New revelations will require increased accountability, but pastor wants to look to the future.
Phil Dooley, the new global senior pastor of Hillsong Church, has promised he will clean house.
“I can’t change the past, but I can play a significant role in changing the future,” he said during a Sunday service in Sydney, shortly after the board chair announced a forensic audit of church spending under Dooley’s predecessors, founders Brian and Bobbie Houston. “Our structure and culture is changing and needs to change more to ensure we are held to a higher level of accountability, and I welcome that.”
The opportunity to declare a new beginning came, unexpectedly, when an Australian member of parliament representing Tasmania made a speech charging the global megachurch with misuse of funds.
“Hillsong followers believe that the money they put in the poor box goes to the poor,” said MP Andrew Wilkie, surrounded by piles of binders he said contained financial records leaked by a whistleblower. “But these documents show how that money is actually used to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian.”
According to Wilkie, internal Hillsong documents show the church paid for extravagant lifestyles for church leaders. He alleges, for example, that Bobbie Houston received a $6,500 Cartier watch and $2,500 of Louis Vuitton luggage, and the Houston family spent $150,000 of church funds for a three-day luxury retreat in Cancun.
“These other documents show former leader Brian Houston treating private jets like Ubers—again, all with church money,” Wilkie told parliament. “For example, in one three-month period, Brian Houston’s trips cost $55,000, $52,000, $30,000, $22,000 and $20,000.”
It is unclear whether the amounts are calculated …