Lauren Moye, FISM News
Megachurch Hillsong is embroiled in yet another sexual abuse allegation, this time by the lead pastor of the Dallas campus. Reed Bogard, 39, resigned from this position in January 2021, just weeks before Hillsong Global commissioned an investigation into a potential rape committed by the pastor in September 2013.
At the time he engaged in an affair with an unnamed junior staff member, Bogard served at Hillsong NYC according to a Christian Post report. The church was made aware of Bogard’s affair in 2014 but claims they were unaware it began with rape until the victim made new claims in October 2020.
“At the time, the Church did not conduct any meaningful inquiry into the details or circumstances of the affair, and no one with appropriate training was assigned to look into matters,” stated the New York City law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, who investigated the matter at Hillsong Global’s request.
The woman said in a deposition that she met Bogard at a bar where they only had one drink each and participated in a kiss. She accepted Bogard’s offer of a ride home. Once in the car, she says she twice said “no” to his advances.
Bogard told the investigators he had no recollection of the junior staffer saying no “at any point they were in the car.”
The event launched an affair that would last until January 2014. However, Zukerman Gore noted the “extreme power imbalance” between Bogard and the woman and that it was likely a jury today would find “that Mr. Bogard acted without obtaining (or, under the circumstances, having any reasonable expectation of being able to obtain) actual consent.”
Bogard also made the woman sign a new contract with a nondisclosure agreement after the affair began. The woman reported she was told “you don’t work here” if she didn’t sign. Zukerman Gore’s investigation noted that this was another abuse of power.
Additionally, the investigation showed that Bogard was known for aggressive behavior, marijuana usage, and abusive language towards his staff during his time in New York. Shannon Kelly, the former creative director at Hillsong NYC, stated that “people did not say no to Mr. Bogard.”
The timeline of the events combined with Hillsong Global’s response is concerning. The affair ended in Jan 2014 after Bogard moved to the Los Angeles campus, which was then under the leadership of the megachurch founder’s son, Ben Houston. When details of what Hillsong then believed was a consensual sexual relationship became known later that year, the church simply removed Bogard from leadership for a period of 8 to 12 months while he underwent counseling.
After this, he resumed leadership. In 2019, Bogard was promoted to the lead pastor of the Dallas campus. While Hillsong Global commissioned the investigation in October 2020 after the rape allegations were made, they have remained silent on the subject of why Bogard abruptly resigned or why the Dallas campus was paused in April 2021.
Hillsong’s founder has been embroiled in multiple sexual-related allegations in the past year. Brian Houston resigned this week after being embroiled in a lawsuit that claims he covered up his father’s sexual abuse of a minor in the 70s. Houston has also been accused of misconduct towards female staffers.
When Christian leaders display egregious behavior, it can be tempting to look away or to lose faith in all leadership. However, the Bible is clear that all people are sinners. Because of this, faith must be built on God and His Word rather than the charisma of any Christian leader. As FISM’s Seth Udinski wrote, “We must never place human beings on a level reserved only for God.”