To close out another rough year for Hillsong Church, this week a fourth episode dropped in the Discovery+ docuseries “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed.” Airing on partner network TLC, the “Newest Revelations” installment recaps developments that have occurred since March, when the first three episodes premiered.
Interviewees say the docuseries opened a “floodgate of conversation,” with former Hillsong members, students, staff members, and volunteers coming forward to share their stories. Journalists also describe the ongoing—and darkening—bombshell revelations about the beleaguered organization.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a spectacular implosion of a Christian institution,” says Roxanne Stone, managing editor of Religion News Service. “I couldn’t have written it this horrifically if I’d wanted to.”
Hillsong Scandals Kept Snowballing During 2022
Church Leaders has reported extensively on Hillsong-related scandals, including the “moral failures” of Brian Houston (the church’s Australian founder) and Carl Lentz (former pastor of Hillsong New York City). Allegations against various Hillsong leaders include sexual abuse and coverups, extramarital affairs, rape, lavish lifestyles, alcohol-fueled parties, and mistreatment of church staff and volunteers. Meanwhile, leaders reportedly placed strict limits on the dating behaviors and dress codes of churchgoers.
“Hillsong: The Newest Revelations” mentions Houston’s yearlong leave of absence, which began in January 2022. The following month, Senior Interim Pastor Phil Dooley warned congregants that an upcoming docuseries would be attempting to “hurt the church.” On March 23, the day before the first episode aired, Houston resigned as Global Senior Pastor. Though that was likely meant to “be a punctuation mark,” says Stone of RNS, it was “only the beginning.”
On April 11, a report about Hillsong NYC was leaked to The Christian Post. Reading all those allegations, says senior investigative reporter Leonardo Blair, was “eye-opening, shocking, disheartening.” The church’s hierarchy and power dynamic encouraged subordinates to be “invisible,” he says, and Hillsong leaders, especially the men, “appeared to be a frat party.”
Stone describes “excess at every level,” with Hillsong NYC having a “uniquely difficult and manipulative” leadership structure—minus supervision and accountability. According to Blair, Lentz was “a king of his own castle.” Both journalists note that Hillsong Global knew about some concerns and allegations but didn’t act.
A ‘Clear Pattern’ of Corruption
In the “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed,” Stone says although a “clear pattern” of scandals emerged, Hillsong leaders kept insisting they weren’t covering anything up.
Another leaked report detailed rape allegations against Reed Bogard, who had been put in charge of Hillsong Dallas. When Brian Houston announced in April 2021 that Hillsong Dallas was closing, he cited the pandemic and the misuse of funds. According to the leaked report, Houston knew about the rape charge but didn’t address it.