Old questions about megachurch authority: New York Times dips into Hillsong sins

“I would argue that the history of Hillsong is also crucial, in that it offers yet another example of what happens when powerful church leaders cut their denominational ties and set up their own shops, complete with an education system, parachurch networks and handpicked clergy who thrive because of their ties to the Alpha Male at the top.”

(Terry Mattingly – Get Religion)  What brand of Christianity is offered at Hillsong Church?

Basically, it’s a slightly tamed version of evangelical Christianity, blended with Gen X pop-rock music, delivered by talented preachers with tattoos and ripped jeans. And then there are the celebrities who show up from time to time — which really helps create viral social-media stuff.

That’s the formula readers encounter in a must-read New York Times feature that ran the other day, when what was already an important story about evangelicals in the Big Apple gained the kind of editorial punch provided by sex, scandal and ties to Justin Bieber. Here’s the double-decker headline on this latest story by religion-beat pro Ruth Graham:

The Rise and Fall of Carl Lentz, the Celebrity Pastor of Hillsong Church

A charismatic pastor helped build a megachurch favored by star athletes and entertainers — until some temptations became too much to resist.

All of the glamour and celebrity details are important and valid. However, there is another angle of this story that is totally missing. The words “Assemblies of God” do not appear anywhere in this lengthy Times feature.

Truth is, Hillsong grew out of the Assemblies of God, an important Pentecostal and charismatic Christian flock with about 70 million members around the world. And why did Hillsong cut its ties to the Assemblies, other than a yearning for independence from denominational authorities and perhaps to erase a some bad memories?

Hold that thought, because we will come back to it. Here is a crucial chunk of summary material containing the important themes that provide the structure for this Times piece:  View article →


Carl Lentz scandal

Hillsong Church

Progressive “Christianity”

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