This week saw some interesting footage on Nine’s ‘A Current Affair’ in which allegations were made against the earnings of the Hillsong Church in a segment called ‘Money Machine‘. This appalling show parades as a journalistic enterprise whilst typically sensationalising and misrepresenting many people and organisations with emotive language, self-righteous posturing and copious misrepresentations of fact.
Interviewing a disgruntled journalist, minister and former congregation member to present a slanted view devoid of objective balance and sprinkled with a mixture of truth and error, ACA chose to take the hypocritical stance of profiteering from a conviction, which is a crime they allege against the very church over which they stand in judgment. In effect, they also play judge, jury and executioner over every other church and religious organisation in Australia who benefit from the same laws that apply to Hillsong, irrespective of their effectiveness or size.
Careful observers would have noted that the ‘tithe’, or tenth of one’s income, given by members to the church (voluntarily, too) is mirrored by the church, giving ten per cent of its $55 million revenue, hence the $5.5 million in overseas aid. But there was little mention of the enormous amount of additional giving to local community work, counselling, not to mention the running expenses of such a large organisation. Hillsong are not unique in this regard. To meddle with the tax exempt laws that assist the operation of such churches (most of which run on very tight and small budgets) would see essential social services removed from the Australian community which would simply need funding elsewhere and would cost more, due to the high degree of volunteerism that operates in churches.
As for the personal benefits to Brian Houston, speculation that Hillsong exists to make him wealthy is an outrageous and unprovable presumption of motive. Of course, very few ministers have the capacity to earn anywhere near what he does, anyway, and most are happily underpaid because they are fundamentally called to serve others at cost to themselves. Any tax benefits merely assist churches to keep pace with salaries in other comparable industries. For a small handful to be thought of as the rule, rather than the exception, is to overlook the enormous and inestimable good done by churches in general, regardless of what some may think of individual examples.