Hillsong defends decision to interview Mark Driscoll at their 2015 Conference

Update (9/6/15): Hillsong have released another statement over the weekend advising that Mark Driscoll will no longer be attending the Hillsong Conference in Australia or the UK. You can read the full statement here.

Hillsong have defended the decision to interview US author and pastor Mark Driscoll on the podium at this year’s Hillsong Conference in Australia and Europe.

This week, ABC’s Lateline and Fairfax media have run reports of Driscoll’s fall from grace in 2014, questioning (among other things) why the mega-church, which allows women pastors, would invite a man who has been severely criticised for his views on the place of women within the church and made many public statements deemed demeaning to women.

A petition on change.org has garnered over 1000 signatories in the past few days, asking Hillsong to remove Driscoll from the conference program. The petition was started by Natalie Collins in the United Kingdom and lists what Collins calls Driscoll’s “unethical and abusive behaviour” that led him to be censured by both his church and the wider Christian community.

Hillsong’s senior pastor, Brian Houston released a personal statement on Friday (5 June), saying he and Mark Driscoll stood “poles apart on women, their place in society, and their role in the Church” as does his leadership style. But, says Houston, he wants to hear from Driscoll on the lessons he has learned through his time of trial.

“I genuinely want to know! Did he really say those things? Does he believe those things? Does he have any regrets? Has he been misrepresented? What has he learned and what can we all learn? And where to from here?” says Houston.

“A lot has been said. There’s lessons to be learned. I’m looking forward to asking the questions and hearing from Mark directly. Will we agree afterwards or agree to disagree? Time will tell. I doubt we will agree on everything, but everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard… Mark will not be speaking at the conference. It’s an open interview with Mark and his wife Grace. Let’s see what he has to say.”

The Hillsong Conference will run in Sydney from 29 June to 3 July 2015.