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Two More Churches Split from Hillsong in Wake of Scandals

Two more leaders of Hillsong Church U.S. campuses have announced they’re taking their campuses in a different direction in the wake of founder Brian Houston being ousted by the church’s board for breaching its code of conduct. 

The Australian church has lost nine of its 16 American church campuses in the past two weeks, The New York Times reported.

Houston resigned March 23 after the Hillsong board released a statement saying they believed he had sent inappropriate text messages to a staff member and spent time in a woman’s hotel room. The board accepted the resignation.

He had been on leave of absence from his duties as senior pastor since January as he faced trial for allegedly failing to report sexual abuse by his late father, also a minister. 

Hillsong Phoenix Lead Pastor Terry Crist said in a Twitter post March 27 that he will withdraw his church from the Hillsong “global family,” adding, “I’m not going to use social media as a forum to process this decision,” and referring readers to a YouTube recording of his sermon announcing the move to his congregation. 

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Crist said his decision was prompted by a loss of confidence in the global board “to continue leading us as a congregation,” and that the board refused a request to allow Phoenix to continue to operate as a Hillsong campus under local governance. 

Sam Collier, pastor of Hillsong Atlanta, announced his break with the global church on Instagram, telling readers his reasoning was “probably not a secret to any of you” and announcing he would launch a new church, called Story Church, on Easter Sunday.  

“With all of the documentaries, scandals, articles, accusations and the church’s subsequent management of these attacks it’s become too difficult to lead and grow a young Church in this environment,” he said, while thanking the Houston family for their support and voicing his belief that the Hillsong “family” will “weather the storm.”

Collier, the first Black pastor of a Hillsong Church, launched the Atlanta location in June of last year just as scandals were breaking that led to resignations at Hillsong’s New York, New Jersey, and Dallas campuses.

Houston, a New Zealand native, founded Hillsong Church with his wife Bobbie in the suburbs of Sydney in 1983. The church at its peak had 30 locations around the world and an average global attendance of 150,000 weekly. 


Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.