Hillsong Church has become an official denomination today, withdrawing from the Australian Christian Churches (ACC).
In a letter addressed to the ACC network, Hillsong Senior Pastor Brian Houston announced the “global nature” of Hillsong Church had prompted the decision.
“… A global church with an Australian base” – Brian Houston
“We are now registered by the Australian Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, as a recognised denomination with the ability to credential pastors in our own right,” Houston wrote.
“As Hillsong Church has continued to grow, we no longer see ourselves as an Australian Church with a global footprint, but rather a global church with an Australian base – our global office now resides in the USA.
“Two thirds of the people attending Hillsong Church each weekend live in countries beyond Australia. We have pastoral staff in twenty-four nations around the world, representing 123 campuses and locations, with 263 different church services on any given weekend. We consider it to be “One House, with many rooms”.
“With that growing footprint in mind – it has become clear to us that we need to be able to credential our own pastors and restructure our church in a way that enables us to give due diligence to governance, risk, church health, safe church, and many other policies that are crucial to the future progress of Hillsong, globally.”
Wayne Alcorn, President of the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) has emailed its pastors saying: “Recently Hillsong Church advised its desire for a change in its relationship with the ACC. In a way, this can be likened to a child who has grown up and now has a larger life outside the family home.”
“The relationship between Hillsong Church and ACC is strong.” – Wayne Alcorn
“Hillsong Church now has more constituents and churches outside Australia than within, and as such, has announced its intention of establishing its own international denomination to credential their pastors, whilst remaining in Kingdom partnership with the ACC going forward.
“May I emphasise that the relationship between Hillsong Church and ACC is strong. The change in relationship has been facilitated by Hillsong’s global growth, rather than any disagreement.”
There are a few key factors that likely contributed to the change, however it is unlikely that Hillsong’s declaration of independence is due to doctrinal differences with the ACC. Hillsong has happily lived with the Australian Christian Churches statement of faith since its foundation, and its current Statements of Belief is very similar to the Australian ACC’s. As far as Eternity is aware there has been no major doctrinal issues raised by Hillsong within the ACC structure. Both ACC and Hillsong are orthodox, evangelical (in a broad sense) churches with a traditional Pentecostal doctrinal base.
Hillsong’s ‘Australian-ness’ has given it a great springboard to the world.
Other factors which might have contributed to the Hillsong announcement could be its approach, style and “Australian-ness”. Hillsong evolves quickly and has always maintained a fast-moving culture of growth and experimentation that is similar to a ‘start up’. Hillsong tries new things, is responsive and focusses on what grows churches and the kingdom of God.
The ACC, on the other hand, as a voluntary cooperation of autonomous churches, needs to consult widely and can not move as fast. This means there are observable cultural differences between Hillsong and other ACC churches.
Hillsong bears the marks of the land of its birth. Hillsong is pragmatic, flexible, concerned to experiment and grow. It has learned to connect with the wider community through its music. Its Australian-ness has given it a great springboard to the world.
Also, Hillsong is less “Pentecostal” than some other ACC churches. Pentecostal distinctives are less upfront in Hillsong than some other churches. This is not to say that Hillsong is anything other than a Pentecostal church; it still is. But Hillsong’s annual conference is an example of a movement that wants to serve the whole Christian church.