The founder and global leader of pentecostal church denomination Hillsong has announced the opening of an investigation into allegations of financial misuse amongst ministry staff.
Accusations of financial misconduct have surfaced in recent weeks after a former Hillsong staff member detalied the alleged use of "PEX" (pre-paid expense) cards to fund the lavish lifestyles of pastors and leaders. In an interview with the New York Post, Hillsong LA Service Pastor Nicole Herman claimed that she had personally loaded the cards with tithes from the church congregation.
“I was instructed to fill them,” Herman told the New York Post. “We had a team count the tithes after every service and they would allocate X amount of money for the PEX cards.”
In a letter sent to Hillsong members, seen by the Christian Post, pastor Houston defended his church's "record of excellence in financial accountability" and suggested that many of the stories that have been published about the church in recent times may be inaccurate.
“I am writing to you today because of several stories circulating online alleging a serious abuse of trust — the misuse of church funds by Hillsong Church employees," he wrote.
“We are particularly grieved that, in many cases, inaccurate accounts in these stories have been reported as if they are true. Hillsong Church strongly refutes that our culture casually allows for such gross misuse of church funds. In fact, these stories are especially troubling since Hillsong has a record of excellence in financial accountability globally and an unwavering commitment to financial integrity."
Houston said despite his confidence in Hillsong's accountability structures, it was necessary to further investigate the allegations of financial misconduct.
“Global leadership has always taken the stewardship of the tithes and offerings entrusted to us seriously and we have numerous structures in place to ensure financial accountability and integrity,” he explained. “Even though we know many of the stories circulating are not true, we are still obligating ourselves to closely examine the claims in line with our ongoing commitment to financial integrity.
"We have always placed a high value on good governance and stewardship, and if we discover a breach related to this we will take strong and swift action. We have a biblical responsibility to be excellent stewards of the ministry funds that have been committed to our care at each of our church locations.”
Another story alleging that Hillsong is the being sued for a total of $20 million in relation to unpaid venue rental fees was categorically denied by Houston on Twitter.
"If anyone out there is even interested. Hillsong is NOT being sued for 20 million dollars," he wrote. "This story is completely untrue."