Following the scandal surrounding its founder, Hillsong Church's interim senior pastor underscored that the congregation is "built on Jesus."
On Sunday, Hillsong Church's Interim Global Senior Pastor Phil Dooley gave an emotional speech in front of congregants, saying that the church is "built on Jesus, not just on any one person." His comments came after the allegations of inappropriate behavior exhibited by founding pastor Brian Houston towards two women.
"I thought I was over my tears because I've cried a lot of them," Dooley admitted during his first address to the evangelical megachurch, the Christian Post reported. It was the first time he spoke to the congregants after news of two women filing complaints against Houstin surfaced on Friday. The interim senior pastor stressed how Houston and his colleagues were repentant over the incidents.
Dooley clarified that he wanted to get ahead of "rumors," announcing on Friday that Houston had violated the church's code of conduct by entering the hotel room of a woman and stayed there for 40 minutes while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. The incident occurred during the church's annual conference in 2019.
In a meeting with church staffers last week, Dooley revealed that it was unclear of Houston and the woman had sex, as they were both intoxicated with alcohol, and in Houston's case, anxiety medication, and could not recall if they had sexual contact.
Moreover, in 2013, Houston was also accused of sending an "inappropriate text message" with a staffer that suggested he wanted to "kiss," "cuddle," and "hug" the female staffer. She resigned shortly after receiving the inappropriate message. Hillsong Church said that Houston's actions were due to his "sleeping tablets."
"We as a leadership of Hillsong Church have repentant hearts in this season. I want to say we are sorry for anyone who has been a victim of any form of harassment," Dooley remarked. Earlier this year, he took over Houston, who is now fighting criminal charges for allegedly concealing sex abuse allegations against his father, Frank Houston, which had been going on for decades.
Dooley remarked that some of the congregants "understand the pain" because they may have gone through similar situations before and that Hillsong Church was "doing [its] best to empathize" with them. He added, "Where you've been hurt, we pray for healing, strength and courage to move forward in your life."
Dooley added that despite the challenges that Hillsong Church faces today, the network's leaders believe that it is still a safe space for attendants and congregants, promising to continue responding to the crisis with "love, grace and truth."
The interim senior pastor also reminded Hillsong Church followers that it was "built on Jesus, not just on any one person" despite Houston's influence since it was founded in 1983. Dooley insisted, "our hope and our trust is in Jesus. We are guided by the word of God and the Holy Spirit of God."
In other Hillsong Church news, a new documentary titled "Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed" is set to be released on the Discovery+ streaming service on March 24, Religion Unplugged reported. But Dooley believes that the documentary was purposely created to hurt the mega congregation. He argued that the "picture it paints is far removed from, I believe, the truth of who we are as a church."