Following news that Senior Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong Church stepped down from the global evangelical ministry's board, "60 Minutes" Australia aired a segment Sunday featuring new allegations from a woman who claims she was raped at one of the megachurch's campuses. Hillsong called the reporting "gutter journalism at its finest."
The program titled "Hillsong Hell" aired on Sunday night and coincided with news that Houston stepped down from the Hillsong board as he prepares for court proceedings related to allegations that he failed to report his father's sexual abuse to the authorities in the 1970s.
Along with highlighting Houston's legal case and the recent firing of Hillsong New York Pastor Carl Lentz for "moral failures," the "60 Minutes" program introduces an Australian woman who uses the alias "Katherine" and says she was raped in the Melbourne campus after a Bible study.
The program also featured Anna Crenshaw, an American woman who has been vocal about her alleged assault by a Hillsong leader.
Katherine described her rape as a violent occurrence committed by another Hillsong member in 2018 following a Bible study in which she stayed late to help clean.
"I had no reason to think I wasn't going to be safe. It was really violent. It was just completely filled with anger and rage and hatred," she said. "It was the scariest thing I've ever experienced in my whole life.
"That was the only sexual experience I'd ever had, and it was non-consensual," she added. "And I just wanted to pretend it didn't happen."
The woman alleges that she was pulled by the hair, undressed and raped inside an events office in the church.
Following the traumatic incident, Katherine claimed she reported the rape to a Hillsong youth pastor. She says she was told that it was something she had to "sort out" with the perpetrator and instead work on "repairing relationships."
Katherine said that it wasn't until she took the claims public on social media that she was contacted by Hillsong. The church asked to meet with her. But according to Katherine's account, it took Hillsong three years to inform the police.
"I want my abuser to never have the chance to be able to do that to another person again," Katherine told "60 Minutes."
"I also want Hillsong and the person I told to be held accountable for not doing anything," she added.
In a statement Monday responding to the "60 Minutes" segment, Hillsong Church stated that it was not made aware of the 2018 rape allegation until April 2021 after seeing a social media post from Katherine.
"We immediately reached out to her and asked for a meeting. During the meeting the person concerned was not forthcoming with all of the information," Hillsong argues. "She made several allegations but refused to provide details of a date or name of the alleged perpetrator. She advised she had reported the matter to police however Hillsong also made a report to police as per our procedures."
"She made it very clear that for personal reasons she was not willing to take the matter further with police," the statement adds. "We have made every effort to assist this individual and we continue to stand ready to assist. However, we cannot force someone to cooperate with us or police."
Also featured in the "60 Minutes" segment, Anna Crenshaw detailed her alleged assault to The Christian Post earlier this year.
The American Hillsong College attendee told the program of an incident with married Hillsong administrator Jason Mays, which allegedly occurred at a social gathering in 2016. He allegedly made advances toward her, including putting his hands around her waist and between her legs.
Mays, who is the son of the church’s head of human resources, pleaded guilty to indecent assault and was sentenced to two years' probation by a Sydney court last year. However, he was allowed to keep his job at Hillsong.
In its statement Monday, Hillsong Church said that it began an investigation when Crenshaw first brought the allegation to their attention. The church maintains that it brought the allegation to the attention of police, and Crenshaw was never discouraged from filing a formal complaint or participating in legal proceedings.
"There are several reasons why Jason Mays was given another opportunity to remain on staff including the comments of the magistrate who chose not to record a conviction, asserted the 'low level objective seriousness of the offence' and acknowledged that it occurred in the presence of several other people who did not fully corroborate her version of the events," Hillsong noted.
“Jason was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond for 'assault with act of indecency' (not sexual assault), including stringent requirements that he has followed diligently."
The church added that the magistrate had spoken of the "significant punishment already received through his employer (Hillsong) with suspension relating to paid work and volunteering activities."
"Jason works in an administrative role and is not, and never has been, in a leadership position," the church's statement reads. “One of the cornerstones of our Biblical beliefs as Christians is forgiveness and redemption. It is important Jason is allowed this as well."
Hillsong's statement pegged the "60 Minutes" reporting as "factually wrong, sensationalised, unbalanced and highly unethical journalism."
"Hillsong Church takes any allegation of sexual assault extremely seriously and our policy is to report the allegation to police," the statement said.
"We have a Safe Church and a legal department that handle allegations in accordance with all legal requirements and best practice, and are vigilant in their operations. Any insinuation to the contrary is false and defamatory."
Hillsong also pushed back against the program's claim that the church "declined a request to appear on camera," calling it a "blatant lie."
"60 Minutes has clearly been working on this story for some time yet only contacted us by email with vague questions four days before the story was scheduled to air, and after promotions for the story were already running across the Nine Network," the statement reads.
"After we responded with the facts (which were ignored) they belatedly offered us the opportunity to reply on air on Friday – the last working day before the program. Clearly there was no way we could do this and they knew it. It was never their intention to do a balanced piece because they didn’t want to hear the truth. How sad that journalism in this country has stooped to this level."