said “Every conference has to be better than the next conference. Every sermon has to be more powerful, every altar call.”

Mr. Bullock said Mr. Houston, who is facing criminal charges in Australia for concealing knowledge of his late father Frank Houston’s alleged child sexual abuse, knew of the allegations long ago.

Frank [Houston] …performed rituals with him to try and cure him of his homosexual leanings. This was deviant behavior,” Mr. Bullock told NewsNation. “This story came out after 1999, when Brian said he first found out about his father’s behavior but unfortunately the story was known in the early nineties by a few senior members of what was then the Assemblies of God. And I know that because I knew about it.”

Mr. Bullock said, “Brian called me into his office and told me of accusations made against his father of deviant sexual behavior, disguised as gay conversion therapy with the young man.”

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Neither Brian Houston nor Hillsong Church responded to requests for comment.

The 40-year-old Hillsong Church, formerly affiliated with the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God, has had a tremendous influence on Christian music and worship in recent years. Hillsong’s music, such as “The Power of Your Love,” which Mr. Bullock wrote, is sung in many churches across denominational lines.

Mr. Bullock, who now declares that he is no longer a Christian, recalled how he marveled at the church’s early exponential growth.

“Everything… was just exploding,” he said. “I used to say to Brian, I think we’ve got the ‘Midas touch’ because everything we do is turning to gold,” he said.

But when Mr. Bullock left Hillsong in 1995, he said the church tried to “cancel” him.

He accused Mr. Houston of writing letters to “all these Assemblies of God, churches in Australia, telling them not to sing any of my new songs. I lost all my friends. I lost all my contacts in the Hillsong community of churches. They declared war on me.”

Decades after Mr. Bullock left Hillsong, a spate of problems have challenged the organization.

In 2020, Hillsong fired Carl Lentz as pastor of its New York City branch after revelations Mr. Lentz had several extramarital affairs. Terry Crist, who pastored Hillsong’s Phoenix, Arizona, branch, announced on March 24 that the congregation would leave the parent organization because he refused to sign nondisclosure and noncompete agreements with Hillsong.

On Monday, Josh and Leona Kimes, who’d worked with Mr. Lentz in New York, said they were resigning from the Hillsong Boston congregation in Massachusetts. In a blog post, Mrs. Kimes alleged that Mr. Lentz had sexually abused her.

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Mr. Bullock said Hillsong is at a crossroads.

“What they face now is whether they continue to protect the institution and try to spin their way out of it, or they’re brutally honest with themselves and really come clean,” he said.

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