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Hillsong Shrinks Dramatically in US - Phoenix Pastor Latest to Pull Out as Global Church Faces Scandals

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Another Hillsong pastor has announced his resignation from the Hillsong Church, and this time he's taking his entire congregation with him. Nine US-based Hillsong churches have reportedly left the global organization in just the past two weeks as the movement shrinks dramatically.

It comes as the church has endured several high-profile scandals, including the latest which led to the resignation of Australian founder Brian Houston. As CBN News reported, that development prompted the pastor of Hillsong Atlanta to pull out right away.

Now, Hillsong Phoenix Lead Pastor Terry Crist is the latest to leave, announcing he's withdrawing his Arizona church from the oversight of the governing board of the global Hillsong Church. 

"With a heavy heart I announced our decision to withdraw our church from the Hillsong Church global family this morning. It was a difficult and heartbreaking moment and many are processing the pain. Would you pray for our community today?" he wrote in a tweet. 

Crist, 57, and his wife Judith also sent an email to the Phoenix church members on Friday informing them of the decision, according to The New York Post

"After much prayer and pastoral counsel, we have decided to withdraw from Hillsong Church," the email said. "We are grateful for the decade we spent as a part of the Hillsong Family and as a Hillsong Church, and we pray for the global family," the couple wrote. 

The Crists' decision to withdraw their Phoenix congregation from the global body came just a few days after Hillsong founder Brian Houston resigned after the church's global board announced he had breached the "Hillsong Pastor's Code of Conduct" involving separate incidents with two women, including a staff member. 

The Crists started their congregation in Phoenix, 22 years ago before becoming a Hillsong Network church and then formally merging with the global church, according to The Post

During an impassioned sermon preached Sunday and posted to the Phoenix church's YouTube channel, Terry Crist told church members there were many reasons why the Phoenix church could not continue to be a part of Hillsong. 

"Chief among them is our loss of confidence in the global board to continue leading us as a congregation," he said while standing behind the pulpit. 

Crist said they had asked the global board to allow the church to have a local governing board and to still operate under the Hillsong banner. 

"Sadly, the board refused our request," he said. "I was told this past week it is 'all or nothing' — we either had to allow the global board to govern our church and to own our properties or we had to leave. So with great sadness, I chose to leave."

In the last two weeks, the Hillsong global church has lost nine of its 16 American church campuses, according to The New York Times.

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Meanwhile, scandals keep coming. The Daily Mail now reports that former Pastor Reed Bogard of Hillsong Dallas was privately accused of raping a younger, female staffer with whom he had an affair in 2013. 

The woman, who has not been named publicly, claimed in October of 2020, six years after the affair ended, that Bogard raped her the first time they had sex on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2013, the newspaper reported. The woman made the allegation while speaking with Hillsong leaders, which resulted in an investigation, but that rape accusation was never made public. 

The Christian Post reviewed a copy of the investigator's report and noted that attorneys said a criminal complaint could still be sought against Bogard since the New York state statute of limitations for reporting second-degree rape extends to 20 years and third-degree rape to 10 years. 

As CBN News reported, in January of 2021, Reed and Jess Bogard announced their resignation from Hillsong Dallas in a videotaped message that was played during the church's live-stream worship service.

During the announcement, he said the last 10 years of being involved in church planting had taken a toll on the couple, according to the Religion News Service (RNS). "We just really feel like it's time to transition off of our staff and take some time. Remain healthy, get healthy, and really see what this next season holds for us," he had said.

The Mail reported at the time, the announcement of the Bogards' resignation was made in an email sent to all Dallas church members from Brian and Bobbie Houston, the founders of the Australia-based global megachurch. In their email, the Houstons said they had received several complaints about Reed Bogard's leadership which led to the church suspending the pastors before they both resigned.

Bogard and his wife had helped to plant the Hillsong New York City church that also endured a major scandal when Pastor Carl Lentz was fired for having an affair.

CBN News has attempted to reach out to Reed Bogard for comment. We'll post his response here if he replies. 

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of