Life Church Confirms its Leader Was Paid $10,000 For Investigating His Friend’s Sexual Misconduct at Hillsong Church
The megachurch called the payment to Paul de Jong an "honorarium". I can think of another word for it.
New Zealand’s Life megachurch has confirmed to Webworm it was paid $10,000 by Hillsong for investigating Brian Houston’s sexual misconduct allegations.
Following Webworm publishing this piece about the $10,000 payment, Life’s Corporate Communications Manager Phil Irons has confirmed what it was for:
Paul [de Jong] was engaged by Hillsong to assist in an investigation on an employment matter and was later given an honorarium to acknowledge his time.
Let’s break that “employment matter” down.
The Hillsong Leaks and Life Church
Back on March 9, Australian MP Andrew Wilkie tabled a treasure trove of leaked documents involving Hillsong Church, the giant megachurch founded by Brian Houston.
As reported in the Australian press:
Wilkie accused Hillsong leadership of lavish spending “that would embarrass a Kardashian,” saying Houston and others dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax-exempt church funds on luxury trips, private jets, designer clothes and cash gifts to church board members. He said Hillsong earns $80 million more in annual income than it publicly reports.
Those documents are all available for anyone to view — hundreds and hundreds of pages demonstrating how Hillsong leaders have been spending their millions.
In those documents, one payment stood out to me: a payment made by Hillsong to the founder of New Zealand megachurch Life, which I’d written about recently. On October 2 of 2019, Hillsong church paid Life’s leader Paul De Jong $10,000.
It stood out because I knew that in that same year, Paul de Jong had been tasked with investigating two incidents involving Brian Houston — including inappropriate messages to a Hillsong staff member, and a more recent alleged sexual misconduct in a Sydney hotel room.
You’ll also see another payment of $10,000 being made to Chris Hodges. It happens that Chris Hodges was also tasked with investigating the allegations about Brian Houston.
Andrew Wilkie had also noted all this during his speech to parliament:
“There were also the curious payments of $10,000 each to Paul de Jong and Chris Hodges, the external pastors who investigated allegations of Brian Houston’s 2019 sexual misconduct in a Sydney hotel room involving a female parishioner.”
The idea of New Zealand megachurch pastor Paul de Jong being the appropriate person to investigate Houston’s alleged sexual misconduct was already ridiculous.
He and Brian Houston were old friends: In 2017, Brian Houston himself described Paul de Jong and his wife Maree as “life long friends and quality people.”
With all this in mind — Paul, “life long friend” of Brian, was found to be an appropriate person to help investigate his friend’s alleged sexual misconduct.
The Results of the Investigation
“The first issue was approximately a decade ago and involved inappropriate text messages from Pastor Brian to a member of staff, which subsequently resulted in the staff member resigning.
At the time, Pastor Brian was under the influence of sleeping tablets, upon which he had developed a dependence. He immediately apologised to the person.
We also worked closely with Pastor Brian to ensure he received professional help to eliminate his dependency on this medication, and this was achieved successfully.”
In short, that incident was blamed on sleeping tablets. In regards to Houston’s more recent alleged sexual misconduct in a Sydney hotel room —
“Following an in-depth investigation, it was found that Pastor Brian became disoriented after a session at the Hillsong Conference, following the consumption of anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol.
This resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant.”
To summarise, that second incident was also blamed on medication — and alcohol.
Who could never have imagined an investigation involving Brian Houston’s lifelong friend Paul de Jong would rule that it all came down to medication.
I had already reported that a $10,000 payment had been made to Life’s Paul de Jong at the end of 2019.
People including Australian MP Andrew Wilkie suspected it was a payment for de Jong’s part in investigating his friends sexual misconduct allegations — but it wasn’t confirmed.
This is the email I got from Life’s Corporate Comms Manager Phil Irons confirming that the payment definitely was for the investigation:
To be clear: Life church has confirmed Paul de Jong was paid $10,000 for investigating the allegations against Brian Houston.
That investigation found none of it was Brian Houston’s fault, but was the fault of medication and alcohol.
The church called the payment an “honorarium”.
In any other environment, I think there’d probably be another word you could use.
You can share this piece. Please share it with anyone you know who might attend Life, or any of these churches. The URL is www.webworm.co/p/pauldejong
PS: I wanted to acknowledge Webworm’s trans readers — all over the world, but especially in New Zealand right now.
UK anti-trans activist Posie Parker (her pseudonym) was in New Zealand to speak yesterday. We talked about it all day yesterday over on the Webworm chat app, but I wanted to note it here too.
Trans people already have a terrible time in society, and why people like Posie Parker dedicate their lives to making it even more unsafe for them, I have no idea. New Zealand showed that she was not welcome — and she is now on a plane back to the UK.
Posie Parker screamed a lot about free speech, but seemed to forget that people can drown her out with their own free speech. We should support the most vulnerable in society — always.
As to the Destiny Church supporter who hit Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson with his motorbike — no words. If you look around and find your supporters include neo nazis and Destiny Church, I think you know you’ve probably taken a wrong step.