Current events program, 60 Minutes Australia, this weekend broadcast a major exposé of Hillsong Church, revealing a culture that protects its own while ignoring abuse victims.
The special featured two women who claimed the worldwide megachurch based in Sydney, Australia, ignored their reports of sexual assault by Hillsong members or staff. One victim said Hillsong promoted her abuser after being informed of his attack.
The program also examined the “celebrity culture” at Hillsong churches worldwide, especially in New York City where now-disgraced pastor, Carl Lentz, headed the organization.
Hillsong reportedly didn’t respond to 60 Minutes’ request for an interview. But in response to written questions, called the report “gutter journalism.” Hillsong added that it “takes any claim of assault extremely seriously and we allocate significant resources so that all can attend our services and events in a safe environment.”
The exposé begins with the story of Anna Crenshaw—a former student at Hillsong College who says Hillsong worship leader Jason Mays assaulted her.
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In 2018, Crenshaw says she reported the assault to Hillsong where Mays’ father serves as the head of human resources. Instead of firing Mays, Crenshaw says the church promoted him. On top of that, the church reportedly appointed Mays’ wife to serve as Crenshaw’s leader.
Five months after reporting Mays to Hillsong, a despondent Crenshaw reached out to her dad, Ed Crenshaw, pastor of Victory Church in the greater Philadelphia area. Ed Crenshaw complained to Hillsong leadership. Only then did the church finally reported the assault to police.
“Everything is centered on trying to keep her story quiet for five months to try to obscure it, to try minimize it, and to try to get Anna, I think, ultimately to drop it,” Crenshaw told 60 Minutes.
When Hillsong staff complained about Hillsong’s alleged mishandling of Mays’ assault, Houston downplayed the incident. “We’re not talking about a sexual predator here,” Houston claimed, attributing the assault to a married man who got drunk and did something “stupid.”
Then, in April, when Anna Crenshaw spoke publicly about what Hillsong did, Houston divulged in a tweet that Crenshaw had been abused before. After public backlash, Houston apologized for revealing private facts about Crenshaw’s past.
Also featured in the 60 Minutes special is “Katherine,” a former youth leader at Hillsong’s Melbourne East campus, who claims she was raped by a fellow Hillsong member.
Katherine says she reported the rape in 2018 to a Hillsong pastor, but he wouldn’t listen. According to Katherine, the pastor kept saying, “That’s not for my ears to hear. You go sort that out with him (the perpetrator).”
As a result of the way she was treated, Katherine left Hillsong in 2019.
Recently, when Katherine heard Anna Crenshaw’s story, she published her account on social media. Only then, according to Crenshaw, did Hillsong contact her and express an interest in knowing the details of the assault.
“They do not care at all about the fact that I was assaulted,” Katherine claims. “They just care about who I’m going to tell or what I’m going to do about it, and how that will affect them.”
Three years after the assault, in 2021, Hillsong reported Katherine’s assault to police, according to 60 Minutes.
The expose also features an interview with Boz Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham, and a lawyer and advocate for abuse survivors. Tchividjian was sharply critical of Hillsong, which he says has a pattern of either silencing or intimidating victims.
Tchividjian noted that the law firm Hillsong hired to investigate Anna Crenshaw’s claim that the church mishandled her abuse bills itself as “the most feared law firm in the world.”
“What sex abuse survivor is going to feel comfortable participating in a process that’s led by an organization that defines itself in that way?” Tchividjian asked.
Tchividjian also took aim at the celebrity culture within Hillsong, which the 60 Minutes special also exposed. The program included an interview with Megan Fallon, a former member of Hillsong New York City, where leaders like Carl Lentz reportedly were treated like royalty and used church tithes for lavish personal expenses. Lentz was fired in 2020 for “moral failures,” including an adulterous affair.”
“We’ve created a celebrity culture in the church,” Tchividjian said. “Pastors have become rock stars. Pastors oftentimes live—in these big churches—live better than most of the people in their congregation. And you create that culture inside of a church, that ultimately results in that pastor and those leaders becoming less and less accountable as those leaders become more and more insulated.”
Tchividjian ends with a call to the church to change.
“If you love Jesus, then my goodness, start acting like Him in the most important moments of life. And that is, when you are approached by the hurting and wounded, stop everything you’re doing and reach out and expend yourself for them. Isn’t that what Jesus did over and over again? That’s what the church should look like. And unfortunately, that’s hard to find these days.”