Hillsong's Atlanta pastor quits over scandals

Sam and Toni Collier(Photo: Hillsong)

The pastor of Hillsong's Atlanta, Georgia, church has announced he is stepping down in the wake of successive scandals in the Australia-based denomination. 

Sam Collier said on Instagram that the decision had been prompted by the scandals and Hillsong's management of them.

"My greatest reason for stepping down as Pastor of Hillsong Atlanta is probably not a secret to any of you. With all of the documentaries, scandals, articles, accusations and the church's subsequent management of these attacks it's become too difficult to lead and grow a young church in this environment," he said.

Collier was the first African American lead pastor at a Hillsong church and co-led the Atlanta branch with his wife Toni.

He said he "cried like a baby" after informing the leadership of his departure, but also said that he loved Hillsong and believed the Church would "get through this storm and come out better than they were before".

In another post, Collier added, "To be clear, we love Hillsong and the people in it. They are amazing people and have been good to us.

"We are leaving because the current challenges have made it very difficult to lead. They are not our enemies. We still consider them family."

Collier announced his resignation just days after Hillsong said that Global Senior Pastor and founder Brian Houston was stepping down after being investigated for alleged inappropriate behaviour towards two women in the last decade.

The Hillsong Global Board said Houston had fallen short of the Church's code of conduct for pastors. 

In one incident, the board said Houston had entered a woman's hotel room and spent time with her while under the influence of anti-anxiety medication and alcohol. 

In the other, it said he had sent "inappropriate" text messages to a member of the Hillsong staff. This had occurred at a time when Houston was "dependent on sleeping tablets", the board said. 

Prior to his resignation, Houston had already been on leave for several months as he prepares to defend himself in court against accusations that he covered up his late father's sexual abuse. 

The scandals at Hillsong are the subject of a three-part docuseries airing today on Discovery+.

Among other things, "Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed" will delve into the 2020 firing of Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz for moral failures and breaches of trust. 

Lentz, a favourite with celebrities, admitted to an extra-marital affair.