Hillsong Accuses Producers of Upcoming Exposé of Aiming to ‘Hurt the Church’

By Josh Shepherd
hillsong church docuseries Phil Dooley
On February 20, Hillsong Church interim global senior pastor Phil Dooley speaks from the church’s flagship location in Sydney, Australia in a worldwide ‘Vision Sunday’ simulcast. (Video screengrab / YouTube)

The interim global senior pastor of the embattled Hillsong group of churches is accusing producers of an upcoming exposé docuseries of aiming “simply to hurt the church.”

Speaking in a global simulcast this past Sunday, Pastor Phil Dooley claimed the docuseries, premiering March 24 on Discovery Plus, paints a picture “far removed from . . . the truth of who we are.” He added, “There are also producers behind this documentary and their purpose is not the healing of people, but simply to hurt the church.”

Dooley spoke from Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, to more than 100 church locations in 30 nations.

His statements come just three weeks after Hillsong founder, Brian Houston announced he was stepping away from his lead role, and the Hillsong board named Dooley to replace Houston as interim pastor. Houston is facing charges in Australia that he concealed his late father’s child sex offenses decades ago. The Hillsong co-founder said that court proceedings are “likely to be drawn out and take up most of 2022” and that “best practice” dictates he take a leave of absence from church leadership.

Dooley remarked on the docuseries when preaching from Nehemiah chapter 4, regarding the people of God encountering resistance in their appointed task. He spoke of critics “who don’t like the church” and said: “There are those who are against what God is doing . . . and we’ve felt the pain of that.”

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Dooley acknowledged briefly those who have come forward as alleged victims of various Hillsong leaders’ misconduct.

“There are people who have been hurt by their experience in our church and that saddens me,” Dooley said. “For those people I say: We’re deeply sorry and we pray that you’ll find healing.”

Dooley did not address the specifics of those hurt but instead turned to Hillsong’s charitable and outreach work.

“If those producers were truly attempting to do an exposé, I would like to expose them to a place called Gugulethu, a township in Cape Town (South Africa) and a school called Tembaletu . . .” he said.

Dooley went on to discuss the “disabled young people” helped by the special education school, funded by “our church collectively around the world.” He enumerated a half-dozen other charitable initiatives across several nations in which Hillsong has partnered with Compassion International and other nonprofit groups.

The Roys Report reached out to Hillsong’s media contact, seeking  clarification on Dooley’s comments but did not hear back by publication time. 

We also contacted the producers of the docuseries for their response, but they did not reply.

Pastor Phil Dooley Speaks at Hillsong:

Discovery Plus last week announced the date of its docuseries Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed and released a trailer now available on YouTube.

According to a press release, Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed features interviews with three women who worked with or knew disgraced former Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz, commenting on personal character and church culture issues. One of them, fashion designer Ranin Karim, reportedly had an affair with Lentz. 

Another woman featured in the docuseries is Janice Legata, an artist and communicator who was part of Lentz’s church launch team. In a podcast with The Roys Report, Legata spoke out about the “toxic culture” she observed.

The docuseries, which has not yet been screened, is reportedly based on a series of articles by New York Post reporter Hannah Frishberg with analysis from her and Christian megachurch analyst Ben Kirby (known for investigative project PreachersNSneakers). Other participants have yet to be announced.

Official trailer of Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed:

The docuseries on Discovery Plus is the latest of several Hillsong TV exposés either in production or recently released. The BBC premiered Hillsong Church: God Goes Viral last July, and 60 Minutes Australia aired their own investigation two months later. Another Hillsong docuseries from Scout Productions has yet to release.

Since late 2020, Hillsong has been facing a steady stream of scandals. That November, Carl Lentz, former pastor of Hillsong NYC, was fired and confessed that he was unfaithful in his marriage. Months later, Hillsong announced it was closing its Dallas, Texas, campus, following reports that the previous pastors there used donations to fund their lavish lifestyle. Soon afterwards, Darnell Barrett, a pastor for Hillsong East Coast, resigned after sharing revealing photos of himself on Instagram.

Dooley concluded his sermon Sunday noting that he has been part of Hillsong for over 30 years and saying, “Our church is not perfect, and it’s never claimed to be.”

“But our church is full of good people doing their best to love Jesus and follow him . . . To pursue their dreams and love and serve others, and have a little fun along the way, because that’s okay as well, guys.”

This story has been corrected to accurately state details regarding Ranin Karim.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.

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10 thoughts on “Hillsong Accuses Producers of Upcoming Exposé of Aiming to ‘Hurt the Church’”

  1. Mellisa Fernandez

    I’m so disappointed in the Assemblies of God churches. As a former member of one in California, it is hurtful that so many are mired in scandal and sexual abuse issues. Ours was wonderful. Our entire region was so supportive. I hope and pray there are no predators or abusers. But one just never knows. So sad. I only left our church because we moved and are now involved in a different denomination.

  2. The wolves will never stop howling! They defend their sin, debauchery, their filthy lucre money the Bible says, their damnable doctrines, their secret fornications and their countless blasphemies! Leading millions straight to hell where the “spirits” they bow to use them to fulfill the Will of Satan himself

    God is exposing them and they hate the True Light that exposes the false light of hell and damnation found in the synagogue of Satan called Hillsong!

    1. I don’t have my copy with me to go over specifics but this response is straight out of “When Narcissism Comes to Church.” This is a narcissistic system/organization at work. Look at all the good we’re doing… you don’t want to hinder how God is working, do you?..

  3. Emmitt Cornelius

    Hillsong, please, please stop waving the victim flag. The real victims here are the people who have been deceived, defrauded, and abused by Hillsong leaders on multiple occasions. If anyone is “hurting the church,” it’s clearly Hillsong.

  4. John 3:19 (ESV): “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

    Mr. Dooley, pleads , “a church full of good people doing their best to love Jesus and follow him . . . To pursue their dreams and love and serve others, and have a little fun along the way, because that’s okay as well”?

    What saith the scripture?, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” And, “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” Why, we might ask? Because, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    Hillsong, as part of the mega-church movement is clearly scandal-ridden, having multiple serious internal problems. Largely, their leaders lack any sense of accountability to God Almighty!

    If we look at Acts 29 and more recently, ARC, I’d Run away from all of them as far and as fast as I could. I’ve never seen such unbiblical theology and dysfunctional leadership at a scale like this in the Church.

  5. God is exposing and bringing those things hidden in darkness into the light as Jesus said would happen. I don’t agree with the people doing the docuseries on Discovery Plus. I can’t judge their heart’s motives but I believe it can only give more ammunition to those who already hate the Church. I wish that we as Christ followers would really believe God and His Word to do the convicting and exposing rather than turning to the world to do it. I do believe that evil matters outside of the Church do need to be exposed by secular media but leave the Church to God. We, the Church, need to pray more and seek Father for His justice, righteousness and mercy to come forth. Speak the truth in love.

    1. If the reporting in the docuseries is accurate and truthful, then what does it matter if it gives more ammunition to those who hate the church.

      Truth matters.

      Exposing darkness matters.

      Revealing hypocrisy matters.

      Shooting the messenger distracts from the real issue.

      To paraphrase Ann Lamont: If you want people to speak better of you, then perhaps you should have behaved better.

  6. Anyone who thinks that “Church should be cool” has never actually read the Gospels for themselves. Jesus was so uncool that the masses and the religious authorities of the day wanted to see him dead! This is so obvious that you have to be very willingly ignorant to be deceived otherwise. The reality is that Jesus is standing outside his rich church today waiting to be let in. The real Jesus is still in exile today in religious circles. They would willingly kill Him again if they could. He competes with their false doctrines and what they so boldly promote. There is nothing cool or popular about the real Jesus. He is stone that make men stumble and a rock that makes them fall.

    1. “The reality is that Jesus is standing outside his rich church today waiting to be let in.”

      I remember one church we attended years ago that would fit in the category of megachurch. When we were there, the pastor decided the church needed a new sanctuary which would cost several million dollars. The old sanctuary was fine but dated. It could have been updated, but a monument needed to be erected. Naturally, church members were expected to get on board and do their part.

      Once completed, the new sanctuary was quite something. Expensive chandeliers and other fine appointments were all part of finish. Had the millions been paid upfront, that would have been one thing. Instead the church was in debt for several years and even had traditionally missions offerings diverted to pay for a very large, expensive, extravagant and usually empty building.

  7. Maybe they are trying to hurt the church. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that whatever they decide to broadcast is accurate.

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