The Hillsong Church (an Assembly of God church) in Sydney Australia founded by Brian and Bobby Houton in 1983 is one of the largest churches in Australia with over 20,000 attendees each week. It is famous for its Hillsong Music with more than 40 albums since 1992. Its Hillsong conference is held annually since 1986, growing from 150 to 30,000 delegates. Brian is the head of the AOG churches in Australia. Hillsong makes $50 million in revenue, pays no tax. Hillsong music is popular in charismatic and evangelical churches in Singapore. In playing Hillsong worship songs for praise and worship, are we indirectly supporting any anti-gay stance they may have, something which would not have been obvious by just attending a Hillsong conference alone. Compared to Singaporean Churches, Hillsong had has its own share of gay bashing, but it appears that they are being exposed and are now quieter on these issues:-.
1) Close association and funding of Mercy Ministries, an anti-gay association. Due to investigations into their practices, the link to Hillsong was removed in Jan 2009. The article "God's cure for gays lost in sin" in the Sydney Morning Herald, March 19, 2008 gives the background:-
When Mercy Ministries says it helps young women with "life-controlling issues", it means in part that it aims to teach them not to be lesbians. In line with the Hillsong Church's strict doctrines teaching that homosexuality is an affliction that can be cured, Mercy Ministries is keen to ensure there is no lesbianism under its roof.
"While I was there, we received much teaching on the evils of gay and lesbian lifestyles," said Naomi Johnson, who spent nine months in the ministry's Sydney house. As someone with no issues about her sexuality, she was perplexed by the ministry's continuing focus on the issue. "In particular, there was an ongoing teaching video series by Sy Rogers an 'ex-gay' - now reformed - married Christian," she said. Rogers - an American who conducts speaking tours on Christianity and sexuality- spoke at Hillsong Church's Sense and Sexuality Workshop in Sydney last September and is due to address its Colour Your World Conference next year. "Sy will bless you with his insights into identity and the heart," the Hillsong website says. "Happily, homosexuality can be turned around," Mr Rogers says in a clip of his show, Turnaround, on youtube.com. "Homosexuality is out of tune with religion; it is not what God planned for human sexuality."
The Herald asked Hillsong to explain its teachings on homosexuality. No response had been received last night. One former member of Hillsong, who held several "leadership positions" in the church, revealed that he was shunned when he disclosed his homosexuality. "The ostracising that occurred by fellow worshippers was severe," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "As soon as I came out my entire social network decided the best way to deal with the situation was to stop all communication with me.
Hillsong Church taught that the devil inspired people to act on homosexual desires, he said. "Hillsong believes that homosexuality is not normal and not a part of God's design for mankind - their belief is that it should be fixed and it's something that can be removed from someone's life." One option presented to the man was to force himself into a heterosexual relationship. In the meantime, he was removed from his leadership role in the church and isolated.
2) In the article "High Cost of Faith", News Limited, April 2006, it was reported, the story of Penny Davis, a lesbian.
The sentiment is echoed by theology student Penny Davis, who took years to rebuild her self-esteem after a shattering experience at Hillsong, which began in 1995 when she was just 20.
Just months after joining, she slept with a woman from the church - one who later confided about the liaison to a youth leader. Davis was immediately counselled that homosexuality was a sin. "I was just so vulnerable," Davis says simply. She was assigned a mentor, who claimed she had successfully corrected her own "dysfunctional" sexuality. They spoke at least once a week, when Davis had to confess any lesbian fantasies. The mentor also read Davis's diaries. After the "problem" persisted, she was put into an 18-week "ex-gay" program called Living Waters, then conducted at Hillsong.
Three years of counselling, sessions with a psychiatrist and group therapies failed, however. Davis resorted to grabbing joyful glances at a video of Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras while her flatmates were out, she laughs. "I started to subconsciously realise that this was not going to change … the shame and guilt were eating me up inside."
Davis decided her sexuality and spirituality could never be reconciled at Hillsong and made the momentous decision to leave. In response, her Hillsong friends sent a barrage of text messages quoting the Bible on the "sin" of homosexuality. She was kicked out of her house and then her friends froze her out, ignoring her emails and phone calls. "She's gone, we have restructured, there's no need to continue communicating with her" was the message sent to her Hillsong friends by church leaders, claims Davis.
Hillsong has not been making gays a major public platform and issue unlike many Singaporean Churches recently, so we may not have been supporting any anti-gay stance by buying their tapes. However, how much is a few dollars of loyalties per DVD, when many gay Christians are giving thousands in their tithes to mainstream churches in Singapore each month and giving excuses for their anti-gay stance?
The main question is about consistency. There are many gay christians attending mainstream churches in Singapore, which are part of the National Council of Churches, not because they feel welcome or fully accepted but because they find God in these places of worship. They continue to support with their tithes and offerings which in a way is giving direct resources for the church to come against the gay community. I am reminded of the Stockolm Syndrome where those who were kidnapped became overly attached to their kidnappers excusing them for the hideous crimes. This is also not entirely healthy in the long term to blame ourselves for being gay or feeling guilty of not attending the nation wide prayer meetings where they pray against gays. Our outwardly righteous stance cannot easily cover our self condemnation nor the self hate it projects. Let us channel our efforts to stand up for Christ in our Gay community and not defending the kidnappers of our soul.
Christianity should not be devoid of the community, family and tribe that God has put us in. We cannot live with an anti mainstream church approach, nor can we live alone hiding in an isolated closet in the mainstream churches. What is more important is standing up for our own gay community - which is the least and the most despised. What are we doing to proclaim God's love to the Gay Community is far more important than which church we attend or whether we support Hillsong. Taking the steps to be associated with the gay community, and find God's purpose and work there would be a sacrifice for many, but this may be where we would find our own life and purpose. Praying alone that we become less gay or feeling guilty that we are somehow against the churches would not help.
I like the old Hymn, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, because Jesus stood up for the outcasts, the despised and the rejected. In fact, this was His ministry platform in contrast to the rich, powerful, religious majorities in our society. Standing up for Jesus, means standing up for the Gay community as Jesus would have done if He was here today. This was the "Body of Christ" in the 1st century Christianity. So today, who are you standing up for? for Hillsong, for the City Harvest, the New Creation, the Methodist Churches, or for your very own Gay Christian tribe.
We should not be ashamed of being gay christians, we shoudn't be ashamed of how God has created us innately. If we don't stand up for Christ in the Gay community, we can't expect the straight Christian community or others to stand up for us. It is our duty as Gay Christians to be proud, and stand up for our own. Its time to get out of shame and be proud for Christ. Gays are also part of the body of Christ. When gay Christians see themselves as people of dignity and worth and beautifully created by God (and not as a sin nor a fallen nature), we will start the journey to stand up for Christ and be God's blessings and grace to the community and tribe that God has ordained for us to be in.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the solemn watchword hear;
If while ye sleep He suffers, away with shame and fear;
Where’er ye meet with evil, within you or without,
Charge for the God of battles, and put the foe to rout.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict, in this His glorious day.
Ye that are brave now serve Him against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, each soldier to his post,
Close up the broken column, and shout through all the host:
Make good the loss so heavy, in those that still remain,
And prove to all around you that death itself is gain.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle, the next the victor’s song.
To those who vanquish evil a crown of life shall be;
They with the King of Glory shall reign eternally.