Mediawatch: C3 cops it from The Daily Telegraph

It’s no surprise that C3 – the locally grown Pentecostal network that, along with Hillsong, almost makes you think it takes a New Zealander to grow a new Aussie church – has copped a serve from The Daily Telegraph. After the media assault on Hillsong, it was only a matter of time.

‘The Tele’ does its best to compare the two Pentecostal networks, but admits it is too hard. What is odd is that it does not compare these churches with the larger, property-rich church networks.

Near Sydney’s northern beaches, Oxford Falls Grammar School is closely linked to the main C3 church over the road. The founder of both is Phil Pringle and the school has assets of $44, 354,074, according to The Telegraph. By comparison Shore School, the Anglican School in North Sydney, has assets of $543,127,337. In 2018 the assets of the Catholic Church in Australia were estimated at $30 billion.

The Telegraph calls C3 the “Kingdom of Cash”. It is a rather small kingdom, compared to churches with much larger asset bases, both in school properties  and church buildings.

One essential fact about Pentecostal Churches in Australia is that they are relatively light on property holdings. This is changing slowly – for example, with Hillsong’s purchase of Melbourne’s Festival Hall. But, in general, you have to go outside a big city CBD to come across a Pentecostal-church-owned meeting hall.

Perhaps, then, “Kingdom of Cash” relates to the giving or “tithing” at C3 churches in Australia.

Eternity was given an attendance figure for C3 (Australia ) of 61,000, in 2019. According to The Daily Telegraph, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) records C3’s receiving $37,780,000 “from its devotees since 2018”.

Let’s assume The Tele mean three years of giving. That equals gifts of $12,660,000 per year. Let’s make the fair assumption that only two thirds of attenders give. That means an average giving of $315 per year (based on the attendance figure provided to Eternity two years ago).

If The Tele meant $37,780,000 was given in one year –which possibly makes more sense – then $945 per year is given, on average.

The Daily Telegraph runs two side bars with its C3 coverage. One is about the Harris family and centres on a lack of fee relief at Oxford Falls Grammar for the daughter of a “pastor, motivational speaker and car salesman” who passed away. He apparently tithed (gave ten per cent). As churches often have a minority of attendees who give most – the 80-20 rule, where 80 per cent of income comes from 20 per cent of attenders – this is very credible. The sad story of the Harris family makes it even more likely that the majority give much less.

The other side bar is about a young gay student at the school who makes a claim of inappropriate therapy – a charge that the church denies, The Tele reports.