The dominoes continue to fall across the globe for Australia-based Hillsong Church, the network of congregations hit hard by recent scandals. As ChurchLeaders reported Monday, Hillsong Atlanta is dissolving and will become a new church. Now Hillsong Phoenix has revealed it is separating from the megachurch denomination.
On Sunday, Hillsong Phoenix Lead Pastor Terry Crist, who launched the congregation in 2016 with his wife, Pastor Judith Crist, told congregants about the decision. On Twitter, Terry Crist posted a link to Sunday’s sermon, calling it his “best attempt to pastor our church well and to provide context to our community.” He asked for prayer, saying, “It was a difficult and heartbreaking moment, and many are processing the pain.”
Hillsong Phoenix Pastor Terry Crist Calls for Investigation
The move by Hillsong Phoenix comes less than a week after Hillsong founder Brian Houston resigned as Global Senior Pastor. Houston faces misconduct complaints, as have pastors at Hillsong New York City and Hillsong Dallas (which is now shuttered).
Crist cites “many reasons” behind the split, but “chief among them is our loss of confidence in the global board to continue leading us as a congregation.” He calls for Hillsong Church to investigate the conduct of its board members and then publicize the findings.
Insufficient accountability and transparency have contributed to Crist’s recent tussles with Hillsong’s global board, he says. When he urged members to make a previous report public, with names redacted to protect victims’ privacy, “that request was denied,” he says. Then when details starting leaking, “lead pastors were suddenly asked to sign NDAs and non-competes,” adds Crist, and “some of us couldn’t do that in good conscience.”
Before it became Hillsong Phoenix, the Arizona congregation was called City of Grace. As part of their 2016 agreement with Hillsong, the Crists kept the option of separating from the denomination if Houston’s leadership ended. So Hillsong Phoenix has now formally requested the church’s release “back to us.”
Choosing to separate has left Crist “heartbroken,” he says—including for anyone victimized at Hillsong churches and for people who have left the church or staff “for various reasons.”
‘We Have to Get It Right,’ Says Pastor Terry Crist
In Sunday’s sermon, Crist pointed to sin as the reason for Hillsong’s current mess, which he describes as a multi-level crisis of morality, integrity, biblical governance, and leadership in general.