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 resignación 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.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
en un presione soltar 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) es el administrador de contenido de ChurchLeaders.com. También es un bloguero y un podcaster apasionado por ayudar a las personas a abordar verdades antiguas en entornos cotidianos. Vive en el sur de California con su esposa Tamara y sus dos hijos.