New details have emerged about Hillsong’s spending of members’ money, with Bobbie Houston dropping $8000 at Disneyland. See what else they spent money on.
Phil Dooley tells packed congregation that church will conduct an independent financial review.
Thousands of pages of Hillsong financial records have been uploaded this week to the Australian Parliament House website after they were painstakingly scanned.
The documents show a string of largesse using money donated by Hillsong members as part of their weekly tithes – 10 per cent of their income often before tax.
The Disneyland tickets were declared as “conference gifts, HOUSTON, Bobbie, completed 5/07/2016 DISNEYLAND TICKETS, Anaheim, $8687.77.”
Fancy dinners at Robert De Niro’s celebrity restaurant Nobu in Newport Beach, costing more than $2400 were charged to Brian Houston’s Hillsong Amex card.
Other documents tabled to parliament reveal Brian Houston was given a $30,000 cash gift in March 2020.
Mr Houston quit the church in March last year following an internal investigation into an “inappropriate” text message he sent in 2013 and knocking on the wrong hotel room door after a Hillsong event at the Pullman Hotel in Sydney’s Olympic Park.
Mr Houston has denied he quit over his actions, but claimed in a video statement that it was because of the board’s statements about his actions.
A $15,000 cash gift was listed for general manager George Aghajanian, while current global pastor Phil Dooley received a $2335 watch.
Mr Wilkie said in parliament that the Houston family visited a luxury resort in Cancun, Mexico during Sydney’s lockdown in 2021. He tabled the documents under parliamentary privilege in the wake of the Faith on Trial podcast, which has also uncovered more shocking revelations about the Hillsong megachurch.
LISTEN TO THE FAITH ON TRIAL PODCAST
Brian and Bobbie Houston were given special permission to leave Australia to travel overseas at a time when interstate borders were closed and families were not able to attend funerals of their loved ones because of Covid-19 restrictions.
David Elliott, who was New South Wales police Minister at the time, labelled Mr Houston an “ungrateful twat” for leaving the country.
The documents reveal that Mr and Mrs Houston and their sons Ben and Joel were staying at the Fairmont Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen.
“Fairmont Mayakoba’s 401 guest rooms (including 34 suites) lie nestled in a tropical forest surrounded by the calm, ever-present waters of lush lagoons, while some private suites stretch out to a pristine white beach,” the hotel’s website states.
The hotel includes a Greg Norman designed golf course and five restaurants including the Tauro Steakhouse, La Cantina and La Laguna where tables are nestled on decks out on the water.
Mr Houston has hit out at the disclosure in a series of posts on Twitter this week.
“Bobbie has neither bought, owned, or worn a Cartier watch in the past 25 years. It is just another lie told under parliamentary privilege. She never has AND NEVER WOULD buy a watch for herself with church finances. Yet another falsehood,” Mr Houston wrote.
He also claimed that the trip to the luxury hotel was a business meeting, not a family holiday.
“The facts are there was a global strategy meeting in Mexico which involved senior team members from South America, USA, Europe, Australia, and South Africa. At the time Bobbie and I were based in the USA for a few months and a flight to Cancun from Dallas is less than 2 hrs,” he added.
Mr Houston also denied he had oversight of the budgets at Hillsong, a church he founded and led for almost 40 years.
“The management of all budgets, spending, and expenditure is entrusted by the board, to the General Manager, George Aghajanian with his administrative team, and he is accountable to the board to oversee all financial matters appropriately,” he wrote.
Hillsong was contacted about the spending on the Disneyland tickets but did not respond before deadline.