Hillsong Phoenix ‘heartbroken’ pastor says church will separate from global network
Dominos continue to fall across the world for Australia’s Hillsong Church, the network of congregations hard hit by the recent scandals. As Church officials reported Monday, Hillsong Atlanta dissolves and becomes a new church. Now Hillsong Phoenix has revealed that it is splitting from the mega-church denomination.
On Sunday, Hillsong Phoenix Senior Pastor Terry Crist, who started the congregation in 2016 with his wife, Pastor Judith Crist, informed congregants of the decision. On Twitter, Terry Christ posted a link to Sunday’s sermon, calling it “the best attempt to lead our church well and provide context for our community.” He asked praysaying, “It was a difficult and heartbreaking time, and many are processing the pain.”
Hillsong Phoenix pastor Terry Crist calls for investigation
Hillsong Phoenix move comes less than a week after Hillsong founder Brian Houston resigned as Global Senior Pastor. Houston faces misconduct complaints, as do pastors in Hillsong in New York and Hillsong Dallas (which is now closed).
Crist cites “many reasons” behind the split, but “chief among them is our loss of faith in the global board to continue to lead us as a congregation.” He calls for Hillsong Church to investigate the conduct of its board members and then publish the findings.
Insufficient accountability and transparency have contributed to Crist’s recent feuds with Hillsong’s global board, he says. When he urged members to release an earlier report, with names redacted to protect victims’ privacy, “that request was denied,” he said. Then when the details start to leak, “the lead pastors were suddenly asked to sign NDAs and non-competitions,” adds Crist, and “some of us couldn’t do it in good conscience.
Before becoming Hillsong Phoenix, the Arizona congregation was called City of Grace. As part of their 2016 deal with Hillsong, the Crists retained the option to part ways with the denomination if Houston’s leadership ended. Thus, Hillsong Phoenix has now officially requested the release of the church “to us”.
The choice to part ways has left Crist “heartbroken”, he says, including for anyone victimized at Hillsong churches and for people who left the church or staff “for various reasons”.
‘We have to get it right,’ says Pastor Terry Crist
In Sunday’s sermon, Crist pointed to sin as the reason for Hillsong’s current mess, which he describes as a multilevel crisis of morality, integrity, biblical governance and leadership in general.