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Hillsong BBC Storyville documentary Credit BBC Iplayer.png header2.png
Hillsong BBC Storyville documentary Credit BBC Iplayer.png
World News

Hillsong accuses BBC of wanting to misrepresent them in documentary with 'footage taken grossly out of context'

by Cara Bentley

The megachurch Hillsong has accused the BBC of misrepresenting it in its recent documentary 'God Goes Viral'. 

The show, made by Nick Aldridge for BBC4's Storyville series, covers how Hillsong grew from a family church to one that was frequented by celebrities and young people all over the world. 

It follows key church leaders, such as Brian and Bobbie Houston and UK leaders such as Dan Blythe, and current and former members of the congregation. Some of their stories are positive and about transformation through the church, others accuse the pastors of living lavish lifestyles and describe the abuse of Frank Houston and his son's reaction. 

Some of the documentary segments suggest young people, donors and volunteers must be being manipulated to be so passionate about the church. Other interviews rightly expose the hypocrisy of teaching by Carl Lentz, who later cheated on his wife. 

Click here for the latest on Brian Houston's police charge. 

In response to the documentary, Hillsong released a statement saying they felt the BBC had had intended to "misrepresent" them from the start and that "footage has been taken grossly out of context and sewn together to create storylines."

The Church said: "In 2016, a filmmaker approached the leadership of Hillsong Church UK to request access to capture footage for a documentary. The filmmaker communicated that this would be a fair portrayal and uplifting story about the impact of our ministries there. We accepted the filmmaker's words in good faith and filming started in 2017.

"For two years, this filmmaker spoke with people who visited the church and travelled with various team members. Unbeknownst to us, he also interviewed several critics of our church, including many people who have not been a part of Hillsong in more than a decade and have made baseless claims.

"While the filmmaker expressed to us that he felt pressured to shift the focus to more controversial storylines and to avoid painting our church in an overly positive light, we now question if this project was ever intended to be fair or balanced. Though our staff in London felt they had established friendship with the filmmaker, it is clear to us that this project was misrepresented to us from the start.

"Much of the footage has been taken grossly out of context and sewn together to create storylines that simply do not reflect reality. 

"Numerous other elements are either grossly exaggerated or intentionally skewed. Most of the footage that demonstrated the positive impacts of our church were relegated to the cutting room floor and erased from the final cut of the documentary.

"We strongly refute the many aspects of the film that fail to meet a basic level of journalistic integrity and a commitment to the truth. Here are some facts that we hope will be helpful in clarifying these falsehoods and communicating the true heart of our church."

They go on to point readers to their statements on racial equality, finance, Frank Houston and Carl Lentz. They add that they ensure volunteers are valued and treated well.

Hillsong has been criticised for suggesting in its preaching that people's lives will improve and be blessed, sometimes materially, if they become Christian. They have also been accused of being too focused on appearance. 

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