A new report says that Hillsong Church operated an honorarium scheme that earmarked about $1 million in additional income annually for its celebrity preachers.
According to The Christian Post, Phil Dooley, the megachurch's global senior pastor, told parishioners last week that he was not part of any scheme. The report, however, named Dooley as a "small fry" participant.
"If mistakes were made, we will be upfront about them. We will not shy away from them. We will own them as a church," said Dooley, who noted that the church's finances were still undergoing a forensic audit by accounting firm Grant Thornton.
According to the report, some churches paid up to $100,000 in annual membership fees to be part of the Hillsong Family network, which allowed those churches to be part of a preaching circuit that hosted pastors.
Another part of the scheme included Hillsong Church collecting honorariums of up to $20,000 or more "for a couple of 30-minute sermons," the report, which was first made public by independent Australian Parliament member Andrew Wilkie in October 2022, said.
In essence, one megachurch pastor who is the founder of (sic) Chair from their own church (the host church), invites a founding celebrity pastor of another megachurch to speak at their church or event. For this, the host pays for business or first-class flights for the guest pastor, along with luxury accommodation, restaurant meals, gifts and green room comfort," the whistleblower, Independent Australian Parliament member Andrew Wilkie, explains.
"The icing on the cake is the payment of a generous honorarium (around $10k to $20k or more) to the visiting celebrity pastor to preach a couple of 30-minute sermons. In addition, the visiting pastor receives royalties from the sale of his or her resources at the church service or event. This arrangement is then reciprocated," Wilkie continues. "That is, the original celebrity preacher guest subsequently invites the celebrity pastor from the host church to come to their church or event to preach and offers all of the same benefits they had received."
Meanwhile, Dooley said he never received honorariums nor asked for any.
"I also want to be clear that in my role, I have no intention of being on this circuit, of being invited and traveling to speak at conferences so I can gain personally from this," he said.
Photo courtesy: ©Akira Hojo/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.