Hillsong is an international megachurch based in Australia that has exported its influence to major global cities and into churches’ music across the United States. Hillsong’s founder, Brian Houston, released a statement saying he did not want the 30-minute interview with Driscoll to distract from the larger five-day conference.
“The teachings of Christ are based on love and forgiveness, and I will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised,” Houston said.
Houston called one or two of Driscoll’s remarks “outrageous,” though he did not note what they were.
“Clearly Mark has held some views and made some statements that cannot be defended,” Houston said in the statement. “One or two of the more outrageous things he is purported to have said, I have heard for the first time through the media exposure over the past week.”
An online petition collected about 3,000 signatures before Hillsong pulled the plug.
Driscoll admitted to and apologized for comments he made in 2000 under the pseudonym “William Wallace II” that were critical of feminism, homosexuality and “sensitive emasculated” men. Much of the recent focus has been on whether Driscoll referred to women as “penis homes.”
“’Ultimately, God created you and it is His penis,’ William Wallace II” wrote, according to a screen shot taken by a blogger. “‘You are simply borrowing it for a while.'”
“‘Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife,’ William Wallace II” wrote. “‘And when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.’”
Houston said he hopes to speak with Driscoll soon.
“It is my hope that Mark and I will be able to speak in person in the coming weeks to discuss some of the issues that have been raised, what – if anything – he has learned, and for me to understand better how he is progressing in both his personal and professional life,” Houston said in his statement.
Driscoll resigned from his church last year after staff protests and an internal church review found him “responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner.”
Before he resigned, Driscoll had expanded Mars Hill Church to 15 “campuses” in five states and had built an estimated regular attendance of 13,000. It effectively dissolved last year, amid plagiarism accusations, questions about how church finances were really spent, and how he treated followers and ex-followers.
After his resignation from Mars Hill last year, Driscoll waited less than a week to appear back on stage. He briefly spoke at the Gateway Conference at a Dallas Fort Worth-area megachurch, which he had been scheduled to keynote. He talked about news helicopters circling overhead, saying, “I’ve cried a lot lately. It’s been a rough time on my family.”
In May, Driscoll appeared at a church in Seattle to a standing ovation and a dozen protesters outside.
Last year, Brian Houston came under the spotlight ahead of the Hillsong conference in New York. Fifteen years ago, he found out that his father, who was a minister in New Zealand, admitted that he sexually abused a boy in Sydney. Facing scrutiny in Australia, Houston denied allegations that he had tried to cover up his father’s sexual abuse, saying the victim asked him not to go to the police.
A documentary focused on the Hillsong band, which has sold more than 16 million albums, was scheduled for release April 1 but was pulled from its slot.
(This post has been updated.)