Hillsong member wins ‘The Voice’ Australia amid controversy surrounding global megachurch

Bella Taylor Smith sings her single "Higher" after winning "The Voice" Australia in a video posted to YouTube on Sept. 6, 2021. | YouTube/The Voice Australia

Bella Taylor Smith, a member of the global megachurch Hillsong, was crowned the winner of “The Voice” Australia on Sunday alongside her coach, Guy Sebastian, who is also a professing Christian.

The 23-year-old was victorious following her powerful duet performance with Sebastian of Andrea Bocelli's “The Prayer."

Smith, a singing teacher, was filled with emotion after hearing host Sonia Kruger announce her as the competition's winner. Her prize includes receiving a recording contract with EMI Music and $100,000.

“I really can't believe it. I'm so thankful,” Smith said. “I can't wait to see what incredible things are ahead for me. I'm really grateful for you [Sebastian], for everyone who voted and for my beautiful family, who I love.”

Sebastian, who also reportedly has links to Hillsong, added: “I'm so proud."

"There are so many deserving people up there, but you are special, Bella," Sebastian said. "Go out there and kill it. I know you will.”

The singer, who used her time on the show to sing several faith-based songs, then performed her new single “Higher.”

The win comes on the heels of multiple scandals surrounding the multisite evangelical church.

The most public controversy was the firing of Hillsong East Coast pastor Carl Lentz for “moral failures,” including an affair.

In Australia last month, police officials announced that the senior pastor of the Sydney-based megachurch, Brian Houston, was being charged with “concealing child sex offenses,” The Associated Press reported.

“Police will allege in court [that Houston] knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police,” stated  Australian authorities.

In a statement to The Christian Post through Hillsong, Houston expressed “shock” at the charges. The church also shared a statement explaining that it is “disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and asked that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right.”

Following Smith's victory this week, viewers accused the show of “promoting” the church despite controversies. 

Many online commentators accused Sebastian of conspiring to rig the show, noting that Sebastian's brother Chris won the previous season of "The Voice." 

“Hillsong Church member auditions for a Hillsong coach, then Hillsong coach has to act like the Hillsong connection isn't there until grand finale night but okay,” one tweet highlighted by The Daily Mail states. 

Smith took to Instagram to celebrate her big win, which was filmed months ago.

“No words other than thank you. thank you to all my friends and family, thank you to @gabrielletaaylor and @josh.h.cole thank you to my church community. thank you to @guysebastian thank you to all the team at @thevoiceau thank you for all the kind words, the encouragement, the prayers, the love. thank you to @arlo.sim @mickharringtonmusic and of course the incredible @g.nation_official,” she wrote. “Thank you Jesus, I absolutely cannot wait to continue to share and celebrate with you.”

In a recent interview with Sunrise, Smith said that she doesn't plan to give up her teaching job even though she has secured a recording contract. 

“I love teaching, it’s one of my passions and I’ll definitely keep doing it," she was quoted as saying. 

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