Hillsong has announced a raft of changes on its governance structure as part of it’s journey to become a “healthy church”. Interim pastor Philip Dooley and chairman of the board Stephen Crouch shared the changes during a meeting with the congregation at the Hillsong headquarters in Australia, just a few days after pastor Dooley had confirmed the church is being sued for financial abuse. Crouch, who stepped in as the chairman of the board following Brian Houston’s departure in March, said he was “confident” the church would work together “through the largest transition we’ve ever faced as a church”. Houston served as both the lead pastor and the chairman of the board – two roles that will now be separate under the changes Crouch and Pastor Dooley announced.
“I’m so grateful for that,” pastor Dooley said. “I really am because I’ve had enough to do and having a separate chair is really helpful to carry the weight because there’s a lot of weight to what we are doing and what we are all about in the responsibilities of leading our church well.” Changes to the structure of the board were also announced. Longtime Hillsong general manager George Aghajanian, Hillsong London lead pastor Gary Clark, property development company Hillscorp executive director Phillip Denton and Gloria Jean’s Coffee chairman Nabi Saleh have all “transitioned” from their roles on the board leaving only five members left. Those include, pastor Philip Dooley, Stephen Crouch, Sibo Nxumalo of Hillsong Africa, Russell Dacre of Hillsong UK and deputy board chair and Tolu Badders, Hillsong New York City’s (NYC) chief operating officer and executive pastor – she is also the only woman among the five.
Crouch said they want to create a board more diverse in “age, geography, and racial background,” “more reflective of our church community.” Term limits for board members will also be put in place. The board’s shake up, following a myriad of controversies facing the church, including NYC pastor Carl Lentz’s extra marital affair, Brian Houston being investigated for misconduct with women and allegations of financial mismanagement. Consequently, an investigation of the global board of the church was called in. Pastor Dooley said they conducted a comprehensive review of their systems of governance with help from outside professionals who gave them helpful recommendations. Among those recommendations were: the completion of a clear transition of global senior pastor; an updating of the board appointment and renewal process and placing greater emphasis on trust, culture and health in the church starting with the board.
Pastor Dooley also shared that an independent review of Hillsong’s process of complaints against pastors has been carried out, with the reviewer recommending reframing the process away from being a discipline and restoration for pastors to being an inquiry into the fitness of the pastor. A new body within the church to handle complaints relating to credentialed pastors will also be formed. Hillsong church later posted a video of the meeting on its website for those church members who weren’t able to attend the meeting. Pastor Dooley said: “We are working hard to set a course for the future that ensures our structures are accountable, transparent and honouring to God. Anything less has the potential to hinder our primary focus, which is to be a community of believers focused on the life-changing power of Jesus, driven to bring hope to the world around us.”
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