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People in Glass Houses: An insider’s story of a life in and out of Hillsong

Black Inc. Books
RRP $29.95

Hillsong is a big church by any standards, so when an exposé is offered it’s bound to get big attention. That’s exactly what People in Glass Houses has achieved.

Tanya Levin has been written up in The Bulletin and The Monthly and interviewed by the many including Andrew Denton and Philip Adams.

Adding to the aura surrounding the book is that its promised release was considerably delayed when the original publishers Allen & Unwin dumped the book, allegedly for fear of potential litigation. Black Inc. books courageously took up the challenge.

While People in Glass Houses does expose some of the Hillsong delicate underbelly in terms of its operations and finances, this book is as much about Levin’s own spiritual journey as it is about the church that brought her to faith and nurtured her Christian development.

Levin’s relationship with Hillsong and its leadership is the centrepiece of the story and even at the end (after being physically ejected by security guards from the church premises during worship) she concludes, “Hillsong broke my heart”.

While Levin reveals details of the business schemes, tax scams and prosperity teaching she saves her most trenchant criticism for the way the church dealt with the sexual transgressions of pastors Frank Houston and Pat Mesiti.

Present for the announcements regarding both ministers to the congregation, Levin claims the offence were not named, there was no demand for righteousness, no accountability, no zero tolerance stance on the abuse of children, and no assurance of procedures put in place to prevent such misbehaviour happening again.

“In an organisation whose values are submission and obedience,” says Levin, “it’s no wonder the sexualities are so perverse.”

Despite her full and frank disclosures damning her church and exposing her own vulnerabilities, Levin concludes that her fundamentalism won’t leave her alone. “It continues to upset me despite my best efforts to exit, stage right.”

It is the relentless pull of Hillsong on one who can see so many of its failings and foibles that is so intriguing in this book.

Reviewed by Bruce Mullan, editor of Journey