The Tasmanian independent member of parliament, Andrew Wilkie, accused the Hillsong Church of financial impropriety. Wilkie used a leaked document with a detailed list of the misuse of funds and the extravagant spending of the church's founder, Brian Houston, from the finance of the Hillsong Church.
Basis of Andrew Wilkie's Accusations
On Thursday, Mar. 7, Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie made the allegations regarding the Hillsong Church's finances using parliamentary privilege. He claims that the information about the church's funds was leaked to him by a whistleblower. Among Wilkie's accusations was that the church earned $80 million more in Australia than it reported to the public.
A report from The Sydney Morning Herald stated that documents that provide details of the first class and business class flights, use of private aircraft, entertainment and designer gifts, and credit card statements are included in the allegations of lavish spending and the misuse of funds of the church. In addition, Wilkie asserted that the leaked documents were offered to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and, the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission under the whistleblower legislation in the previous year.
Also Read: Hillsong Church Welcomes New Global Senior Pastors
Detailed Summary of Hillsong Church's Financial Impropriety made by its Founder and Other Members
According to The Age, the leaked document reveals that in 2021, four members of the Houston family and their friends spent $150,000 worth of church funds to experience a three-day luxury retreat in Cancun, Mexico. A Cartier watches worth $6,500 for Bobbie Houston, Louis Vuitton luggage worth $2500, a watch worth $2500 for Phil Dooley, two watches worth $15,000 for Joel and Julia A'Bell, shopping sprees at Saks Fifth Avenue for designer clothes, and even $16,000 for handmade skateboards were all among the items purchased.
Moreover, the Houstons failed to reveal that Hillsong tithes paid for their $5389 upgrade in 2020 when they returned from the United States. It was in addition to the obligatory government quarantine fee of $4016.
The allegations made in the documents regarding Hillsong's spending include the following:
$82,000 meal reimbursements for pastors and executive employees;
$288,000 honoraria for guest speakers;
$13,000 high tea and more.
On the other hand, the amount spent on assisting "people in need" included only $2900 for direct pastoral care costs and $1500 for pastoral care visits. As mentioned, Brian Houston also spent church money on private jets like Ubers that cost $55,000, $52,000, $30,000, $22,000, and $2000 in one to three months of his trip.
Hillsong Church Response to the Allegations
WA Today reported that Hillsong had denied the accusations, claiming that Wilkie's comments were taken out of context and were founded on "untested allegations" made by an employee in an ongoing legal case. They were also disappointed that Wilkie did not attempt to contact the church first. "If he did so we would have answered his questions and provided him with financial records to address his concerns," Hillsong Church stated.
In addition, after Hillsong discovered that Houston had violated the church's moral code by having inappropriate encounters with two different women, they announced in April 2022 that the church had accepted Houston's resignation as its senior pastor.
Related Article: Brian Houston Officially Steps Down As Hillsong's Global Senior Pastor