Before reading the article by Steve West, it is important to understand who Steve West is.
Steve studied for his Diploma in Christian Ministry at Hillsong International Leadership College in 2001 and 2002.
During that time he served in most ministry areas – kids, youth, carpark, sound, new Christians, offering collection and ushering. He worked closely with many leaders and gave virtually all his available time and money to the church, volunteering at all conferences in that time and spending an average of six to seven days a week at Hillsong Church. He progressed to an effective pastor position at an affiliated church and ran a local young adults ministry effectively for several years.
Read his earlier articles here to see where he is coming from in the below article:
Steve West writes the following. (Warning: rude language is used below in his article.) Observe how people treated him and his criticisms.
Post Article Discussion (FULL ARTICLE IN COMMENT LINK)
by Steve West on Monday, 26 July 2010 at 12:49 ·
So, the Telegraph article from Adam Shand (thanks mate, you did a great job and you were a pleasure to interact with) has been published.
And life goes on.
The online version is short, and hopefully the full version can be uploaded soon. For those who know me personally, I do have some copies of the paper if you’re bold enough to ask me for one.
In the printed version, there are two seperate two page spreads (4 pages in total). The first spread is similar in content to the online article. The second goes into more discussion and is the one that references me.
So let me describe me reaction from two perspectives; 1) emotionally and 2) rationally.
1. Emotionally, I must say it’s a cathartic release to be given something of a voice. I have spent years in a system where the pressure not to criticise is intense. It really staggers my mind that where there are reasons to have serious questions, hordes of people smother it over with “nowhere is perfect move on”. If there was childhood slavery in the suburb next to yours, would you shrug and say “nowhere is perfect, I don’t want to be a critic”. The example is extreme but the point remains. The irrationality of people telling me for years “shut up” takes its toll. My favourite messages are still those who said I am a tool of Satan, and another that said “I know for a fact you cannot worship the Christian God”. There were plenty more along these lines.
So it is therapeutic to have my voice heard at a higher level. It gives a sense that I am affirmed as not being a crazy person – that my perspective isn’t that of a fringe and lunatic ‘cynic’ with a ‘bitter spirit’. I’m just a normal guy who calls Bullshit on big organisations when I see it. I was given reason to call bullshit. I’m still waiting for any Hillsonger, be it a pastor I’ve met up with or a member, actually address my points. They still love playing the man and not the ball. It’s all up for people to see now.
2. The article demonstrates certain aspects of my case quite well. As I suspected, there is nothing illegal, but there are aspects that most decent folk would consider unethical.
Brian earns 300k, plus a slush fund for personal expenses from LMI of close to a million a year, plus use of LMI cars and properties. Someone might object to a preacher having all this – but the injustice that the article drives at is that all this is tax free. Brian is using laws designed to accomodate small religious congregations to live an essentially CEO lifestyle. If you cannot see why that is wrong, then I seriously question your understanding of how taxation works. You would object if the extremely wealthy paid no tax but the middle class paid almost 40% of their income. So here is a clergyman, his income derived from tithes and gifts of people seeking help in their life, living tax free.
It’s not illegal, but rather unethical.
Of course, I will never really be able to get over the simple fact that I was told the books were open, and they were not.
If you support Hillsong, you have to do some interesting mental gymnastics to explain to yourself how that is not Bullshit.
Why not just admit to yourself that Hillsong might not be all that you think it is? And then, look at church culture and practices. The culture that doesnt permit questions. The emphasis on giving that is far higher than other churches, and reached abusive heights of teaching that you are under a curse if you don’t tithe. Then you do the math.
As for me, the public has vindicated my voice. I spoke out for the sake of the public, I have been listened to. Now I can rest my case, and leave it to those more capable than I, and let the public be aware and informed.
PS. Joel a’bell did show some interest in meeting up, but remained tentative. I also had an offer to meet up with Chrishan, that I wasn’t able to follow up as I got overwhelmed. Chrishan had offered to meet up with me many years ago as well, but to be honest, I forgot about that. I’ve already met up with Hillsong pastors in the past, and to be honest, it doesn’t achieve much. They listen, but then are unable to confirm or deny my case about the money, and in the past never pursued it any further. So it becomes a fairly pointless exercise.
PPS. I’ve had an offer from Today Tonight. Not sure about that.
Source: Steve West, Post Article Discussion (FULL ARTICLE IN COMMENT LINK), http://www.facebook.com/notes/steve-west/post-article-discussion-full-article-in-comment-link/451266326927, 26/07/2010. (Accessed 18/11/2012.)
(Disclaimer: The views of Steve West do not necessarily represent our own personal views. We have decided to publish his articles so people may witness his journey out of Hillsong.)
NOTE: SCREEN GRAB WAS TAKEN ON THE 18/11/2012.