Houston bends knee to critics and media (Part 1): Lateline

If there is anything Brian Houston of Hillsong hates, it is anyone who criticises him. If they are Christians, they are “Pharisees” and “evil people”. If it’s the media, it’s demonic, anti-Christian and not of God. Again, Brian Houston espouses to his followers that people should not listen or engage with “critics”. According to Houston, these “haters” are out to stunt your potential and growth.

This series of articles will observe how Brian Houston went against his own teachings and decided to act according to the public criticism over Mark Driscoll the last week.

The Australian ABC Lateline reports,

Disgraced US mega-church pastor Australia bound

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Last year American pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from the evangelical mega-church he’d built after staff protests, allegations of bullying, and a history of degrading comments about women. Now he’s planning a comeback, and will be speaking at Australia’s biggest Christian event later this month – the Hillsong conference. Julia Baird reports on the campaign to stop him appearing.

Transcript

STEVE CANNANE, PRESENTER: The Christian faith preaches forgiveness and the possibility of redemption.

But what if the man who once led the sermon is the one asking for a second chance.

Last year the American pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from the mega church he’d built after staff protests, allegations of bullying and a history of degrading comments about women.

Now he’s planning a comeback but there’s a campaign to stop him appearing at Australia’s biggest Christian event later this month, the Hillsong conference.

Julia Baird has the story.

MARK DRISCOLL, PASTOR: We launched five years ago with a small community group in the heart of downtown Seattle.

JULIA BAIRD, REPORTER: The Mars Hill congregation in Seattle was one of the fastest growing Evangelical mega churches in America.

It spread to 15 locations in five States with 15,000 members.

And its founder became a celebrity and a New York Times best seller.

MARK DRISCOLL: Death, hell. The wrath of God…

JULIA BAIRD: Mark Driscoll was young, hip and provocative.

JIM HENDERSON, FORMER SEATTLE PASTOR AND AUTHOR: Just a young person as auteur and speaker he was gifted.
And then secondly, in the city of Seattle which is considered one of the most unchurched cities in the United States, quite Liberal, someone came in to offer an alternative approach to religion that was certainly not seen here, particularly in the package that it was provided in sort of the young hipster.

So he brought a black and white message in a leather jacket and jeans.

MARK DRISCOLL: I swear to you, I keep waiting to go to the mall and just- I’m waiting for the day when guys are in strollers.

JULIA BAIRD: He became famous for what was called the testosterone gospel. He told men to man up and women to focus on serving men.

MARK DRISCOLL: Within marriage, the man is the covenant head.

JULIA BAIRD: But as his star rose, the voices of his critics grew louder.

SIMON SMART, DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR PUBLIC CHRISTIANITY: He’s had to apologise many times for things that he’s said. And there’s no doubt that within Mark’s kind of way of teaching and preaching, he had a very particular kind of vision of what it means to be male and female and you know, frankly, it just, it was in some cases quite offensive.

JULIA BAIRD: Driscoll was known for his aggressive style.

MARK DRISCOLL: How dare you! Who in the hell do you think you are!

JULIA BAIRD: And he was also known for provocative statements denigrating women.

MARK DRISCOLL: Knowing that his penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.

Proverbs talks about certain women- they’re like a dripping faucet. You ever tried to sleep with a dripping faucet? Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk. It’s what we used to torture people who are prisoners of war. A wife is like that.

JULIA BAIRD: Driscoll was forced to apologise for his remarks but he soon faced other allegations, including misuse of church funds, plagiarism and verbally abusive behaviour.

MARK DRISCOLL: In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.

JULIA BAIRD: After dozens of staff resignations an internal church review found him guilty of arrogance, bullying and an unhealthy ego.

In October 2014 he resigned.

Now people are asking why this disgraced pastor has been invited to arguably the most influential annual religious gathering in Australia.

The Hillsong conference, where he’ll be interviewed by the founder of Hillsong, Brian Houston.

BENJAMIN ADY, PROTESTER AND FORMER SEATTLE RESIDENT: I’m really shocked that Hillsong is putting him on stage.

Because Hillsong obviously has a much, you know, much better reputation than that with regards to women especially.

They’re giving him a voice in front of 20,000 people and none of his victims are being given a voice by Hillsong.

I have a good friend in Seattle, Jen, oh my God, I shouldn’t talk about this, because I’m going to start crying, she was hurt so badly.

She had a small- she was a member of Mars Hill church. She had a small disagreement, I don’t know small- she had a disagreement with Mark Driscoll.

She said to him, “I disagree with you.”

He published an open letter to the whole church, and written to her husband saying if you don’t get your wife to shut up, I will.

MEGAN ANN JONES ADY, PROTESTER AND FORMER SEATTLE RESIDENT: I feel passionately about the fact that women are very vulnerable to abusive words and abusive leadership in the church and I believe the church has a responsibility to have a voice for women of compassion and empowerment and healing and not a voice of further abuse.

JULIA BAIRD: The conference is usually attended by the country’s most powerful politicians and 30,000 people came last year. So why has Mark Driscoll been invited?

JOEL A’BELL, LEAD PASTOR, HILLSONG CHURCH: Look, it’s obvious Mark has had some opinions and comments and thoughts and maybe even some long-held beliefs about women and the value of women and we could not be any different.

We believe in women in ministry, we believe in women succeeding in society, we couldn’t think of anything better than women being able to succeed and be involved and this interview at conference, tiny little bit of a large conference is really going to be about the mistakes you have made in the past, Mark and the life lessons that we can learn together because you should not have had those views, should not have thought those things and it’s hurt people but how do we move forward together and learn from your mistakes.

JULIA BAIRD: But Driscoll’s critics think it is too early and inviting means condoning.

JIM HENDERSON: Hillsong is in the world- the Christian world the public world what’s called a cultural elite.

They have an incredible amount of influence, media awareness, savvy and yes, when they provide you that stage next to Brian Houston and you sit next to him in that spotlight on that stage you’re sitting in one of the most expensive pieces of religious real estate in the world currently.

And so the fact, just the fact that they’re in his presence and they’re endorsing Driscoll and basically saying we’re cheering you on hoping you make a comeback.

BENJAMIN ADY: Hillsong cannot distance themselves from Mark Driscoll’s views and simultaneously put him on stage. That’s not possible.

MEGAN ANN JONES ADY: What I want to say to the women of Hillsong who are walking past me right now, is that you are a wonderful, valuable, worthwhile intelligent woman.

And it’s not the voice of Jesus or the voice of the Bible when people in the church say, such as Mark Driscoll, when people say limit yourself, snip your wings, don’t be all that you could be.

SIMON SMART: Within Christianity, of course there is always the possibility of forgiveness, repentance, restoration, that type of thing.

That’s open to everyone regardless of who they are and what they’ve done, that’s for sure.

It’s a much more serious thing though when you think about the role of the pastor, which is really a weighty responsibility.

The Bible presents it as a kind of grave responsibility.

That’s because, of course, there is a great potential to do a lot of good, to influence lots of people, but also the potential to do a lot of harm.

And so usually when it comes to particularly big, you know falls from grace, when it comes to a pastor, there is absolutely forgiveness, there is also the possibility usually of some sort of restoration, perhaps to a position like that. But it’s normally a long road back and rightly so.

Source: Reported by Julia Baird, Disgraced US mega-church pastor Australia bound, Lateline, http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4250054.htm, Broadcast 05/06/2015. (Accessed 07/06/2015.)

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