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Hillsong leader criticizes upcoming Discovery Plus docuseries for overlooking church's good deeds

Pastor Phil Dooley
Pastor Phil Dooley Speaks at Hillsong “Vision Sunday” on Feb. 20, 2022 |

Hillsong Church interim global senior pastor Phil Dooley contended this week that the upcoming Discovery Plus docu-series titled “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed” paints an unfair picture of the church.

The three-part series, coming to the streaming service on March 24, purports to demonstrate how the Australia-based global evangelical church network has toed the “fine line between cult and culture,” according to recently released trailer.

While preaching for a global simulcast Sunday to Hillsong churches worldwide, Dooley tied his message from Nehemiah 4 to the situation surrounding Hillsong. He seemed to compare the resistance Nehemiah faced to Hillsong’s controversies in recent years.

“There are those who are against what God is doing . . . and we’ve felt the pain of that,” Dooley said in the Feb.19 message. 

Dooley and his wife, Lucinda, served as youth pastors in Sydney before leading Hillsong South Africa in 2008. They’re now stepping in for Brian Houston, who founded Hillsong in 1983. The 68-year-old recently stepped down as Hillsong global senior pastor as he fights a criminal charge in Australia.

Houston is accused of failing to report decades-old child sexual abuse allegations against his father, Frank Houston, after being informed of the allegations in 1999 while serving as the head of the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God. His father served as head of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand until 1971. 

The docuseries will delve into the controversy surrounding Carl Lentz, the former pastor of Hillsong NYC. Lentz was fired from his role at Hillsong due to “moral failures” in November 2020. Hillsong said in December 2020 that it took action amid allegations of inappropriate sex between staff members and volunteers. Additionally, pastors faced allegations they misused church funds.

Dooley maintained that the picture Discovery Plus is painting of Hillsong is “far removed from ... the truth of who we are as a church.” 

He specifically slammed the producers of “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed,” noting that “their purpose is not the healing of people, but simply to hurt the church.”

“If those producers were truly attempting to do an exposé, I would like to expose them to a place called Gugulethu, a township in Cape Town (South Africa) and a school called Tembaletu,” Dooley shared.

“Our church, collectively around the world, provided them with accommodation so that they could experience a better life and an opportunity for a better education. And we have continued to do that with these beautiful kids,” he testified.

The interim pastor went on to list the good things the church is doing.

“But not only that, I’d love to expose them to Phillippi village, not too far down the road, or a small place in Johannesburg, where we are teaching young people from disadvantaged backgrounds digital skills so that they can be educated and they can get the kind of skills that enable them to step into a digital economy rather than become a statistic in a country that has over 60% youth unemployment because that’s what our church is doing,” Dooley declared. 

The pastor numbered other charitable deeds that the church is engaged in worldwide, including sponsoring children with Compassion International.

“Our church helping all the partners that we’ve partnered with, say Compassion, for example, who have been able to help thousands of young people get a better education and families out of poverty,” he added. “And we have played our part-time and time again, in serving and helping.”

While addressing the upcoming docuseries, Dooley, who has been a part of Hillsong Chruch for over 30 years, briefly acknowledged the alleged victims of some of the church’s leaders. He said he was saddened by their experiences.

He later stated that Hillsong has “never claimed to be a perfect church.” 

For the series, Discovery Plus partnered with the New York Post and investigative journalist Hannah Frishberg, who has written several articles about Hillsong and Lentz. 

Ranin Karim, the New York-based fashion designer who has stated that she had a five-month affair with Lentz, is seen speaking in the docuseries of her relationship with the former Hillsong pastor.

Other interviewees include PreachersNSneakers founder and author Ben Kirby and Jaclyn Hayes and Janice Lagata, two women who volunteered for Hillsong to work under Lentz.

“With more than 150,000 global members, Hillsong has recently been entangled in scandal. ‘Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed’ will profile numerous ex-members of the church who have come forward to share harrowing allegations of the trauma, abuse, financial and labor exploitation that created a culture of chaos within the church,” the synopsis of the project reads. 

“The series will also examine how Hillsong was able to grow into a global brand, while uncovering the truth behind the headlines of recent scandals and shining a light on the fine line between culture, corporation and cult.”

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: jeannie.law@christianpost.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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