Hillsong is …. problematic

Our church band recently had a meeting about whether or not we would continue to play Hillsong written/arranged songs. Here is a letter I wrote to our director about the issue:

[Director],

Hillsong believes that homosexuality is a “lifestyle,” and is incompatible with the teachings of Christianity. The founder of Hillsong has said as much. This is equivalent to “love the sinner, hate the sin” thinking. They profess to loving and caring for the LGTBQ+ community, but then (and in the NEXT paragraph) they say they are a church “that adheres to mainstream biblical values shared by the overwhelming majority of evangelical Christian churches around the world, and millions of Christians across the USA.” Once again, this is ‘code’ for “homosexuality is a sin.”

I understand why you have difficulty finding clarity in this. For instance, Church Clarity, a website that is specifically designed to rate the clarity of the church’s positions on LGTBQ+ and Women’s roles has this to say about Hillsong:

We scored Hillsong NYC’s website as “unclear” because this policy is quite difficult to find from Hillsong NYC’s website. It is not listed in the website’s primary pages and is nowhere to be found on its Beliefs page or Policies page. It can only be found by clicking on About > Media > Media Releases, at which point you have to scroll down to read the statement on same-sex marriage, as it is dated August 2017. If it takes a user more than 2-3 clicks from the homepage, and it’s not conveniently  located, you can bet that we will score a church’s website as “unclear.” Our goal is to elevate the standard of clarity for policy disclosure.

What does this mean? It means that Hillsong is going out of its way to hide and obfuscate their stance on LGTBQ+ issues. And while they state that they do not advocate “gay conversion therapy,” that does seem to be a more recent change in position.

But, it becomes more clear when you consider the founder’s* own words about queer folk (https://brianchouston.com/2015/08/04/do-i-love-gay-people/ ):

I also live by my own convictions, and hold to traditional Christian thought on gay lifestyles and gay marriage. I do believe God’s word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. The writings of the apostle Paul in scripture on the subject of homosexuality are also clear, as I have mentioned in previous public statements.

Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles. Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid. I recognise this one statement alone is upsetting to people on both sides of this discussion, which points to the complexity of the issue for churches all over the world

[…]

So if you are gay, are you welcome at Hillsong Church? Of course! You are welcome to attend, worship with us, and participate as a congregation member with the assurance that you are personally included and accepted within our community. But (this is where it gets vexing), can you take an active leadership role? No.

For what it’s worth, I find any church that says it is inclusive and open to all but is not clear about its stance on non-heteronormativity problematic. I find OUR church problematic. I find the “big C” United Methodist Chuch highly problematic–even before this latest power-grab by the conservative bloc. You don’t have to identify as queer to feel this way, you just have to be a human being. These types of policies hurt people and do NOT bring them closer to God.**

Remember that Jesus did not say “love the sinner, hate the sin,” he said, “love your neighbour as yourself.” To label someone as a “sinner” is to say they exist outside of God’s grace and unless they clean up their act, cannot be forgiven. People are complex; it is nigh impossible to separate what a person does from who a person is (this is especially true when a person was literally born that way).

Here is the real question I think we should consider. Is it worth singing songs that a majority of the band, and possibly members of this church, find to be problematic? We’ve done without Hillsong songs in the past. We’ve established that there are LOTS of other bands, writers, and music to choose from.  Why is this an issue? While I agree that it’s the intention of the band and not the writer of the song that’s important — we know that there are members of our congregation that are feeling hurt and cast aside. Why chance that we might make it worse? I mean, I like “What a Beautiful Name,” too, but I won’t sing it if it’s going to make a single congregation member think that I don’t find them to be equal with every other person in the congregation.

And, as we said before, this isn’t an ultimatum or a power grab or anything else. We simply need you to know that members of the band are uncomfortable singing songs that promote Hillsong, and we don’t want to play them. We’re not leaving the band. We’re not taking the instruments and going home. We just don’t want to sing those songs

Let me know if you want to talk more.

~Jenn
“…you are defined not by life’s imperfect moments, but by your reaction to them.” ― Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess

FOOTNOTES:
*As an aside, I also find people who write stuff like this and add “I have gay friends” HIGHLY suspicious.

** This is the reason I don’t take communion in church anymore. How can we say it’s a truly open table if we are excluding our queer brothers and sisters? 

For what it’s worth, I understand that for someone that is used to playing songs written by this group, it seems a daunting task to choose other bands. But I also understand what it’s like to be in a church where you do not see anyone that resembles you in a position of leadership. I grew up in the Catholic church, where the leaders were almost exclusively white men (I mean, in Catholic school there were nuns, but that’s not really the same thing). Women, and more specifically minority women, were relegated to the cleaning and upkeep of the church. They were not equal, they were valued for providing two things: service to the church, and children as more congregants. If you could do neither, you were not valued.

The UMC currently has a stance that is frighteningly close to that of Hillsong. And if the Traditional Plan passes, it will be even more so. Sometimes showing true love is a difficulty. Sometimes it means giving up delicious chicken nuggets. Sometimes it means not supporting businesses that in turn support people that stand for horrible things. And sometimes that means not singing some nice songs because they were written by people that don’t understand that you can’t love the sinner and hate the sin… you can only hate.

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