Tanya Levin arrested at Hill$ong Conference

Pic:Daily Mail/Nine Network

 

 

The Sydney Morning Herald reports…

“An outspoken critic and former church member was arrested for trespassing at Hillsong’s national conference in Sydney Olympic Park on Tuesday.

Tanya Levin, 43, was banned by church management in 2005 from attending any Hillsong events or setting foot on Hillsong premises. 

But she assumed she was on safe ground when a reporter from Channel Nine’s A Current Affair invited her to be interviewed outside the Allphones Arena at Sydney Olympic Park while the megachurch’s conference took place inside.

During the interview Ms Levin was approached by two police officers who told her she was trespassing and would be fined if she did not move on.

“I had thought Sydney Olympic Park was public property and that’s why I agreed to go,” Ms Levin said.

“I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I have complied with Hillsong’s request to stay away for the last ten years,” she said.

Ms Levin moved to about 200 metres from the arena to an area she believed the officers had indicated and had a brief conversation with a young conferencegoer.

About 15 minutes later she was arrested for trespassing.

Ms Levin was escorted into the arena where she was interviewed by police and served with a banning notice for Sydney Olympic Park before being allowed to leave through the car park. 

“They said I crossed the perimeter, but there was no fence or barrier or anything,” she said. 

The officers were not attached to any specific local area command, but were user-pay officers contracted to patrol the conference site. 

Ms Levin wrote An Insider’s Story Of A Life In & Out Of Hillsong after becoming disillusioned with the multinational pentecostal church in 2001 and began asking questions about the church’s leadership and its ministry. 

But Hillsong said Ms Levin’s actions were “a cheap publicity stunt”.

In a statement to Fairfax Media, Hillsong alleged A Current Affair and Ms Levin were “harassing minors in an unethical manner” outside the conference. 

“The behaviour of A Current Affair is reprehensible and this pending story will be no more than a continuation of their anti-Christian agenda and hate,” the statement read.

Ms Levin denied her presence was a stunt.

“I don’t have a criminal record. I didn’t want to get arrested, and have to go to court,” she said.

“It’s very stressful when I know that the people I speak to who have been very badly treated by Hillsong are very distressed that a critic of the church would be arrested,” she said.

Hillsong banned Ms Levin in 2005 for causing “significant disruption” to its Colour Your World Women’s conference, according to a letter sent to Ms Levin by the church’s general manager George Aghajanian.

But Ms Levin said the only disruption she caused was to express her disgust at a fundraising tactic used by the church to a handful of delegates including a relative of Hillsong’s leadership.”

From http://www.smh.com.au/national/outspoken-hillsong-critic-arrested-for-trespass-at-sydney-conference-20150701-gi2sp1.html

 

Lucrative Love Offering Circuit on A Current Affair

 

news.com.au reports…

“It’s the mega-glitzy gospel church with an annual conference that attracts a massive following and a new pin-up boy in pop superstar Justin Bieber.

But, according to a scathing report, the mega-wealthy Hillsong church — which is currently holding its annual conference at Sydney’s Allphones Arenea — is a cynical marketing machine raking in millions.

Devoted Hillsong volunteers, A Current Affair claims, are being exploited by the gospel church’s wealthy pastors who force them to work thousands of hours while they rake in millions.

The unpaid volunteers are even told they will fail their Bible college studies unless they give up their free time and devote hours of free labour to the mega church, A Current Affair reported.

A former volunteer told ACA some of the volunteers were forced to work so hard and were under so much pressure that they fell sick.

Then there’s the practice of “love offerings” — donations given to the mega-wealthy international pastors who in Sydney to speak at the conference.

Parishioners are encouraged to dig deep, with some of the international pastors earning $30,000 to $40,000 speaking at two or three different services a day during the annual conference, investigative reporter Adam Shand told ACA.

“There are bags of cash, literally bags of cash within this love offering circuit,” Shand said.

“They walk out of this country with cash in their bags and it’s not declared. How much they take out we have no idea because they don’t tell us.”

The damning investigation also claimed that Hillsong is similar to the Church of Scientology and was more “like a cult than a proper religion”.

Hillsong’s leader, Pastor Brian Houston — described by ACA as a one-man publishing empire — is living a life of luxury with his family, raking in millions tax-free while his parishioners fork out their hard-earned cash, the report said.

One parishioner at the week-long annual conference in Sydney told ACA she had “given thousands”.

Another man told Channel Nine he was prepared to hand over his hard-earned cash, saying “I haven’t given to Hillsong, I’ve given to God.”

One mother-of-eight on Centrelink benefits said she donated part of her welfare payments on a fortnightly basis.

“I usually tithe every fortnight on my Centrelink benefit — that’s my income. Yeah, so I’ve always tithed,” she said.

Former Hillsong member Tanya Levin’s book People in Glass Houses: An Insider’s Story of a Life in and out of Hillsong — an expose of life inside the church — has recently been re-released.

She told ACA Justin Bieber’s new role as Hillsong pin-up boy — the star is currently in Sydney for the conference — would be “a dream come true” for Pastor Brian Houston.

“Hillsong Church has never really claimed to be much about the poor,” she said. “They’ve really only ever claimed spreading their gospel, to be about their version of the gospel, to do that they need a lot of money.”

From http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/hillsong-church-volunteers-being-exploited-a-current-affair-report-claims/story-fnq2o7dd-1227424130178

Mark Driscoll Hill$ong Conference interview

 

Listen to Mark Driscoll interview

 

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports…

“Ex-Mars Hill Church senior pastor Mark Driscoll, bounced from the agenda of a mega-church conference last month, instead showed up on tape to acknowledge he has not always acted with “grace or with appropriateness.”

Driscoll had been slated to be interviewed on stage at the annual Hillsong conferences in Sydney, Australia, and London, but his scheduled appearance drew protests and was canceled.

Instead, without promotion, he appeared on a big screen at the Sydney conference with mega-church founder Brian Houston, and delivered what amounted to a measured, controlled contrition — or in a phrase made famous during the Watergate scandal, a “modified limited hangout.”

“I don’t believe that every day I was a combative, maybe a loud-mouthed person, but certainly, sadly, that was part of my ministry and I think that can be confusing for people.”

Driscoll built a congregation that started in his living room into a mega-church with “campuses” in five states and an estimated 13,000 weekly worshipers.

It all unraveled last year, amidst charges ranging from bullying to plagiarism. It culminated with an investigation by church elders, which substantiated charges of abusiveness, bullying, intimidation and unChristian behavior.  Driscoll resigned on Oct. 15, and Mars Hill Church announced its dissolution two weeks later.

Driscoll started making his comeback weeks after resigning. He has marketed sermons, and has popped up at mega-churches and conferences from Mill Creek, Wash., to Dallas-Fort Worth. He usually prefaces preaching by saying he would “rather talk about Jesus than me.”

But Driscoll did talk about “me” in his conversation with Houston.

“Some people have seen me primarily as a loving, gracious person and others have seen me as more short-tempered or careless with words, and harmful, and so that contributes to the confusion,” he said.

Driscoll was brought down, in part, by remarks he made years ago. Using a pseudonym, he referred to the United States as a “pussified nation.”

In a famous sermon on gender, he declared:  “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 different than you and makes a very nice home.”

Driscoll disavowed the bad old days in his conversation with Houston.

He is “horrified” when confronted with his past pronouncements, said Driscoll. “It is one of my greatest regrets in life.”

“I can’t read some of the things I said in text . . . I feel horrified that I shared some of this sentiment . .  . that perception of what I think about women is entirely my own fault, I have no one to blame but myself.”

“Looking back on that, that was not a healthy person working from a godly place.”

Driscoll was joined by his wife, Grace, for the interview. She told Houston that she has never thought of her spouse as a misogynist

Protests led to Driscoll’s appearance at Hillsong being canceled. But Houston joked, “Now that you’re not appearing at the conference we’ve had some delegates, not many but some, who wanted a refund because he wasn’t coming.”

Driscoll singled out for praise persons outside Mars Hill who reached out to support him after his resignation.

“The whole Bible is ultimately about the personal love of Jesus, and when it comes to salvation, it is the work that God does and we respond to that but we don’t participate in that,” he said.

Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor who reported the Mars Hill implosion in Patheos, commented Monday:

“At one point, Driscoll said those who have reached out in love have been those outside of his tribe. This seems like a real slap at his elders who reached out to him with a plan of restoration. However, as we now know, Driscoll resigned rather than respond favorably to his elders.”

“The problem with this,” Throckmorton added, “is that Driscoll said he wants not to be a divisive figure but he hasn’t reached out to the people where there is division. If one wants to be a person of peace, that person should try to make peace.”

Settling past accounts presents a challenge for a high-profile figure who is back in circulation and finds himself a sought-after draw.”

From http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2015/06/30/mark-driscoll-being-loud-mouthed-combative-was-part-of-my-ministry/

Joel Osteen heckled

 

The Washington Times reports…

“Six people were arrested after heckling Houston megachurch pastor and televangelist Joel Osteen while he was giving his sermon Sunday morning, police said.

Police said the six protesters are associated with The Church of Wells, in Wells, Texas. They were charged with criminal trespass after being escorted out of Lakewood Church by Mr. Osteen’s armed volunteer ushers, who are also law enforcement officials, a local CBS affiliate reported.

“He jumped up with his Bible and started screaming ‘Shame on you Joel, shame on you Joel,’ and Joel kind of just repeated scripture and they just escorted them out,” said Casey Eaglin, a member of Lakewood Church.

“I was terrified for a quick second there,” he added. “After the first guy, I thought, ‘Oh it’s just a random heckler,’ but then you start seeing the second, the third.

“For a second there I started thinking about the church shooting that happened and I was thinking, ‘Oh God, something bad is about to happen,’ but they were real quick,” Mr. Eaglin said of the ushers.

Anwar Richardson, who was visiting with his family from Austin, was also reminded of the Charleston church shootings.

“All I could think of is you don’t know what’s going on, and I just can’t wait to find out, so I’ve gotta get out of there,” he told a local ABC affiliate.

Another witness told ABC: “[Mr. Osteen] kept on going. He kept his composure. He really got the message out and he said, ‘no weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

Brian Houston claims church board is not afraid of him

 

Ian Dickson: “You’re the leader of a huge church that’s growing all the time .. and you have a lot of power. What keeps you honest and responsible?”

Brian Houston: “I’ve got a board that I answer to, a church board .. and they’re not afraid of me. They’re actually fantastic, and so in all seriousness, they are the ultimate decision-makers of the church.”

Ian Dickson: “Do they ever have to pull you into line?”

Brian Houston: “You know, I’ve got a pretty good relationship. I wouldn’t say they had to pull me into line but they do say ‘no’ sometimes.”

From https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-ydEtSk5Gs

 

“The Hillsong Board

Brian Houston – Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church

Nabi Saleh is Executive Chairman of Gloria Jean’s Coffees worldwide and Chairman of Praise International USA which operates It’s A Grind coffee houses. His drive, passion and belief in people coupled with his strong business acumen and godly wisdom have enabled him to sit on several boards for large, non-profit organisations.

George Aghajanian is General Manager and a director of Hillsong Church Australia and its international entities. Upon leaving university he entered the private sector where he gained extensive experience in management, customer service, sales and marketing. George possesses a wealth of senior management experience working with both Australian and international organisations, and brings a strong balance of faith and practical business application to his role. George is married to Margaret and they have four children.

Joel A’Bell is the Lead Pastor of Hillsong Australia alongside Senior Pastors Brian & Bobbie Houston. Joel is an innovative thinker, leader and communicator. He is passionate about building and growing the local church. His fresh leadership ideas and style have helped shape Hillsong’s flourishing multi-campus church. Joel is a team-focused leader dedicated to seeing all involved reach their full potential. He has been married to his best friend Julia for 20 years and is a dedicated father to Harmony & Eli.

Leigh Howard-Smith is the Director owner of a national logistics and transport business. He is a long-standing board member of Hillsong Church and brings a wealth of business acumen to that role. Leigh is married to Denise.

Grant Thomson (D Min (candidate), MA (Theology), MBA, Grad Cert Man) has been in Hillsong Church for over 25 years, in church leadership roles for over 20 years and full time ministry for over 10 years. Prior to full time ministry, a breadth of corporate experience in multiple industries and roles gives Grant a broad business perspective. Grant has been married for 18 years to the love of his life and has three incredible children.

Dane Gambrill is employed as a Client Executive of the Media & Entertainment industry at IBM, responsible for the relationship and business development of Australia’s largest publishing, broadcast and post production organisations. He is also the service pastor of Hillsong Hills Campus 4:30pm service, and a participant in Hillsong’s IT Steering committee. He has a number of technical and business related qualifications, most recently in direct marketing. Dane is married to Louise and they have three beautiful children.

Phillip Bradley Denton is an Executive Director of Hillscorp, a property development company, and is the director of several other property-related companies. In his past 25 years in the industry, he has gained a wealth of experience and skills in negotiation, sales and acquisitions, feasibilities and building relationships with joint-venture parties, clients and staff.

Dwayne Mark Nielsen (Registered Architect Qld, NSW; FAIA; Grad Dip Arch. QUT) is the CEO and a Director of Merrin and Cranston Architects. Whilst a Director of Merrin and Cranston, Dwayne was treasurer and a member of the management committee for The Practicing Architects Group in Queensland, which went on to become The Association of Consulting Architects. In this role he was appointed to the National advisory committee, which helped develop and negotiate the National Architects Award. Dwayne is married to Kym and has been involved in the management of the Brisbane campus for many years.

Don Cooper-Williams is a Senior Marketing Executive within the IT Industry. With both godly wisdom and management skills, he is a gifted communicator within the church and the corporate community.

Lalita Stables (nee Ari) BBus, Sys, is Enterprise Sales Manager at Google Australia, following a successful corporate career with IBM for 11 years. She holds a Business Computing/Marketing degree. In 2002 she initiated a business advisory practice, consulting to recruitment agencies and their senior candidates, specialising in presentation skills. A steering committee member for the Inaugural Women’s Build Habitat for Humanity Project in Sydney, Lalita also co-founded Oasis Africa Australia, raised awareness and funds to start a school for orphans and now supports over 1200 students as well as presenting regularly at fundraising and philanthropic events. Lalita has worked as a professional session singer for 15 years with a strong theatre background in singing and acting and performed on a professional basis within Australia and internationally.

Ben Houston and his wife Lucille are the Lead Pastors of Hillsong Los Angeles. Ben is passionate about God and the Church and has a real heart to see people find hope, life, and answers in Jesus Christ. He was previously the Extension Service Campus Pastor at Hillsong Australia, overseeing the Extensions Services located throughout New South Wales and Queensland. Ben is an avid lover of all sports and has made a great impact in local rugby teams in Sydney. Ben and Lucille have three beautiful daughters Savannah Winter, Lexi Milan & Bailey Love.”

From http://hillsong.com/leadership/board/

Gay marriage ruling backlash

 

Al Jazeera America reports…

“The Supreme Court ruled Friday that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, elating many Americans but setting off a firestorm of angry and disappointed public comments on conservative media outlets.

The Court’s 5-4 decision ruled that the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law means states cannot ban same-sex marriages — making such unions legal in all 50 states.

Conservative state officials and right-wing organizations immediately joined a furious chorus of opposition, taking a defiant tone and equating the court’s action with “tyranny.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican who is running for president in 2016, said the decision paves the way for an “all-out assault” on the religious freedom of Christians who disagree with same-sex marriage.

Another Republican presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, used language that invoked the Revolutionary War.

“I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat,” Huckabee said in a news release.

“This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions … The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity,” Huckabee said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, issued a statement vowing to defend the religious rights of his constituents who don’t agree with the decision.

“No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage,” Abbott said according to the Texas Tribune

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton went further, the Texas Tribune said, telling county clerks on Thursday not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until they receive further instructions from him.

“It is not acceptable that people of faith be exposed to such abuse,” Paxton said.

Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative lobbying organization, echoed the officials in a statement that read, “No court can overturn natural law.”

“Nature and Nature’s God, hailed by the signers of our Declaration of Independence as the very source of law, cannot be usurped by the edict of a court, even the United States Supreme Court,” FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement.

Many opponents of the ruling decried what they viewed as the disenfranchisement of 50 million voters who oppose same-sex marriage. They compared it to former divisive rulings by the nation’s top court.

“It is a lawless ruling that contravenes the decisions of over 50 million voters and their elected representatives,” Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said in a statement. “It is a decision that is reminiscent of other illegitimate Court rulings such as Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade and will further plunge the Supreme Court into disrepute.”

But the most vitriolic comments appeared online on conservative media outlets, where same-sex marriage opponents likened the Supreme Court justices to “jihadists.”

 

 

“Rainbow jihadists of SCOTUS blow up twin towers of truth and righteousness,” was the title of a post on the American Family Association (AMA) website by Brian Fischer, former spokesman of the AMA — a nonprofit organization that promotes fundamentalist Christian values.

“On July 26, 2015, I saw Satan dancing with delight. For this is the day the music died in the United States of America,” Fischer said.

“The homosexual lobby, the Gay Gestapo, has drawn an equivalency between support for natural marriage and racism. To oppose sexual deviancy is, in their twisted, contorted and devious thinking, no different than supporting slavery and segregation,” Fischer added.”

From http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/26/right-wing-conservatives-react-to-scotus-decision.html