Sunday 3 April 2022

The Hillsong controversy and resignation

Conduct with consequence

I would hate to stand in judgement on the conduct or abilities of another person. Yet in the lives of others, there are lessons we learn by example or the absence of the same to become better people. A few weeks ago, the Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church resigned from the church hierarchy that the church alluded to be certain breaches of the pastoral code of conduct in the last decade.

The two issues investigated together from almost a decade ago and in 2019 were serious enough to require that the co-founder with his wife of Hillsong Church from 1983 resign his commission. Apparently, Pastor Brian Houston in the first instance sent inappropriate messages to a woman who was not his wife, in the second instance, he visited the room of another woman and spent some time in her company.

Medication taking the blame

One should not speculate on what might have happened, but it is obvious that there were lapses in the judgement and definitely questionable conduct on the part of a high-profile religious leader. However, what does not sit well with me are the reasons given for these lapses in judgement; a dependency on sleeping pills and apparent disorientation as a result of the consumption of antianxiety medication combined with alcohol.

Why a man of God cannot sleep or needs to be on anti-anxiety medication that he ingested beyond the prescribed dose along with alcohol during a major global church conference is one might have to ponder and is open to conjecture, much as it speaks to the inadequacies and frailty of our humanity, regardless of position or status.

Owning up to our actions

Yet, we should be honest and ready to own up to our indiscretions, mistakes, errors of judgement, or irresponsible actions, whether sober or inebriated. To absent ourselves from consequence for our actions by reason of diminished responsibility or mental incapacity brought on by what we have consciously done is at best cowardly, if not dishonest, but let us not jump to conclusions.

For a church leader in the evangelical and Pentecostal circles to vacillate and dissemble when much of their core teaching is on leadership is quite unfortunate. I have given up friendships for what ex-friends have said about or to me in their drunken state because that is how they felt about me all along, the alcohol removed their inhibitions and sense of judgement or restraint to reveal what was in their hearts. To separate the man from the bottle or their addictions to excuse and overlook their actions, is to suggest all agency is lost when under the influence.

Admitting to our own faults

We might well excuse drunk drivers who cause accidents by their carelessness, maybe even gun owners for shootings because it was the gun that killed rather than the person who pulled the trigger. No, we hold them responsible because as a society we expect people for face consequences for those actions.

Indeed, Pastor Brian Houston might well take the time to reflect on how his life’s work might court an ignominious exit and the far-reaching consequences of his actions. The loss of place or status is a great sanction, and there might be redemption with the passage of time, but a man, if he is to be called a man must stand up and face what they are responsible for whether under the influence or not.

The owning up to “I did this …” has not been fully admitted to, rather it is the sleeping pills, antianxiety medication, alcohol doing the heavy lifting, what we are hearing is a tendency to seek absolution by reason of rather than the clear admission of fault by the person. This is where we need to be, his actions might have been exacerbated by medication, but the real story is the action of the pastor, that is what he resigned for. It is a matter of character as much as it is of integrity.


Hillsong: An important message from the Hillsong Global Board

Blog: Hillsnog: How the scandals at Hillsong took root

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