Hillsong Church has pulled out from under its denomination in order to create its own denomination. In a letter to Australian Christian Churches (ACC), pastor Brian Houston cites the increasingly global “footprint” of Hillsong as the reason the multi-national church is leaving.
“As Hillsong Church has continued to grow, we no longer see ourselves as an Australian Church with a global footprint, but rather a Global church with an Australian base,” Houston writes in the letter.
Since its inception in 1983, Hillsong has been under the covering of ACC, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God denomination. Houston himself has held his credentials as a pastor through ACC for almost 40 years now.
The decision to leave comes after two years of “prayerful discussion” on Hillsong’s Australian and global boards.
The Reasons Hillsong Church Is Leaving the ACC
In the letter to ACC, Houston articulates the church’s reasons for leaving.
First of all, he highlights the global reach of Hillsong, citing the following facts:
Two-thirds of the people attending Hillsong live in countries beyond Australia;
The church has staff in 24 nations;
123 campuses and locations;
263 different church services on any given weekend.
Houston describes Hillsong as “One House, with many rooms.”
With such a global reach, that is continuing to grow, Houston writes:
It has become clear to us that we need to be able to credential our own pastors and restructure our church in a way that enables us to give due diligence to governance, risk, church health, safe church and many other policies that are crucial to the future progress of Hillsong, globally.
Houston writes the church has taken the necessary steps to register Hillsong with the Australian Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages so they can now credential pastors “in our own right.”
Houston explained his reasoning for wanting Hillsong to be able to credential pastors through a hypothetical situation.
This recognition alleviates the issues that would occur if, for example, a concern arises that affects the credential of a Hillsong Church youth pastor in one of our campuses in Europe. The Australian ACC cannot be expected to have adequate information to address this issue or even know who the person is, let alone the resources to appropriately deal with the issue on a personal or pastoral level.
Looking to the future, Houston wishes for Hillsong to remain a part of the ACC, but with a different role. He indicated the church is working with the ACC National Executive to define this role as an “associate church.” Houston wants to “continue to lean into the ACC” and support initiatives such as the denomination’s conferences, missions, and Alphacrucis, a Bible college located in Sydney, Australia affiliated with the denomination.
Wayne Alcorn, the President of ACC, agrees this “change in relationship” between the ACC and Hillsong is not due to a disagreement. “May I emphasise that the relationship between Hillsong Church and ACC is strong. The change in relationship has been facilitated by Hillsong’s global growth, rather than any disagreement,” he said. Further, he likened the change in relationship to a “child who has grown up and now has a larger life outside the family home.”
Hillsong has several churches in the United States. Locations include Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Phoenix.