hillsong - out of tune?

By Derryn Hinch



The fastest growing church in Australia is Hillsong. The relatively new evangelical “feel good” modern church that attracts thousands of people to services every week.

They are doing so well, and the Hillsong song is being sung by so many people, that Hillsong is raking in millions of dollars. Some of it taxpayers’ money.

They are so awash with cash that Hillsong is currently buying  new premises in Sydney  costing $27 million. Twenty seven million. How can that be?

It is true that supporters of God’s newest Cheer Squad commit themselves to tithe one tenth of their salary to Hillsong. As I understand it that is ten per cent of your gross salary. And that sort of commercial commitment can fill a heckuva lot of collection plates.

And the church’s national standing has not been hurt by appearances of powerful politicians at church functions. People like Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello. A great photo opportunity for the church leaders to give Hillsong national cred.

And to loosen people’s purse strings when the tin shakers swing into action.

Hillsong has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars – possibly millions—of taxpayers money to fund various projects. Especially indigenous development programmes.  One branch of Hillsong is called Hillsong Emerge. They got more than $400,000 of your money to supposedly fund Aboriginal business start-up ventures. Despite all the money going in Hillsong Emerge, in one year, made only six  “micro-enterprise development” loans worth an average of $2800 deals each.

And yet there was plenty of money for other things. The Federal Government has admitted that $80,000 of the funds went o top up the salary of Hillsong Emerge’s chief  Leigh Coleman – even though he had very little to do with the project.

More than $80,000 of your money was  handed over by the Federal Government to  fit out its office in Redfern in Sydney. More than $300,000 went to pay the salaries of seven workers in Redfern.

Among the things that Mr. Coleman did in the refurbished offices was sell advertising at $2000 a pop for the Christian Business Directory.

Finally, belatedly the Government scrapped the programme. It also has now stripped Hillsong of funds for another Government-funded venture: more than $400,000 for community crime prevention. How did they squeeze all of these taxpayer funded grants in the first place?

Did it have anything to do with Hillsong mustering troops on behalf of the Liberal Party at election time?

After all their glad-handing and photo ops at Hillsong functions people like Howard and Costello have a lot to answer for.   

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

©Copyright Derryn Hinch 2006