Embattled Hillsong Church Names New Global Senior Pastors

By Dale Chamberlain
phil dooley hillsong
On February 5, 2023, Hillsong Church global senior pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley (center) are introduced by the church's board chairman Stephen Crouch (left), during a service at the Sydney, Australia church. (Photo via Hillsong Newsroom)

On Sunday, Phil and Lucinda Dooley were announced as the new global senior pastors of Hillsong Church. The couple had stepped into the role on an interim basis following the sabbatical and subsequent resignation of the church’s founding pastor, Brian Houston, in 2022. 

Houston, who had pastored the church for nearly four decades, resigned in March 2022, roughly two months into what was to be a yearlong sabbatical, which arose in part from concerns about Houston’s previous conduct with regard to instances of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, as well as inappropriate behavior toward women. 

brian houston
Brian Houston (Video screengrab)

Houston is also facing criminal charges for his part in allegedly covering up the child sex abuse of his late father, pastor Frank Houston. Those court proceedings are ongoing and were cited as the reason for Houston’s sabbatical in the original announcement. 

Despite the looming possibility of a criminal conviction, Houston has resumed speaking and preaching at various engagements, both in Australia and around the world. 

For Hillsong’s part, the church, which is one of the most influential creators of modern worship music in the world, has been the subject of public scrutiny through multiple docuseries and lawsuits alleging a toxic leadership culture and financial impropriety. 

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Phil and Lucinda Dooley have been a part of Hillsong since they attended the church’s youth group, going on to found a Hillsong Church in South Africa. In the 14 years they led in South Africa, the church grew into a large, multisite congregation. 

The couple was called back to Australia to lead the global Hillsong church on an interim basis following the announcement of Houston’s sabbatical.

“Today, as we look forward to a new era, it’s important that we first acknowledge and honor pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston,” said Hillsong Church Global Board chair Stephen Crouch on Sunday. “We can be deeply thankful for their vision, their passion, their commitment—to build a church where people can come to know Christ, where people can be discipled, and where we can learn to lead and to live flourishing, blessed lives.”

Crouch continued, “But today I have the enormous privilege of standing before you on behalf of the global board to announce Phil and Lucinda Dooley as our new global senior pastors of Hillsong Church.”

The announcement was met with a standing ovation.

“Beautiful,” Crouch remarked amid the cheers. “Fantastic.”

“Phil and Lucinda were raised up in our church,” Crouch said. “They’ve served in many roles: as youth pastors, worship pastors—who knew—pastoral care, and for the last 14 years, dedicating their lives to establishing and building a flourishing church in South Africa.” 

“We believe—that is, the global senior board believes that they have got the spirit of leadership on their life,” Crouch continued. “And as we have come to see them more closely, as you have come to see them more closely, you can see that they follow the Lord wholeheartedly—that they’re Jesus followers.”

“The board recognized that they’re clearly called by God, and for their part, I know that they’re deeply committed to their calling,” said Crouch. “I believe they’ll lead this church with grace and wisdom.”

hillsong church dooley
On February 5, 2023, Hillsong Church global senior pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley (center) receive prayer from guest speaker Steve Kelly, during a service at the Sydney, Australia church. (Video screengrab)

After receiving prayer from Hillsong Church’s spiritual advisory team, Dooley said to the congregation with a chuckle, “It’s a bit of an overwhelming moment.”

“Thanks for the warmth and the love and the prayers, and thanks for everything, all of your support of us over this last 12 months,” Dooley went on to say. “It’s probably been the most difficult 12 months of my life, for a lot of different reasons, obviously. But also a year where I felt the grace and presence of God, and I think understood Jesus and who he is and how we’re called to live like him more than I ever have.”

Dooley continued, “My prayer is that that continues—but maybe not the difficulties to the same extent.” After a chuckle from the congregation, Dooley went on to express that he is both “honored” and “nervous” to be stepping into the role. 

“We’ve been part of this church since we were teenagers,” Dooley said. “And we’ve learned so much. We’ve grown in our relationship with Jesus and, with so many in this church community, we’ve had highs and lows on that journey. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve celebrated victories. And we’ve watched in awe as God did miracles amongst us.”

phil lucinda dooley
Phil and Lucinda Dooley (Photo via Hillsong Newsroom)

“And through all of these moments, we’ve seen the grace of God, and we’re eternally grateful,” Dooley said. “We are also grateful, thankful for Pastor Brian and Bobbie. Our church would not be what it is today without them. From a local congregation, we’ve grown to a global community through their leadership, sacrifice, and prayerful desire to see the church of Jesus Christ at work across the earth.”

“We’re thankful for their input into our lives over many years,” Dooley continued. “We learned from them that church is about loving God and loving people and not just about programs or buildings. And that deep conviction of continuing to love God and love and serve people continues in our hearts.”

In a press release published Monday, Hillsong Church noted that recent events have revealed some concerns. Dooley “has never backed away from acknowledging the need for structural change, having said the church has fallen short in areas of governance,” it states in part. 

Dooley went on to thank his parents, who are no longer alive, but whom Dooley described as being a “part of a great cloud of witnesses,” a reference to Hebrews 12:1

Dooley also thanked the congregation he and Lucinda founded and pastored in South Africa, emphasizing that the work of spreading the church’s influence on the African continent will continue through the pastors and leaders that remain there.  

“And so now we look towards the future with humble expectation, an expectation that God will continue to pour out his grace over our church,” Dooley said. “Our simple desire, as we’ve said many times now, is to continue to lead a healthy church, changing lives through Christ. And we’ll continue to work towards that vision wherever our church communities gather across the earth.”

Josh Shepherd contributed to this article, which originally appeared at ChurchLeaders.com.

Dale Chamberlain (M.Div) is the Content Manager for ChurchLeaders.com. He is also a blogger and podcaster who is passionate about helping people tackle ancient truths in everyday settings. He lives in Southern California with his wife Tamara and their two sons.



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12 thoughts on “Embattled Hillsong Church Names New Global Senior Pastors”

  1. I always wonder why some large Churches misunderstand the role of the Pastor’s Wife and make her the Co-Pastor with her Husband?? Where do these Churches get that? It isn’t biblically founded! Women are given gifts to serve in the body of Christ just as Men are, but their role is NOT to exercise authority over Men according to the Scripture in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Furthermore, the Biblical qualifications for Pastors/Elders are clear in 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-4. Again, lest I be misunderstood, Women have a place within the body obviously, and Paul is clear on that role, but that role is not the title of Pastor/Elder. Maybe some day it will matter to Church People again concerning the authority of Scripture in the life of the Church as well as in the lives of individual Believers!

    1. thanks for posting this — i came here to say the same thing. the bible clearly forbids women from serving as deacons, elders or ministers. so not much has changed at hillsong, they continue to be disobedient to god’s word.

  2. I still wouldn’t trust them or this “Church.” Anyone who even goes to a Mega Church these days is out of their minds. These places and the people who run them like businesses are greedy hypocrites.

  3. …”new global senior pastors “? My thoughts are that this church is an example of becoming far too large in numbers that it’s leaders have lost touch with all that a church should be biblically!

  4. It’s just as prophecied over 2000 years ago

    The church will go into complete apostasy

    Replacement Christianity that opposes the truth in God’s word !

    This is it!! Fake leaders that do not know God, that serve Satan , that try to look hip and cool with their long hair to create a new look improved version!

    These are the wells without water clouds without rain !

    They are all hell bound Satan’s best and people are falling for it as Thessalonians foretold would happen and Paul’s letter to Timothy 2nd epistle !

    Bunch a phonies!

  5. Those videos make me sick to my stomach! A bunch of blind monkeys so called fake Christian’s praising fake phony multimillionaire leaders patting each other on the back!

    Makes me vomit !!

  6. Yes, there are some bad apples… and some good apples… Maybe the Dooleys are the latter. But I don’t care if only the most upright, best in the world are chosen for these positions… these mega, celebrity driven, independent churches’ Model-Structure-System is flawed and corrupt. It cultivates Bad Things, Bad Habits, Bad Theology. (And also happens to coddle, shield, cultivate bad apples too!). The only way these systems will be redeemed is when they are shut-down and the sheep scatter (preferably to the thousands of smaller churches from when these sheep thieves stole them from in the first place and where the real, humble kingdom of God actually exists)

  7. Has anyone written what Hillsong truly believes, in a theological sense? You can talk about being like Jesus and church structure, etc. Do they adhere to specific doctrines or Creeds? Maybe it is a mega church version of the Assemblies of God.

    1. Vance, they are from a Pentecostal/AoG founding. They are Hyper/Uber-Charismatic, like Bethel/Jesus Culture but have no true Theological roots, doctrines or creeds. So yes, very much like the AoG.

        1. Louis, I am sorry for my words. These come from a place of my own hurt and experience.

          Please accept my apology.


  8. Whoever these leaders are need to lay out a ‘fix plan’ for reforming their particular ‘brand’ of doing church.

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