Former Hillsong Dallas Lead Pastor Reed Bogard and his wife, Jess, were under investigation for leadership failures when they abruptly resigned in January, Hillsong Church Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston said Saturday while announcing a pause in the operation of the Texas campus.
“Early in our process, the Bogards decided to resign from Hillsong Church. We accepted their resignations and acknowledged the time that the Bogards spent establishing our Dallas location,” Houston and his wife, Bobbie, told members of the church launched in 2019 in an email cited by The Daily Mail.
“It was very disappointing to learn that, while some of you experienced the Bogards as dedicated pastors, many others have experienced leadership that failed to meet the commitments and standards of Hillsong Church,” the Houstons continued. “I want to be the first to apologize to those who felt disappointed or hurt, and I pray that God does a swift work in bringing peace and healing.”
The Houstons said Reed Bogard, who along with his wife allegedly used church funds lavishly, had been suspended from his “pastoral duties” as complaints that he failed “to uphold the standards of Hillsong leadership” were being investigated.
In announcing his resignation, Reed Bogard, 38, said he and his 35-year-old wife: “Just really feel that it’s time to transition off of our staff and take some time to remain healthy, get healthy and to really see what this next season holds for us.”
Houston also agreed.
“Reed and I have been talking over a period of time, and we both agree that it would be a perfect time for them to come to a new season in their life,” he said at the time.
However, the leader of the Australia-based global megachurch assured members of the young Dallas congregation that they would eventually get new lead pastors, and they were “not going to be forsaken.”
Several factors worsened by the coronavirus pandemic worked against the church in fulfilling that promise, the Houstons said.
“As we were establishing Hillsong Church in Dallas, the pandemic swept across the globe and quickly changed the shape of our growing church in the city,” the Houstons explained. “Many factors, all amplified by the pandemic, have resulted in the difficult decision to pause all operations at Hillsong Dallas for now.”
The Bogards resigned less than two months after former Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz was fired last November over “leadership issues” and moral failures, including being unfaithful to his wife.
Hillsong Church stated at the time that it launched an independent investigation "into the inner workings of Hillsong NYC/ East Coast" after hearing concerns from people affiliated with those churches.
Former Hillsong NYC congregant Jenna Babbitt, 27, told The New York Post she provided childcare services for several pastors, including the Bogards, and revealed how church expense cards were used for personal items, like purchasing food for the kids in her care.
“The exploitation of free labor while these pastors are making bank is just crazy to me,” Babbitt, who spent months working without pay for the Bogards, told the newspaper in January.
Brandon Walker, 28, who helped the Bogards plant Hillsong Dallas, told the New York Post that he witnessed “a lot of toxic activity,” including $1,100 per day Airbnb rentals.
“There was a lot of eating out, a lot of Airbnbs — very nice Airbnbs” rented for guests and staff who were between homes, Walker alleged.
Walker recalled one day while he was out with Jess Bogard and two of his friends, she bought them matching $100 jackets before taking them out to dinner at a “pretty nice, pretty expensive Italian restaurant” called North Italia.
“I think the bill was $600 to $700,” Walker recalled. “It was just, like, ‘Wow. [She] just dropped over $1,000 for no reason.’”
He also claimed that when money was used on volunteers, it was done manipulatively.
“I was paid once for one job,” Walker said, recalling how Reed Bogart once gave him some $600 “as a favor” when he needed some cash.
“That’s a tactic a lot of these pastors use to keep their secrets,” he charged. “Buying us expensive gifts, giving us money, like, ‘I got your back, so when I need you to have my back, this is something to remember.’”