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if the church was not so depraved
... the world is discerning enough

I will never cease to be amazed at the extent to which the world is discerning enough to expose the sheer wickedness of the professing church.

You can criticise the media, and say that they just love a scandalous scoop, but at the end of the day, if the church was not so depraved, the media wouldn’t get the opportunity to expose it would they?

Once again, the “Napoleon and Josephine” of Australian AOG, Brian and Bobbie Houston, have made the gospel a by-word for infamy in the national press. The January 25th 2003 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald Magazine Good Week-end contains a brilliantly perceptive article by journalist Greg Bearup bearing the witty title The Lord’s Profits. The banner reads, “God wants you to be rich … Just ask Brian and Bobbie, spiritual leaders of the church where a needle is no obstacle to a camel.”

Showing justified indignation, the author opens with the statement, “Praise the Lord and pass the chequebook”. The article itself is rather long, so we have placed it on our CWM web pages (http://www.christian-witness.org/aog/hillsong3.html). But, just to give you a sample, here are some excerpts (parental caution is advised). Also included is a part where Bearup quotes from our own Philip Powell.


THE LORD’S PROFITS
By Greg Bearup

What we do know is that Houston wears a watch worth thousands of dollars, he owns an enormous house overlooking a bush valley, in a suburb of other enormous houses, at Glenhaven. He also owns a picturesque spread on the Hawkesbury River, near Windsor, just west of Sydney, gets paid handsomely to speak overseas and is a property developer — and he’s not ashamed of any of it.

“Look,” he says, “I can tell you that if I was in business, and held this sort of position, I would be earning three times as much. I don’t do it for the money.”

So, you couldn’t see Jesus running into Hillsong and overturning the cash registers, as he famously did with the money changers in the temple?

“Absolutely not,” he says. “Absolutely not. Because the spirit of those people was ... the house of God wasn’t even about God any more. It was about, you know, it had become a marketplace inside the temple — it wasn’t about Christian resources, resources that are helping people. It [the books and tapes and CDs] are not just about making money, it is about putting tools in people’s hands. [But] I have no problem if it makes a profit.”

So, what exactly is in those Christian resources? One particularly irresistible title is Bobbie’s three-tape boxed set Kingdom Women Love Sex ($22, also available on CD). In it, Bobbie explains why it is important for Christians to be good at “it”.

“We need to be good at sex ourselves so that if the world happens to come knocking we can tell the story of God in our lives,” Bobbie says, on the tape. “Without being lurid or untruthful — hello! — we can say [she whispers], ‘I have a great marriage and a great sex life’ - wink wink, nudge nudge. Yeah, truly.”

Bobbie also offers some practical advice. Fat is out.Do some exercise. “If I carry weight I feel like a retard ... How are you going to do anything to surprise your man when you need a hydraulic crane just to turn over in bed?” Have plastic surgery, if it makes you feel better and it is for the right reasons, and “girls, pelvic floor exercises — can you believe I am saying this? — you know, I have heard that orgasm is not as strong if you are really sloppy in that area”.

As Bobbie says, “When you are doing what is correct in God there is a protection over your life. Like — hello! — it is just there. So it is a very powerful thing. Amen. Yeah, fully.”

There have been some dramas in the House of Camelot in the past few years. Houston had to sack one of his senior preachers and good friends, Pat Mesiti, after it was revealed he’d been visiting prostitutes. And then Brian’s father, former minister Frank Houston, confessed to being a paedophile. Finding out his father had abused a child back in New Zealand was, Houston tells me, “like the jets flying into the twin towers of my soul”. It was, understandably, one of the hardest issues he has ever had to deal with.

“Basically I received a complaint, so I confronted my father and he admitted it.” Houston removed his father from all roles in the church, but did not contact police in New Zealand because the victim was old enough to do that himself. He said that he was candid with his congregation, although he has been criticised for not acting quickly enough.

“I told our church what had happened [several months after he found out], but as soon as I found out I told the elders of this church and the Assemblies of God,” Houston says. “To my congregation, when I told them, I used words like predator and sexual abuse and so on — I did not try to hide it.”

It is a matter that appears unlikely to go away, and Houston tells me that, since the initial allegation was made public, other alleged victims have come forward. Good Weekend understands that another alleged male victim of his father is “extremely unhappy” with his treatment by the church and is currently considering civil action. Bobbie says that the sexual abuse claims were the hardest thing her husband has ever had to confront.

“But the leader in him rose and I think that is what endeared the congregation to us. This issue is rampant through society and you don’t have to be Blind Willy to see that — sorry, blind Freddy, I always get my sayings wrong — but as a church we are dealing with those issues.”

Phillip Powell, the watchdog, says he doesn’t believe Brian Houston has dealt adequately with a whole range of issues within his church regarding regarding accountability, and says he will continue to monitor the work of Hillsong.“There are alarm bells and people need to ring them,” he says.

Okay – you get the drift. And for those of you who think we made this up, we didn’t. It really is that bad.
Evangelical?
From the online Charisma News Service comes the following story (http:// www.charismanews.com/online/ articledisplay.pl?ArticleID=7408):
Ted Haggard to Lead Evangelical Group
The charismatic pastor of Colorado’s largest Protestant church has been named president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Ted Haggard, who leads the 9,000-strong New Life Church in Colorado Springs, was appointed to the position earlier this month by a 16-member executive committee at the NAE’s annual convention in Minnesota.

“Ted Haggard will give evangelicals in the United States a positive and proactive leadership voice,” said Bill Hamel, president of the Evangelical Free Church of America and chairman of the NAE board. “His commitment to bringing evangelicals together for mission, prayer, and a united voice is a deeply held value that is acknowledged and known throughout the evangelical world.”

Haggard, 46, is the president of the World Prayer Centre, a strategic centre for worldwide evangelistic prayer, located at New Life Church. He also heads the World Prayer Team, a global, interactive prayer network powered by the Internet. His congregation is building a 12,000-seat facility near the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Haggard — who will serve part time — is the second charismatic to be appointed president by the NAE. Kevin Mannoia resigned in 2001 after board members turned against his plan to co-operate with groups affiliated with the more liberal National Council of Churches, the Associated Press reported. The Rev. Leith Anderson of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., succeeded Mannoia.

Haggard takes over from Anderson. The NAE’s constituency includes 51 conservative evangelical denominations with 43,000 congregations, individual churches from 27 other denominations and various parachurch ministries.

Our Australian readers may recognise the name – Ted Haggard was scheduled to speak at the April AOG Australia conference. So what sort of Evangelical is Haggard?

Haggard’s latest book is entitled Taking it to the Streets, which sounds like a heartening account of a powerful demonstration of the gospel’s power in a difficult neighbourhood… until of course you see the subtitle: How dynamic prayerwalking (sic!) changes lives and transforms cities.

“Dynamic prayer walking” eh? Of course, the word “dynamic” simply means “moving” (Oxford English Dictionary: Of or pertaining to force producing motion: often opposed to static.), so it is difficult to imagine any other kind of prayer walk – “Hey! Join me for a static prayer walk!” – now that would be different.

Then you notice that this book is published by Wagner Publications, the publishing enterprise of C. Peter Wagner. Hmm…

Since coming to the USA, I have been struck by the extent to which society over here is litigious – it seems that people just enjoy suing other people! So, in order to avoid an unnecessary legal entanglement with C. Peter Wagner et al., I shall limit myself to the following observation:

If Haggard and Wagner are “evangelical”, then somewhere, somehow, without us noticing, the definition “evangelical” has been radically altered.

I wonder – am I an “evangelical”?

Just in case you are getting depressed, I thought I would cheer you up with the latest estimate of Benny Hinn’s annual income from “ministry”.

From the web pages of the Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements (http:/ /www.rickross.com/reference/hinn/ hinn22.html) comes the news that Benny Hinn’s total annual income has increased dramatically from US$50 million in 1997 to the latest estimates - which Hinn says are inaccurate - of more than US$100 million a year. Because the ministry is registered as a church, the money is tax free and there is no legal obligation to make its books public.

Again, as things are so litigious over here, all of us at CWM want to say that he deserves every penny!
[And as Homer Simpson would say, “In case you didn’t notice, I was being sarcastic!”]
—SB

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-Last revised-Wednesday, November 16, 2005