Following controversies that have plagued its New York (NYC) branch, Hillsong's global senior pastor has issued an apology to its members. He also presented plans to implement significant changes in the church, particularly in the East Coast.
In his email to Hillsong Church members, Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston took responsibility on the "failings" of its East Coast branch and apologized.
Reports revealed that its NYC branch was involved in various controversies. This include former pastor Carl Lentz's sexual misconduct activities that led to his firing last year, pastors' spending of tithe money on lavish lifestyles and alleged sexual abuse of some of its staff to volunteers.
Pastor Houston expressed his appreciation for the individuals who displayed "courage and honesty" that gave "clear understanding" about the situation of its church in New York.
He said that he was "heartbroken" with the revelations.
"A church is supposed to be a place where pain is lifted, freedom is found through Jesus, and everyone is treated with respect, kindness, and care. It should never take advantage of the valuable time invested by members and volunteers," he added.
He also stated that a church is supposedly a "safe place" and not causing "deep wounds."
He then encouraged the members to move "forward" by taking action to fight the "failings." They will also be making "significant changes" to tackle the issues and empower the pastors in its New York branch.
As part of the changes, Hillsong Global Charter will be implemented in all their campuses. The move aims to maintain the church's excellent global standards in financial, governance, stewardship and reporting, as well as its strict adherence to policies and procedures.
He said that the changes are necessary to ensure the wellbeing of everyone involved in the church as it continues to expand worldwide.
Pastor Houston also named Chrishan and Danielle Jeyaratnan as the new East Coast lead pastors.
"...I fully understand that new leadership is only one step in the process of rebuilding trust, and I want to assure you that we are not afraid to do the hard work of bringing our culture back into alignment with the biblical standards and Kingdom culture that has been the heart of Hillsong Church from its beginning," he further said.
He concluded his statement with an outline of their plans that will be implemented in its church in New York.
The plan includes implementation of Hillsong Global Chapter in the branch.
In addition, they have highlighted eight changes to be implemented in NYC, seeking to restore trust in the church:
- Additional training for staff and volunteers to increase awareness on power dynamics in the church
- Reinforcing Code of Conduct for all staff
- Uniform HR policies, procedures and policies
- A system for reporting grievances and issues relative to inappropriate behavior
- Strict sexual misconduct and harassment policy and mandatory training
- Improving financial accountability policies
- Improving supervision and accountability for pastors and staff
- Increasing safeguards for volunteers and staff
In earlier reports, Pastor Houston announced that he and his wife are stepping down from their current roles to make way for younger leaders in leading the church, both in Australia and globally. Gary and Cathy Clarke of Hillsong Church London are set to replace the couple.