Many readers would be aware of my pursuit of answers and accountability for some of the more disgraceful practices going on within the Fort Knox like environment of Hillsong church in Australia (and their many franchises throughout the world). The two major issues I took up with them last year revolved around their "Mighty to Save" CD and were as follows:
1. Their failure to preach repentance in their gospel presentation which was in direct conflict with their own doctrine statement. (http://myhillsong.com/what-we-believe)
2. The fact that they boldly displayed 2 Chronicles 7:14 on the back sleeve of the CD but deleted the line from the verse that says "and turn from their wicked ways".
In today's post I just want to focus on point 2 here regarding the "Hillsong adjusted Bible verse" and the conflicting excuses that have emanated from the Hillsong mothership because some more contradictory information has just come to light as you will read at the end of this post.
Here is what I said concerning this in my initial correspondence with Hillsong Church (you can read the entire post here):
I noticed on the back cover of the CD liner notes a quotation of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says:
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
By checking in my Bible I found this verse to be incomplete and is missing the words in bold print:
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Can you explain to me why you deleted the line from that verse that speaks specifically about repentance? I hope you agree that it is very serious indeed to add to or delete information from sacred Scripture.
Robert Fergusson, who is Hillsong's theological top dog, wrote back but would not even give a reason for the deleted line from the Bible verse. He dealt with it by just ignoring that particular issue altogether. As an interesting aside, I was informed just last week by a former Hillsong volunteer worker that Robert Fergusson's academic credential is a degree in Zoology which probably explains a lot, including why Brian Houston deemed him the right man to oversee the theological soundness of the Hillsong empire (my correspondence with Robert Fergusson can be read here).
I then took up the issue of the "Hillsong adjusted Bible verse" with Joel A'Bell who is Hillsong's executive pastor in Sydney. This is what he had to say on the subject (pay particular attention to how alarmed he was by this revelation):
I'm sorry that certain sentences were left off some of the creative liners of that album. I can assure you it was not intentional as it is very obvious what we believe.
(My correspondence with Joel A'Bell can be read here).
Glen from New Zealand decided to write and got this response from Paul Aylett who is the customer service manager at Hillsong Music:
Thank you for your email to Hillsong Music.
We at Hillsong also honour the Word of God. Please see this excerpt from our Statement of Belief,
"We believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our everyday lives."
The intent was to represent the Scripture within the parameters provided. A close examination of the verse will reveal that the words ‘I will hear’ has also been removed to allow for the verse to meet the allocation available on the jacket.
Please understand our heart in this matter.
When Glen pressed the issue further due to the previous unsatisfactory answer he got this response:
Thank you for your reply.
At Hillsong we place the highest importance on Scripture as previously stated, and in no way are we devaluing Scripture.
Once again, thank you for your feedback.
Regards, Paul Aylett
Three questions/comments immediately spring to mind as I read this dialogue:
1. It is true that "The intent was to represent the Scripture within the parameters provided", if by that they mean that they were using an incomplete Bible verse for an incomplete gospel.
2. How exactly does editing Bible verses to meet the requirements of your own "parameters" reflect that "in no way are we devaluing Scripture"? Putting Scripture at the feet of your own agenda is Scripture devaluation of the highest order.
3. Is this correspondence evidence that repentance is not only absent from their gospel presentation, but also absent from the Hillsong culture?
Well, as I am currently visiting Australia, my good friend and open air preacher Josh Williamson informed me that he had also had some correspondence with Hillsong on this very issue after reading my blog. And lo and behold, he received a new excuse that contradicts the other ones thus far. Helen Tam, another customer service manager at Hillsong Music, had this to say:
In regards to the album Insert for Mighty To Save, at the time of print the purpose of the album insert was to emphasize that we need to call out to God, while it was read over and we spent a lot of time making sure details were covered, unfortunately this part was overlooked. The verse should be complete, however due to this album been widespread it’s become an irreversible error.
So, are there any readers who would like to try and join the dots on this one? One thing I would appreciate is if more people would write to Hillsong and protest their disgraceful behavior.