Over the weekend, 60 minutes Australia released a major exposé on Hillsong Church, shedding light on multiple allegations of sexual abuse and celebrity culture seen across its churches worldwide.
One woman, Anna Crenshaw, shared her story of abuse, alleging that she was assaulted by Hillsong worship leader Jason Mays, a married man. In 2018, she reported the assault to Hillsong Church, where May's father serves as the head of human resources.
Crenshaw, a former student at Hillsong College, claims that Hillsong promoted Mays instead of firing him. Additionally, Mays' wife was reportedly appointed as Crenshaw's leader.
Five months later, she told her father, pastor Ed Crenshaw, who leads Victory Church near Philadelphia, that Hillsong did not take immediate action against Mays. In turn, Pastor Crenshaw complained to Hillsong, leading the megachurch to finally report the assault to police.
"Everything is centered on trying to keep her story quiet for five months to try to obscure it, to try to minimize it, and to try to get Anna, I think, ultimately to drop it," Crenshaw told 60 Minutes.
As The Christian Post reported in April of this year, Crenshaw cut ties with Hillsong last September when they put Mays "back onto [the] stage for singing."
The second woman, who went by the alias of "Katherine," told 60 Minutes that she was raped by a fellow Hillsong member. Katherine, a former youth leader at Hillsong's Melbourne East campus, reported the rape in 2018 to a Hillsong pastor, who refused to take action.
"That's not for my ears to hear. You go sort that out with him (the perpetrator)," the pastor said, according to Katherine.
In 2019, Katherine left Hillsong Church and did not speak about the assault again until after she heard Crenshaw's story and posted her account to social media.
According to Crenshaw, it was only then that Hillsong would contact Katherine and express interest in the assault. In 2021, three years after the assault occurred, the global megachurch finally reported the assault to the police.
"They do not care at all about the fact that I was assaulted," Katherine argued. "They just care about who I'm going to tell or what I'm going to do about it and how that will affect them."
Boz Tchividjian, a lawyer and advocate for abuse survivors, also appeared on the 60 Minutes episode. In his segment, Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham, criticized Hillsong for consistently silencing or intimidating abuse victims.
In response to Crenshaw's claim that Hillsong mishandled her report of abuse, Tchividjian noted that the church hired a law firm that describes itself as "the most feared law firm in the world."
"What sex abuse survivor is going to feel comfortable participating in a process that's led by an organization that defines itself in that way?" he asked.
Additionally, Tchividjian criticized Hillsong's embrace of celebrity culture within the church.
"We've created a celebrity culture in the church," he said. "Pastors have become rock stars. Pastors oftentimes live—in these big churches—live better than most of the people in their congregation. And you create that culture inside of a church, that ultimately results in that pastor and those leaders becoming less and less accountable as those leaders become more and more insulated."
In a statement on Monday, Hillsong criticized the claims made on the 60 minutes exposé as "gutter journalism at its finest."
"Let us reiterate – Hillsong Church takes any claim of assault extremely seriously, and we allocate significant resources so that all can attend our services and events in a safe environment," it said.
Photo courtesy: ©AEJ Images/Sparrow Stock
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.