Go watch the video pitching the enterprise. You can even donate.
If you watch, you will see some familiar faces.
To help market all things Hillsong, the megachurch signed a deal with the William Morris Agency. According to Billboard, the deal is the first with a major Hollywood agency and a church.
Coming up in medium to small, mostly middle class churches, I have not experienced a lot of the excess I write about. Gospel for Asia lets hundreds of millions draw interest in banks, pastors make half-a-million plus, million dollar book advances for Christian books, lavish lifestyles, jet planes, etc.
But then yesterday, a reader sent a link to the Instagram account of Esther Houston, wife (is she really also a pastor?) of New York City Hillsong church pastor Joel Houston. The description is so hip.
Super Cali Swagalistic Sexy Hella Dopeness *CREATIVE DIRECTOR of stuff*-Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s caffeine- misswhoo.com
Warning: Some of this is NSFW
Oh boy; didn’t Brian Houston get the memo about Mark Driscoll’s The Trinity Church?
Hillsong plans to go big in the valley.
Hillsong Church, a global church founded in Australia with 15 locations and over 100,000 in weekly attendance, announces the launch of its third U.S. congregation in the Phoenix, Arizona, area on Feb. 21, 2016. The Phoenix site will initially offer six Sunday worship experiences on three campuses with additional sites under consideration.
“After 15 years of serving as a large, vibrant, multisite church in the Phoenix metro area, and after much prayer and planning, we are excited to announce that we have become the 16th global campus of Hillsong Church,” said Hillsong Phoenix Lead Pastors Terry and Judith Crist.
I know Phoenix is huge and growing but there is only so much oxygen, right?
Not many showed up but a few passed out flyers and tried to make an issue of Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong London conference earlier today. Some pics from organizer Natalie Collins are available via this tweet:
— God loves women ن (@God_loves_women) July 22, 2015
You can also take in the twitter feed here.
Even the last protest was small, it garnered wide coverage in Australia. Given the fact that most Australian reporters seemed to think Brian Houston had agreed not to feature Mark Driscoll during the recent conference in Sydney, the media may turn out for this event in a similar manner. Here is the event description:
Please bring protest signs. We will be protesting peacefully!
Under enormous pressure from pro women groups and others, Hillsong senior pastor Brian Houston was very deceptive about cancelling an interview with misogynist and abuser Mark Driscoll at Hillsong Conference. We demand that Brian Houston publicly fully admit his intentional deceit and publicly apologise both for his deceit as well as for giving a gigantic platform to abusive power monger Mark Driscoll.
The event will take place at Hillsong Melbourne on Sunday (in Australia, Saturday here).
In October, Brian Houston is coming to Seattle.
In his interview with Brian Houston, Mark Driscoll said he had decided to go along with the restoration plan that the Mars Hill elders wanted to implement. He told Houston that he had given the go ahead for the plan which would have him returning to the pulpit on January 4, 2015. However, then on the Monday night after he said he would follow the elders’ plan, God told him and his wife that they were released from ministry. Then he resigned.
First of all, no one at the time said anything about special revelation being given to Mark Driscoll. Driscoll didn’t include that seemingly important detail in his resignation letter. The governing board of Mars Hill Church did not disclose this. The elders who explained the situation to the remaining Mars Hill members didn’t mention it either. When Driscoll showed up at Gateway Church just a few days later, Gateway pastor Robert Morris told the congregation that he and Driscoll together decided that Driscoll should step out of ministry for a season to get some healing. Watch at 25 seconds into this clip:
Now, the revelation from God is the core of their resignation narrative.
So as the situation has been described at the time by his elders and by Driscoll now, we have the elders exercising biblical oversight and God telling Driscoll not to follow it.
I don’t understand that.
Earlier this month, Brian Houston, pastor of Hillsong Church, appeared to respond to the protests and petitions about Mark Driscoll’s appearance at the church’s 2015 conferences. He issued a statement which sounded like Driscoll would not have a presence at the Hillsong conference, underway now in Sydney Australia. Houston said (full statement here):
After personal interaction with Mark Driscoll today, we have agreed that he will no longer be coming to Australia or the UK to attend Hillsong Conference. It is my hope that Mark and I will be able to speak in person in the coming weeks to discuss some of the issues that have been raised, what – if anything – he has learned, and for me to understand better how he is progressing in both his personal and professional life.
The teachings of Christ are based on love and forgiveness, and I will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.
However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event. It was clear to me that Mark’s attendance had the potential to divert attention from the real purpose of Hillsong Conference, which is to see people leave encouraged in their own spiritual journey.
However, as I reported last night, Driscoll and his wife did appear via a pre-recorded video interview with Brian Houston. Video and audio are available in that prior post. The controversy surrounding Driscoll was big news in Australia prior to the conference. A protest at the church and a petition against the appearance seemed to trigger interest among Australian media. The people behind the protest and petition now feel betrayed by Houston’s decision and reached out with the following statements.
The leader of the Hillsong protest, Benjamin Wheeler issued this statement:
Today Brian Houston made Christianity look really bad. After having very much led everyone to believe he was cancelling Mr. Driscoll’s appearance at Hillsong Conference, and thereby escaping the gigantic pressure and negative repercussions and protests at the conference, Mr. Houston went ahead with a videotaped interview anyway, thereby in some weasely, conniving way sticking to the letter of what he’d said although clearly intentionally he blatantly lied. This is one if the more outrageous things I’ve seen from a very powerful Christian pastor. It leads me to disbelieve anything he might ever say in the future, and more generally to more thoroughly than ever find Christianity unattractive. How are we to believe anything Brian has said with regards his own supposed innocence and integrity with regards his own paedophile father and Hillsong founding pastor Frank Houston, if this is how he operates? My experience with so many Hillsong parishioners at Hillsong Church while protesting Driscoll over these last months has been that one after another they have said to me “Well, I trust Brian Houston to do the right thing.” Today Mr. Houston has clearly betrayed the trust of both church insiders and outsiders, and if Christians both inside and outside Hillsong don’t publicly call him to a higher standard than this, then they are absolutely complicit in his outrageous deception.
The organizer of the Change.org petition, Natalie Collins is now planning a protest at the London conference. She stated:
It is deeply disappointing, but perhaps not particularly surprising that Brian Houston used semantics rather than honesty to calm protestors and critics of Mark Driscoll’s involvement with the Hillsong Conference. As a result of Mark Driscoll’s pre-recorded interview with Brian Houston yesterday, I have begun organising a protest which will take place at the Hillsong Europe Conference in London. The petition and all the work being done to challenge Mark Driscoll’s ongoing lack of repentance comes from a place of wanting to stand in solidarity and unity with the many people whose lives he ruined. A protest will be organised and delivered to stand with those Driscoll (and now by extension, Hillsong also) has hurt and continues to hurt.
At the Change.org petition, Collins provides more details about the planned protest.
Please feel free to continue to share and sign this petition. Over the next couple of weeks I will be planning a protest at the Hillsong Europe Conference in London. It takes place on 22nd – 24th July at the O2. If you would like to join me, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: Campaigners against Driscoll’s appearance have expressed betrayal via statements about the interview.
Just a little while ago, Brian Houston showed a taped interview of Mark and Grace Driscoll at the conference in Australia. I have some video below. The source of the video stalled out near the end, so this is not the complete interview.
Despite the fact that Houston told the world Driscoll would not attend the conference, he brought him to the conference via video anyway. At that time, Houston said:
However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event.
I couldn’t understand all of it (update: there is better quality audio available below) but it seems Driscoll strikes many of the same themes of persecution but also at times seemed more contrite than in past public appearances.
At one point, Driscoll said those who have reached out in love have been those outside of his tribe. This seems like a real slap at his elders who reached out to him with a plan of restoration. However, as we now know, Driscoll resigned rather than respond favorably to his elders.
Houston asked the Driscolls when they were converted and Driscoll described his call to the ministry saying God told him to marry Grace and plant churches.
He said he wouldn’t now advise any 25 year old to do what he did then. He said he wasn’t ready.
Driscoll again spoke of the problems his family has experienced.
Driscoll said he hoped not to be a divisive figure in the future. He acknowledged anger. However, as far as I can tell, he did not indicate any plans to meet with anyone specifically.
The problem with this is that Driscoll said he wants not to be a divisive figure but he hasn’t reached out to the people where there is division. If one wants to be a person of peace, that person should try to make peace.
Houston has given Driscoll quite a PR gift with this interview.
My understanding is that Driscoll’s plans will soon come into focus. After initially signaling a move to Phoenix, it appears there might be a new plan. He said in the interview that he doesn’t know what he is going to do next.
Houston urged the Driscolls to heal and make amends with others.
This video is difficult to hear but some of it can be understood. I suspect Hillsong will post it soon. I have now received audio of the interview which is much better.
Those campaigning against Driscoll’s appearance at the conference have issued statements. See those here.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Brian Houston told an Australian television station that he would review the decision to host Mark Driscoll later this month at the Hillsong Conference in Sydney. It is Sunday morning in Sydney and Houston said he would talk to Driscoll later on Sunday to determine the next move.
From the Sunrise television show:
"We didn't know. We invited him before this major controversy started." – Hillsong pastor Brian Houston on inviting Mark Driscoll #sun7
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) June 6, 2015
— Shaun White (@shaun_YT) June 6, 2015
— Shaun White (@shaun_YT) June 6, 2015
Not sure how long the statement has been there (update: apparently it was posted today) but it is dated June, 2015 and is revealing. Hillsong’s pastor Brian Houston reveals he doesn’t know Mark Driscoll very well but wants to ask him some questions in this high profile interview. Building on his earlier statement made to this blog, Houston said today:
Personal statement from Pastor Brian Houston – Re: Mark Driscoll
Let me be clear about one thing. Mark Driscoll and I stand poles apart on women, their place in society, and their role in the Church.
Hillsong Church has a long history of involving women in every area of church life both on and off the platform, and my own wife Bobbie is my co-Senior Pastor.
I think our leadership styles and relationship with staff and key people have also been vastly different.
So why am I using our platform to interview Mark? We come from different backgrounds, theological positions, and church expressions. I genuinely want to know! Did he really say those things? Does he believe those things? Does he have any regrets? Has he been misrepresented? What has he learned and what can we all learn? And where to from here?
I have met Mark just twice. Before his very public resignation from Mars Hill Church, a mutual friend introduced us over a cup of coffee in Seattle. We talked about life, ministry, and his previous exposure to Australia. The second time, I was standing in line at Starbucks in California bleary eyed and jet lagged when another customer in the line said hi. It was Mark Driscoll and his daughter.
A lot has been said. There’s lessons to be learned. I’m looking forward to asking the questions and hearing from Mark directly. Will we agree afterwards or agree to disagree? Time will tell. I doubt we will agree on everything, but everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard.
Mark will not be speaking at the conference. It’s an open interview with Mark and his wife Grace. Let’s see what he has to say.
I think it is head scratcher that Brian Houston implies Mark Driscoll hasn’t had a chance to be heard. I wonder if Rev. Houston will then give the former Mars Hill folks some time and space to be heard.
The rationale is curious given the size and prominence of the conference in Australia. Most hosts do the exploration of these matters before a conference rather than live during it. Houston appears to be distancing himself from Driscoll even as he gives him an incredible platform to shape his comeback in the way he desires.
The statement may have been in response to this report on the Australian Broadcasting Network. Houston’s response to Driscoll’s views on gender appear to relate to this report.