Hillsong has announced an independent review of its financial structures after Australian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie accused the church of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion.
Mr Wilkie told the Australian Parliament that church donations were used “to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian”.
The MP used parliamentary privilege to make public thousands of pages of financial records provided by an unnamed whistleblower.
He accused the church of earning $80m dollars more each year than it declares, using honorariums to hide income, and “treating private jets like Ubers”.
He alleged that the church funded a $150,000 “three-day luxury retreat in Cancun, Mexico”, private jet flights for former senior pastor Brian Houston, and numerous business class flights for new senior pastor Phil Dooley.
Other expenses are alleged to include thousands of dollars’ worth of designer luggage and jewellery for Hillsong leaders, as well as $16,000 in custom skateboards.
Mr Wilkie further alleged that disgraced former Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz received “tens of thousands of dollars” to fund a “celebrity green room to cover catering and the cost of gifts for visiting celebrities”.
“Last year a whistleblower provided me with financial records and board papers that show that Hillsong is breaking numerous laws in Australia and around the world relating to fraud, money laundering and tax evasion,” he said.
“Hillsong followers believe that the money they put in the poor box goes to the poor, but these documents show how that money is actually used to do the kind of shopping that would embarrass a Kardashian.”
In response, Houston has called the allegations “either out of context, misleading, or false”.
The revelations have prompted the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNA) to announce that it is launching an investigation into the claims.
Addressing Hillsong’s Sydney service on Sunday, Dooley said that the church has commissioned a third-party evaluation of its financial structure and processes, and is “scrutinising every expense to ensure that it is going to effective mission-focused ministry endeavours”.
The changes, he said, also include a new gifts and honorarium policy.
“[Change] means doing things differently….acknowledging our mistakes and finding ways to do better,” he said.
“In any organisation the way financial decisions are made is based on a certain structure and culture.
“Our structure and culture is changing and needs to change more to ensure we are held to a higher level of accountability, and I welcome that.
“If we have been doing things in an excessive manner or that are out of alignment with our mission those things will stop.”