The Dangerous Legal Structures of Hillsong Church

(Photo: Hillsong founder Brian Houston in the documentary “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed”)

Jesus once told a parable about two different people constructing houses. One built on a foundation of stone and the other on sand. When the rains came the house built on sand collapsed. The foundation was critical for a lasting home. In the parable, the foundation represented the words of Jesus and obeying them.

In a similar manner Hillsong Church was constructed on a foundation of sand.

Australian pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston founded Hillsong in Australia and launched a bold strategy to plant churches internationally.

In 2010, the legal structure for Hillsong in the United States was being constructed. Attorney Stephen Lentz, father of Carl Lentz who would become Hillsong’s most popular American pastor, drew up the articles of incorporation for Hillsong Ministries USA, Inc. and used language common to many televangelist churches’ governing documents. Stephen Lentz wrote in Article 6, “The Corporation shall have no members.”

These words started appearing frequently in church corporation documents in the 1990s. In 1994, before Joel Osteen became pastor, Lakewood Church restated its articles of incorporation with the words “The corporation elects to have no members.”

The churches of televangelists Mike Murdock, Eddie Long and Creflo Dollar also adopted similar language. Ironically, the bylaws of Grace Community Church, pastored by well known Hillsong critic John MacArthur, use the exact same words as Hillsong Ministries USA: “The Corporation shall have no members.”

This odd phrase prevents church attendees from being “corporate members”, which means that church attendees have no voting rights in the church. Instead, key decision making is restricted to the church board of directors or church elders.

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Documentary Investigates Charismatic Hillsong Church

Trinity Foundation staff investigator Barry Bowen was interviewed for the new documentary Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed.

The three-episode documentary series focuses critical attention on the celebrity-driven church famous for its popular worship music and charismatic preachers Brian Houston and Carl Lentz.

Houston is currently facing a three-week court hearing in Australia. Houston has been accused of failing to report his father, deceased pastor Frank Houston, to authorities for sexually abusing children.

Former members illuminate the dark side of Hillsong by sharing their stories.

The documentary is viewable at the Discovery Network’s online streaming website Discovery+ . A free one-trial is available for people to sign up and view the documentary.

Barry explained how Hillsong registered churches in America as limited liability companies and acquired millions of dollars of real estate in Maricopa County, Arizona. More details about Hillsong’s governance model is found in our article The Dangerous Legal Structure of Hillsong Church.

One of our favorite activities at Trinity Foundation is assisting journalists and filmmakers in investigating abuses of religious organizations. So if you are a journalist and need help uncovering the paper trail of a pastor or priest, church or ministry, send us an email or call us.

Paula White Promotes Cult Leader Mrs. Moon

On December 5th, televangelist Paula White spoke at a prayer rally in South Korea on behalf of Hak Ja Han (better known as Mrs. Moon or True Mother), the widow of Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon.

In her opening remarks, White said, “What a great joy and honor it is to be here today giving honor to the distinguished faith leaders and to all those that are serving in capacity of religion and faith and making a tremendous difference. I am honored to participate in this historic interfaith prayer rally for the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula. I want to take a moment and honor, as well as encourage, Mother Moon for her great work as a spiritual leader who loves the LORD and seeks to carry out and to comfort the heart of God in all the areas of conflict in the world. She is truly a jewel from God.”

Before White spoke, a water ceremony for peace was held. The Unification Church has been observing this ritual since 1985.

Continue reading “Paula White Promotes Cult Leader Mrs. Moon”

Philippine Televangelist Charged With Sex Trafficking, Operated Church as Business

(Photo: Apollo Quiboloy is identified as the “Appointed Son of God” during a TV broadcast of his Sunday sermon.)

Apollo Quiboloy, the Philippines’ most popular televangelist (1.2 million followers on Facebook), was recently charged with sex trafficking.

The Associated Press reported, “The indictment accuses Quiboloy and others of recruiting women and girls, typically 12 to 25 years old, as ‘pastorals’ who cooked his meals, cleaned his houses, massaged him and traveled with him around the world. Some also had sex with Quiboloy on scheduled “night duty,” including some minors such as a 15-year-old girl, according to the indictment.”

Quiboloy has the support of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and might be found innocent of the charges.

Meanwhile, Quiboloy’s twisted theology and business practices should have served as warning signs, but discernment is lacking in the church today.

Continue reading “Philippine Televangelist Charged With Sex Trafficking, Operated Church as Business”

Pandora Papers Data Leak: Scandalous Catholic Order Discovered to Have $300 Million in Offshore Trusts

The Mexican Catholic religious order Legionaries of Christ (LOC) created financial trusts that are currently holding $300 million in assets following a sex scandal and a 2010 Vatican announcement it would seize the order’s assets, reports the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Three financial trusts with ties to the LOC were created in New Zealand. Their existence was discovered in a leak of financial records which has been named the Pandora Papers. The trusts invested in residential real estate.

“In statements to ICIJ, the Legion acknowledged it had set up one of the three trusts, but distanced itself from the other two, which held the majority of the funds designated for the Legion.”

When the ICIJ asked the LOC about disclosure of its assets, the ICIJ was told the “religious institutes do not have an obligation to send detailed information to the Vatican regarding their internal financial decisions or organization.”

The ICIJ organized the Pandora Papers project and recruited hundreds of journalists to examine almost 12 million records leaked from 14 offshore services firms. The ICIJ is describing the Pandora Papers as “The largest investigation in journalism history.” Continue reading “Pandora Papers Data Leak: Scandalous Catholic Order Discovered to Have $300 Million in Offshore Trusts”

Edir Macedo’s Church Accused of Money Laundering in Angola

Four of Universal Church of the Kingdom of God’s leaders have been indicted in Angola, Africa, for money laundering.

The Brazil-based church is exporting the prosperity gospel into Africa much like America’s televangelists.

Church founder Edir Macedo is the owner of Brazilian TV Network RecordTV and a bank. Macedo is copying the lifestyle of America’s most notorious televangelists by owning his own fleet of jets and a helicopter.

Revista Forum reported, “Macedo’s right-hand man and former artistic vice president of Rede Record, Bishop Honorilton Gonçalves da Costa, was indicted” along with “Angolan Bishop Antonio Pedro Correia da Silva, former president of the church in the country, and pastors Valdir de Sousa dos Santos and Fernando Henriques Teixeira.”

Money laundering accusations have plagued the church for more than a decade.

In 2020, Rio de Janeiro’s Public Prosecutor’s Office and Brazil’s Financial Activities Control Board accused church leaders of laundering $1 billion – i.e. using fake companies to pass funds through different accounts abroad and then returning them in the form of loans.

In 2008, Edir Macedo was arrested but not convicted of embezzling $2 billion which was allegedly laundered.

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Don’t be Conned by the Pay for Prayer Scam… Want your money back?

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Hey YOU,  If you are one of the close to 125,000 people who PAID for the “Christian Prayer Center” to pray for you between 2011 and 2015, PLEASE READ ON.  This fraudulent organization has been directed by the Washington State attorney general to give you your money back! However, you have less than 3 months to apply to get your money back.

The trusted magazine, Christianity Today, reported that their whole website and Facebook page was a big fat FAKE, it was a LIE…  The sites creator, Benjamon Rogovy pocketed over $7 million dollars.   Rogovy also targeted the entire Spanish Speaking world as well with his pay for prayer scam website, Oracion Cristiana.

The testimonials of healings were fake.   The impression that they had several pastors on staff to pray for you was a lie.  They had none.  Please read the Christianity Today article here.
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Yonggi Cho Church to be Audited

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On February 21st, 2014, Pastor Yonggi Cho was convicted of embezzling over $12M from his large Korean mega-church over a period of years. Now, the Korean authorities are set to audit the world’s largest church, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, based on suspicion that over $60 million dollars were embezzled by Pastor Cho and his associates. General account funds and money given for overseas missions were diverted as severance pay without approval from the church.  Read more about this from the Korea Times, here.

When Cho was convicted 2 and 1/2 year ago, journalist Lee Grady offered these important suggestions for church members and church leadership:

      1. Never build a cult of personality.
      2. Develop a culture of openness.
      3. Insist on financial transparency.
      4. Don’t build a family dynasty.
      5. Beware of creating a greed monster.
      6. Never tolerate a spirit of entitlement.”