Jenna Babbitt is another former member with experience as a nanny for Hillsong pastors. Babbitt started attending Hillsong NYC in 2011, and the pastors she babysat for included Reed and Jess Bogard. The Bogards were involved in planting Hillsong NYC, Hillsong LA, and Hillsong Dallas; they recently stepped down as pastors of Hillsong Dallas in order to “get healthy.” Babbitt said that when she nannied for the Bogards, she was given a pre-paid expense (PEX) card to buy food for the children and was never asked to give an account for anything she bought with the card. Babbitt claims that during her time at Hillsong she saw the PEX cards get used for purchases that included elaborate meals, a designer purse for a visiting pastor, and Manhattan hotel rooms.
Other former volunteers with the church have attested to witnessing expensive PEX card purchases that were not tracked. Brandon Walker, who volunteered at Hillsong Dallas for two years, said that one evening Jess Bogard spent over $1,000 treating him and two other people to $100 jackets and an expensive meal.
Nicole Herman was a service pastor for Hillsong LA and helped to found the LA branch of the church in 2013. She says that the church abused its volunteers, and she also labeled Hillsong a cult. “I was beneath [the senior pastors] but I did everything,” she said. Herman said that during her time at Hillsong LA, she was personally responsible for loading churchgoers’ tithes on to PEX cards. “I was instructed to fill them,” she said. “We had a team count the tithes after every service and they would allocate X amount of money for the PEX cards.”
Houston Denies Financial Abuse Claims
In his letter to church members, Brian Houston reiterated that the stories about Hillsong’s financial abuse are false, and he denied that staff are allowed to use church funds for personal expenses.
“Global leadership has always taken the stewardship of the tithes and offerings entrusted to us seriously and we have numerous structures in place to ensure financial accountability and integrity,” he said. “Even though we know many of the stories circulating are not true, we are still obligating ourselves to closely examine the claims in line with our ongoing commitment to financial integrity.”