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February 15, 2019

UPDATED: Pastor Brian Houston Responds to Church Clarity's Statement on Hillsong's "Inclusion" Claims

Church Clarity Team

UPDATE: Monday February 18th 2:17pm PST

He blocked us on Twitter. That was his response to our questions.

To Clarify, we have not received a written response from Pastor Brian Houston to our request for simple policy disclosure. But our team noticed that he had blocked us on twitter over the weekend. Needless to say, this is the opposite of clarity.

ORIGINAL POST:

Yesterday, Hillsong Church issued a statement entitled “Hillsong Church Loves ALL People.” In an attempt to correct recent media reporting that they are “anti-LGBTQ,” Hillsong stated: “We are an inclusive Christian church that loves, values and welcomes all people, regardless of their background, ethnicity, beliefs, values, or personal identity.”

We aren’t here to litigate whether Hillsong Church truly “loves all people.” We do want to clarify that this statement is carefully worded in such a way that makes it highly likely to mislead the average person to assume  that LGBTQ people can fully participate in the life and liturgy of the church without any restrictions.

Let’s review the facts:

On August 2017, Hillsong released a statement on its website urging people to vote against legalizing same-sex marriage in Australia. Brian Houston, a senior pastor, wrote, “Changing the definition of marriage has wide-reaching ramifications and should not be taken lightly by any society...I believe God’s word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Two years earlier in 2015, Hillsong NYC asked a couple to step down from leadership roles because they were gay.

Yesterday’s statement is in stark contrast with these publicly verifiable facts. It cleverly frames the discussion in a way that limits the scope of inquiry exclusively to preaching (“Hillsong Church does not preach against anyone or any group”) and whether people are allowed to attend Sunday services (“We are an inclusive Christian church that loves, values and welcomes all people”). In other words, they answer questions that no one is really asking. This deliberately omits critical information about the realities of their actively enforced policies around who can lead, who can get married, and so on.

The omission of these facts is the actual problem we are interested in addressing.

Such extraordinary measures taken by church leaders is not only misleading to the public, it is an irresponsible stewardship of pastoral duty. It dangerously encourages people, who assume the best of those in spiritual authority, to engage with churches like Hillsong from a place of vulnerability because they do not have full information about church policies. We stand with the countless individuals who have been harmed by such blatantly ambiguous practices and we reaffirm our score for Hillsong Church as Unclear: Non-Affirming.

We call on Pastor Brian Houston and the leadership of Hillsong Church to clarify the confusing statement released yesterday. Specifically, by publicly disclosing simple YES or NO answers to policy questions. These questions were previously sent to Hillsong Church (formally via email by our team, and repeatedly online by our advocates)  in an effort to set proper expectations for the public and the broader Christian community:

Will Hillsong Church currently hire LGBTQ+ people for any ministry role?

Will Hillsong Church currently officiate a wedding for LGBTQ+ people?

Will Hillsong Church currently ordain LGBTQ+ people?  

We look forward to Hillsong Church living up to their declaration that they “adhere to mainstream biblical values” which would no doubt include one of Jesus’ clearest teachings to “let your yes be yes and your no be no.”

-Church Clarity Leadership Team

(For more coverage of 'celebrity churches,' check out our four-part series).