Less than two weeks after Reed Bogard abruptly resigned as lead pastor of the now-defunct Hillsong Dallas in January 2021, an internal investigation commissioned by Hillsong Global showed that the married father of three was accused of rape by a junior female staffer with whom he had a monthlong affair while serving at Hillsong NYC years earlier.
The former junior Hillsong NYC staffer who asked not to be publicly named in this report when contacted by The Christian Post, said she has been trying to move on with her life. She confirmed she participated in a deposition concerning the allegation but would not say anything more than what was already included in the report.
“I think at this stage ... I’m not going to comment. Everything that you have in that deposition is obviously something that I did, and I said in the context of a legal deposition. I think I just want to leave it at that.”
The findings of the investigation conducted by the New York City law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, are highlighted in a report reviewed by CP. The investigation was commissioned by Hillsong Global in October 2020, shortly after senior church officials first learned that the former junior staffer alleged that her first act of sexual intercourse with Bogard in his car after a late night out together was non-consensual.
Hillsong leaders were made aware years earlier of a sexual relationship between the two parties, but an investigation was not conducted by the church at the time. Church leaders were led to believe the relationship was consensual and "consequences to both [parties] were meted out accordingly," investigators revealed.
The report was submitted to George Aghajanian, general manager and a director of Hillsong Church Australia and its international entities, on Jan. 11, 2021.
It shows that Hillsong Church Australia first learned of the sexual affair between Bogard and the junior staff member in the second half of 2014. The relationship began in September 2013 and continued through the beginning of January 2014.
“At the time, the Church did not conduct any meaningful inquiry into the details or circumstances of the affair, and no one with appropriate training was assigned to look into matters,” investigators noted.
When contacted about the report in February, Hillsong Church said Brian Houston, who resigned Wednesday after it was revealed that two women made serious complaints of misconduct against him in the last 10 years, was not aware of the rape claims against Bogard when he was chosen to lead Hillsong Dallas in 2019. Houston is currently facing criminal charges for allegedly concealing sex abuse committed by his father decades earlier.
“Brian Houston categorically denies he had knowledge of this serious allegation when Reed Bogard was selected as the Lead Pastor for Dallas,” Hillsong Church said in a statement to CP. “Hillsong Church has enormous compassion for the other party involved in this situation. We have been in regular contact with her and she has asked to remain anonymous. We ask that the media and all other parties respect and protect her privacy.”
As the coronavirus swept the world in late 2020, the church learned that the affair didn’t start out consensually. The report states that the junior staffer "resurfaced the issue" in October 2020, six years after initially confessing to having a consensual relationship.
“More than six years later, on or about October 2020, Hillsong Church Australia learned of additional allegations concerning Ms. [redacted] and Mr. Bogard’s affair. Specifically, in discussions with certain leaders of Hillsong NYC, Ms. [redacted] asserted to them, apparently for the first time, that her sexual experience with Mr. Bogard, at least initially, had not been consensual,” the report said in a summary. “For the first time, Ms. [redacted] stated that at least in their initial sexual intercourse, Mr. Bogard had raped her.”
Investigators at Zukerman Gore said while it might be too late for Bogard’s accuser to seek civil damages against him or the church for what happened to her, “a criminal complaint for rape might still be timely, though that would not be expected to implicate the Church itself.”
There was no indication from the investigation that the rape allegation was reported to law enforcement. In 2019, New York state extended the state statute of limitations for reporting second-degree rape to 20 years and third-degree rape to 10 years.
Investigators noted in the report that: "It is difficult if not impossible to say with certainty whether the initial sexual acts between Mr. Bogard and Ms. [redacted] occurred notwithstanding an express, verbal objection ('No') uttered by Ms. [redacted] in the moment."
Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, did not respond to requests for comment.
Bogard, who now works as a director of business development for Keller Williams in Michigan, said he was done with all things Hillsong as well.
“I don’t have any comment on that. I’m not going to discuss anything. I have nothing to do with Hillsong anymore. … I haven’t been a part of that organization for over a year,” he said when contacted by CP.
When Houston and his wife, Bobbie, announced they were pausing the Dallas campus in April 2021, they failed to mention that Bogard, 39, had been accused of rape.
“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,” Brian Houston said, in part, at the time. “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.”
In addition to the allegation of rape, which allegedly took place one night on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in October 2013, details highlighted in the report show Bogard drinking heavily, using marijuana, and generally bullying staff while serving at Hillsong NYC prior to being promoted as lead pastor of Hillsong Dallas.
Ben Houston, Brian Houston’s son, who was leading Hillsong LA and serving as Bogard’s boss when the former junior staffer first revealed her sexual relationship with him to Hillsong senior leaders, told investigators that he had spoken with his father and members of the church’s global board about the relationship. Investigators reported that Bogard was "stood down publicly from the platform in Los Angeles for a period of either eight or twelve months," noting that "stories differ."
Houston told the investigators that "the nature and extent of such discipline were handed down by top leadership in Australia," the report reads.
"Thereafter, Mr. Bogard was returned to full Pastoral duties, and was eventually awarded a promotion to Lead Pastor in the newly created Church location in Dallas, Texas," the report adds.
“The board came up with a plan that Mr. Bogard would not be permitted to serve in leadership in any capacity for twelve months, he would not be on platform for 12 months and he would undergo counseling,” investigators said.
Both Bogard and his rape accuser offered varying accounts of their first sexual encounter which happened inside his car on Manhattan’s Upper East Side after they had a clandestine meeting at a local bar, investigators said.
“Ms. [redacted] stated that as soon as she and Mr. Bogard sat down at a table at the bar, they each ordered a drink. Ms. [redacted] recalls that right after giving their drink order, Mr. Bogard leaned in and tried to kiss her. Ms. [redacted] stated that she ‘probably’ participated in the kiss. Ms. [redacted] and Mr. Bogard then talked about Mr. Bogard’s frustrations with his upcoming move to California, and how he was unhappy in his marriage,” the report said.
While this was happening, Bogard’s accuser told investigators that she felt very conflicted being at the bar with him because she felt like she had put herself in that position and had been asking herself, “do I like him?”
“In part, Ms. [redacted] now believes that she went to the bar to satisfy her own curiosity,” investigators said. Bogard claimed that they arranged to meet at the bar around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.
The former Hillsong junior staffer said they stayed at the bar for about 45 minutes, having only one drink each. Investigators said Bogard disputed the level of drinking.
“Mr. Bogard’s description of the amount of drinking is very different. Mr. Bogard’s position is interesting because he seems to ‘need’ to establish that he was too drunk to act responsibly as a way of soothing his conscience, yet he ignores or overlooks the fact that if Ms. [redacted], his subordinate, was similarly impaired, that she would have been incapable of meaningful consent in what happens after they leave the bar,” investigators explained.
The subordinate staffer recalls Bogard offered her a ride home, but the former pastor told investigators she asked for the ride home.
The alleged rape
Once they were in the car, things quickly got out of hand.
“Ms. [redacted] stated that when they got into the car (she in the front passenger seat and Mr. Bogard in the driver’s seat), Mr. Bogard leaned across the arm rest and kissed Ms. [redacted]. Ms. [redacted] admits that she kissed Mr. Bogard back.
“Mr. Bogard then began to climb over the arm rest until he was bearing down on top of her in her seat. Significantly, Ms. [redacted] now discloses that at the time she said, ‘no, I don’t think we should do this,’” investigators said.
“Ms. [redacted] says that Mr. Bogard ignored her comment and continued his climb on top of her. He then reached down between the seat and the door and pulled the lever that released the seat back. Ms. [redacted] recalled the disoriented falling sensation of the seat back suddenly going back when she’d not realized it was about to do so.
“Ms. [redacted] recalls that at around this point, Mr. Bogard undid his pants. Ms. [redacted] now reports that at this point, she said ‘no.’ Mr. Bogard began to apply his hands to Ms. [redacted’s] breasts. Ms. [redacted] reports that at this point, she ‘froze.’
“Mr. Bogard then asked Ms. [redacted] to take off her pants. Ms. [redacted] admits that she complied. Mr. Bogard then asked Ms. [redacted] to crawl into the back seat, an act which was facilitated because her seat back was now lying flat. Again, she complied. The two then had sexual intercourse.”
Bogard told investigators that he has no recollection of the accuser "saying 'no' at any time while they were in the car."
After this encounter, Bogard’s accuser entered into a regular sexual relationship with him. She revealed that during the relationship she was sent a new employment contract with a non-disclosure agreement. When she asked about it, investigators noted: “Mr. Bogard told her ‘if you don’t sign this contract, you don’t work here.’”
Investigators found that despite the nature of the case, the failure to adequately investigate it and the substantial passage of time since it happened, a jury would have likely found that Bogard had sex with the former junior staffer against her will.
“There can be no doubt that given the extreme power imbalance between the two, as well as the ‘don’t say no’ culture which permeated the New York Church at that time, there was ample opportunity for Mr. Bogard to take advantage of a systemic inability for Ms. [redacted] to have meaningfully consented at the time in question,” the report noted. “Without discounting the strength of a prosecution case due to the passage of time, it is likely that a jury, evaluating the interplay, would have found that Mr. Bogard acted without obtaining (or, under the circumstances, having any reasonable expectation of being able to obtain) actual consent by Ms. [redacted].”
Along with the former junior staffer and Bogard, the following individuals were interviewed as part of the internal investigation: a former Hillsong NYC congregant; Shannon Kelly, a former creative director at Hillsong NYC; Amanda and Robert Fergusson, a husband and wife team of Bible teachers and key leaders of Hillsong Church; Jess Bogard, wife of Reed Bogard; Lauren Brooks (sic), a former creative producer at Hillsong NYC; Tolu Badders, chief operating officer and executive pastor at Hillsong Church NYC; Kane Keatinge, Hillsong NYC staff pastor; Carl Lentz, former Hillsong NYC lead pastor who was fired in November 2020 over “leadership issues” and moral failures, including being unfaithful to his wife; Laura Lentz and Ben Houston.
The investigators further explained that it was concerning that Hillsong Church never considered the power imbalance between the two — Bogard and his accuser — once they were informed about the relationship.
“The fact that no Church leader appears to have even considered this issue is a cause for concern," investigators said. "An additional cause for concern is that even within the parameters of the sexual relationship between them, it appears that the sexual activities between the two frequently suggest that they were designed to reinforce the power imbalance between them.”
"In recounting various liaisons, Ms. [redacted] consistently talks about how ‘Reed wanted to have sex, so we had sex,’ and similar comments, always indicating that Mr. Bogard was the initiator.
“Mr. Bogard even summoned Ms. [redacted] to his own apartment on his last day in New York for sex, even though the building where he lived was occupied by most of the senior leaders of the New York church and Ms. [redacted] would be exposed to coming and going there.”
Investigators noted that Bogard’s decision to force his accuser into signing an NDA was also another example of his abuse of power.
“No compelling legitimate reason was given by Mr. Bogard for why this demand was made in the middle of the affair. And this is yet another example of the abuse of power that seems to have permeated the entire relationship,” they said.
Bogard was also painted as a leader at Hillsong NYC who “had a reputation for aggression, verbal abuse and unreasonable demands,” which witnesses called “UnChristian.” Investigators said in their interview with him, “Mr. Bogard did present as aggressive.”
Kelly told investigators that even if Bogard did not physically force himself on his accuser she did not have the ability to say no.
“Shannon stated that Mr. Bogard had an enormous amount of power and that Mr. Bogard was someone that if you said no to, it would be used against you in a lot of different ways. She stated people did not say no to Mr. Bogard,” investigators said.
“Shannon stated that from the way Ms. [redacted] spoke about the relationship with Mr. Bogard, it was something Mr. Bogard put pressure on Ms. [redacted] to do,” investigators added. “Shannon observed that from her point of view, of all the people Mr. Bogard could have chosen, Ms. [redacted] was probably the most vulnerable.”