Hillsong places a high value on fair and balanced journalism, and is committed to participating with credible journalists and news outlets, even in difficult circumstances. Hillsong Church is dedicated to transparency in its operations and is open to learning and improving whenever possible.
That is why it is a profound concern to consistently receive inquiries from reporters or outlets who are very clearly not interested in actual facts or reportable truths.
As one example, this week, multiple employees and every member of Hillsong Church’s board of directors has received a template inquiry from a reporter at The Daily Telegraph. While specific locations and values are unique to each recipient, and there have been some subtle differences, a common form of the email is as follows:
I hope this message finds you well.
I’m a reporter with the Daily Telegraph and I’m writing because the paper is looking into the finances of Hillsong and its directors and it’s come to my attention that you live in a smart [number of bedrooms or estimated value] home in [City].
I wanted to give you an opportunity to say whether you believe it’s fair that you live in an expensive property, potentially as a result of you earning a Hillsong salary and from the revenue of tithes from the congregation, when the church’s members sacrifice so much of their income to keep the church going?
I’d very much welcome your response by the morning.
You can message me here or call on [reporter’s telephone number].
Although some of the verbiage may differ slightly, in every instance the reporter insinuates that our directors and employees are living extravagent lifestyles off the donations of our constituents. This simply is not true.
With regard to Hillsong’s Board of Directors, each and every member serves in that capacity as a volunteer. Many of them are, in fact, highly successful business people or professionals in their own right. But they do not receive any remuneration from Hillsong for their wise counsel and service to Hillsong as directors, and often tithe generously to Hillsong on top of their volunteer service. Quite the opposite of what is being insinuated by this reporter.
As it relates to our employees, Hillsong has an independent remuneration committee made up exclusively of non-executive directors—again, all volunteers—who set and regularly review the salaries for Hillsong Church’s senior personnel in accordance with similarly situated positions and nonprofit organizations, in accordance with best practices. They also set the remuneration practices for all remaining personnel, which is then set by senior personnel.
Finally, Hillsong Church is also accountable to an external regulator with the Australian Charities Not-for-profits Commission (the “ACNC”) to whom our financials are provided each year.
Hillsong Church’s financials are audited annually and posted publicly. And its governance policy is public as well, including the fact that members of the Board of Directors receive no remuneration, and may be read here. In addition, Hillsong Church releases an annual report which is posted on its website voluntarily.
In addition to grossly exaggerating many of the home values in these inquiries (up to three times the actual value), the tone of each inquiry clearly indicates that this reporter is not interested in how compensation is structured or the financial safeguards Hillsong Church has in place to ensure that church funds are carefully stewarded.
While the reporter did submit an inquiry to Hillsong Church, she included an unreasonable four-hour deadline for comment. Given the span of international time zones of our global leadership, she surely knew that it would be impossible to respond.
Hillsong Church is always willing to participate in fair and ethical journalism. But when you see this level of reporting and journalistic malfeasance from The Daily Telegraph, and presumably others in the coming days who will forward the story without fact-checking, please know that the only information sought was a justification for an individual’s home from a reporter who confidently disregarded the most basic journalistic standards.
This type of “reporting” unfortunately isn’t news to us. Like many other organizations of faith, we have found that there is a far lower standard for reporting on our activities and the work done by our staff around the world.
That is why it is even more imperative that we support the efforts of ethical journalists and outlets that are committed to balanced reporting. We will continue to do so and we encourage you, as readers, to do the same.
//NOTE: This post may be updated in the future. We will indicate the date and time of any updates.