Two former Hillsong pastors have released explosive statements, alleging that they were threatened in an effort to hand over their church and its assets.
In a report by Australia’s ABC, Zhenya and Vera Kasevich, who led the congregations of Hillsong Kyiv and Moscow churches for two decades before suddenly departing, have told how Hillsong Australia sent threatening emails in an attempt to have them hand over their church and its assets.
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Houston, who was recently forced to resign after he was accused of committing “indiscretions” towards two women, along with the church’s general manager, George Aghajanian, reportedly threatened the pastors by confirming they would start a rival Hillsong church.
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The former pastors stated in the programme, which can be viewed here, that they attempted to break away from Hillsong in 2014, but ultimately chose to hand over their churches and assets after Brian Houston threatened to open a rival Hillsong church in Kyiv.
According to the ABC, documents signed by Hillsong Australia general manager George Aghajanian show that Hillsong Church Ltd requested the Kasevichs make a “voluntary donation” of the proceeds of the sale of a property, as well as over $US230,000 in cash.
At that time, the Kasevichs were planning to emigrate to the United States and were in the process of applying for US residency. Hillsong had agreed to assist them in dealing with US immigration.
In one email obtained by 7.30, George Aghajanian wrote that he “can make things very difficult” for them “with the American authorities”.
In another email, Brian Houston warns that Vera and Zhenya Kasevich “have a lot to fear” and that his general manager has “a lot of useful information for the US embassy” about the former Hillsong Kyiv pastors.
“Basically [Brian Houston] said … ‘This church is mine. I will make your life small. I will squash it,’” Vera Kasevich said.
Houston denied the above occurred, calling it “a complete fantasy.” The emails obtained by 730, however, which can be clearly seen in the report, will make it hard to deny.
They went on to claim Brian Houston began to challenge their independence, and that in 2014, he gave them an ultimatum — either stand aside or Hillsong would set up a rival church in Kyiv. To prevent the congregation from being split up, Vera and Zhenya Kasevich agreed to leave the church.
The couple say they were asked to stay away from any church events and this “completely cut” their relationship with other church members who they described as their “only family”.
“They cut our emails, they cut our database, they cut us from the server,” Vera Kasevich said.
The damning report, shown live across Australia at 7.30pm each night, hence the name, goes on to explain how Hillsong has built a property empire in taking over churches, as well as their valuable buildings. However, control, and the assets, then returned to Hillsong Australia’s head office.
Hillsong’s challenges remain. Its former senior pastor still faces a criminal trial later this year, and late last month, the former pastor of Hillsong Dallas, Reed Bogard, was accused of rape by a junior staff member before he and his wife resigned back in January 2021. Meanwhile, here in America, the docu-series ‘Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed’ is digging up even more dirt on the megachurch.
The major concern now for Hillsong, other than the fact that its reputation is in tatters and it has a fight on its hands to keep pastors and congregants on board, is the fact that the church’s board seemed to know about Houston’s actions, but appears to have only recently acted after potentially being forced to. Was someone about to leak the information to media? That we may never know, but either way, what is breaking news to Christians around the world was potentially well known to the powers that be at Hillsong.
In an official statement, the board said that they have sadly been dealing with “two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years”.