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Hillsong shutters Dallas church following report of pastor’s lavish lifestyle

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Hillsong shutters Dallas church following report of pastor’s lavish lifestyle

This Hillsong megachurch branch has been deemed beyond immediate redemption. 

Following months of internal scandal and shocking allegations, Hillsong’s founders have informed congregants that the Australia-based institution’s only Texas church will be closing up shop until further notice. 

“Many factors, all amplified by the pandemic, have resulted in the difficult decision to pause all operations at Hillsong Dallas for now,” Brian and Bobbie Houston, the husband-and-wife team who co-founded Hillsong and currently share the title of Global Senior Pastors, wrote to congregants in a Saturday email which was forwarded to The Post. “When the time is right and we have identified and trained suitable lead pastors, we will consider relaunching.”

The email goes on to detail a previously unannounced internal investigation into the Dallas branch’s former lead pastors, Reed and Jess Bogard, who quietly and suddenly resigned in January after more than a decade of employment at the once-celebrity-beloved international worship chain. Before becoming top dog at the Texas branch, Reed Bogard served as the head of finances at Hillsong NYC, where former members alleged that he and Jess exploited congregants for free labor and used tithe money to fund their luxury lifestyles.  

“We received several complaints regarding Reed Bogard’s failure to uphold the standards of Hillsong leadership. We suspended him from his pastoral duties as we initiated a review into these incidents,” the Houstons wrote, adding that the Bogards “decided to resign” early in the investigation process, which has since concluded. Citing investigation participants’ privacy, the email only vaguely details the pastors as having “failed to meet the commitments and standards” of Hillsong, before offering a brief apology “to those who felt disappointed or hurt.” 

The announcement comes as vindication for those who previously spoke out against the Bogards. 

“All we ever wanted was acknowledgment of what was happening,” Brandon Walker — who helped the Bogards start the Dallas branch in 2019 and previously talked about excessive spending — told The Post of the email. “Now that we got it, I believe we can finally move on.”   

Others, however, believe the megachurch needs to have a much deeper reckoning before it can be anywhere close to redeemed for its leadership failures. 

“I am grateful that there has been some action made as a result of person after person sharing their negative experience of Hillsong Church, but there needs to be a lot more progress made by Hillsong Church and specifically Brian Houston in light of all of the stories that have come out recently,” Jenna Babbitt, a current Dallas resident and former Hillsong NYC congregant, told The Post.

“Jess and Reed were a byproduct of an unhealthy spiritual environment that reproduces the same type of leader over and over again,” added Babbitt, who babysat for the Bogards during her years in NYC. “The culture of Hillsong is the problem, and the pastors, from continent to continent and coast to coast, are simply the byproduct of the culture.” 

Megan Phalon, who also worked with the Bogards while a congregant at Hillsong NYC, told The Post the email initially left her “in shock” and feeling “hopeful” that “Brian was actually acknowledging the wrong that the Bogards had done.” 

Her brief hope, however, was “overshadowed” by a now-deleted tweet Brian Houston sent on Sunday in response to a Christian Post article detailing allegations that married Hillsong staff administrator Jason Mays assaulted then-Hillsong College student Anna Crenshaw in May 2016. In the tweet, said Phalon, “He not only shared personal and private info regarding [Anna] but seemed to pass blame and victim shame [her].” 

“It’s a sad story,” begins the since-deleted tweet by Brian Houston. “A number of things in this article are factually wrong, but abuse is NEVER ok. My understanding is that Anna was originally abused in her father’s church in Pennsylvania. That makes it sadder. Whether abuse happens in Pennsylvania or Australia, it’s tragic.”

The following day, he apologized for the tweet. 

“In a comment on this article yesterday, I foolishly included information that was wrong for me to share,” Brian wrote in a reply. “To (rightfully) be more respectful of privacy, I deleted my comment. I apologize for any pain I have caused. I know better and will do better.” 

This, however, was not sufficient for Anna’s father, Ed Crenshaw.

“[Your] 1st response to article is indicative of mishandling Anna from day one. I assure you there are more ‘factual errors’ on the part of your staff than in Anna’s story,” he wrote in response. 

In response to The Post’s request for comment, Hillsong sent Houston’s apology tweet. The Bogards did not respond to a request for comment.

To Phalon, Houston’s initial tweet is indicative of the whole ordeal being “a game to him.”

“His response was so disgusting. I have truly lost all faith that any of this will be made right,” Phalon said. “He doesn’t care about seeing us — who were abused by people he put into power — get justice or healing. He just wants to pass the blame and shame us enough so we stop talking. It’s not going to happen.”

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The best of the barbs traded at first NYC mayoral debate

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The best of the barbs traded at first NYC mayoral debate

The Zoom forum for the first televised Democratic primary mayoral debate didn’t stop the rival candidates from slinging mud across their computer screens, prompting leading candidate Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to declare at one point, “Ohhh they’re feisty!”

Here are some of the sharpest barbs from the showdown for the June 22 election :

“Don’t get me involved in your daddy’s problems,” City Comptroller Scott Stringer told former Obama housing director Shaun Donovan, whose rich father has given millions to an outside group supporting his son’s long shot bid.

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“With all due respect Ray, no one has that experience of really making sure we come back specifically from a crisis that you helped create in the Great Recession,” Donovan told former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, who shot back that he had “zero to do with anything involved in the mortgage crisis.”

McGuire then cited his 13 years as the head of Citi’s corporate and investment banking unit. “You know what they call that in my neighborhood? They call that receipts. He has blank checks,” McGuire blasted back at Donovan.

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“Mr. Donovan, we would hate to use the mute function on anyone,” questioner Josefa Velazquez from the news outlet The City said when the candidate interrupted her.

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“I helped swing those two races in Georgia that have helped deliver the Senate,” Andrew Yang boasted, attempting to make up for his lack of a voting record in local NYC elections.

“That is disrespectful and appalling to Stacey Abrams and those black women who organized on the ground. He needs to stop saying that. They won that fight,” Adams retorted.

“Given how close the race was let’s agree that anyone who spent a dollar or made one phone call helped contribute to the outcome there,” moderator Errol Louis interjected to stop the back-and-forth.

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Mortician shares details of working with dead people on TikTok

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Mortician shares details of working with dead people on TikTok

She sees dead people — daily.

A young mortician has gone viral on TikTok, sharing macabre trade secrets and talking about the most difficult parts of working with the dead.

Eileen Hollis grew up in Syracuse, New York, living above her family’s business, Hollis Funeral Home, according to People. The 31-year-old went on to follow in her father’s footsteps and studied mortuary science.

During her four-year career, she has performed “over 1,000 services” for the dead, which include embalming, cremation, hair and makeup. Her straightforward conversations about death and the morbid details of her job — from the weird smells to wiring jaws shut — have made Hollis a TikTok sensation.

In one video, she walks her 410,000 followers through the embalming process while doing her morning skincare routine.

“Because my hands are so small, I got to reach in and hold someone’s brain. So that was interesting,” she brags while holding a face serum that looks a lot like blood.

But Hollis claims that the job isn’t “as gruesome as [people] think” but can get difficult, telling People that “infant deaths are extremely hard.”

She also appreciates the chance to destigmatize conversations about death, debunk myths and inform people of their options. Viewers often have questions for her ranging from curious — like “what happens if someone dies wearing contact lenses?” or “how do you get makeup to look natural when the skin is stiff?” — to much more graphic — like “is it true you break people’s bones to position them in a coffin?” or “where do tampons go and who takes them out?” — which she gladly answers.

“You’re not morbid,” she assured one follower who asked about pregnant people dying. “It’s normal to be curious.”

Hollis’ unconventional look, with her pink hair, tatted skin and cat eye glasses, has been called “unprofessional and disrespectful,” she told People, by some in the industry that aims to stick to tradition. But working in the profession is just as integral to her identity — and part of her roots.

“I love working with my dad,” which she says is her favorite thing about being a mortician. Hollis lives nearby her father’s funeral home, but actually plans to move out of her “Hobbit house” and back into her family home to eventually take over the business — a growing trend for young people who are taking over the mortuary business.

In fact, Hollis isn’t the only TikTok mortician as #DeathTok is a growing niche community of viewers fascinated with the macabre. Other young death professionals have taken to the app to discuss the eerie tricks of the trade including @mybloodygalentine and @mortedeanubis.

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‘American Idol’ finalist Caleb Kennedy out after video surfaces

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'American Idol' finalist Caleb Kennedy out after video surfaces

“American Idol” top-five finalist Caleb Kennedy has left the show after a video surfaced showing him next to someone wearing what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan hood.

A representative for the show confirmed to The Post that Kennedy will no longer be moving forward in the competition.

The singer, 16, posted a statement about his departure on Instagram Wednesday.

“Hey y’all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise but I am no longer gonna be on ‘American Idol,’” he wrote. “There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way. I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down. I’ll be taking a little time off social media to better myself, but saying that, I know this has hurt and disappointed a lot of people and made people lose respect for me. I’m so sorry! I pray that I can one day regain your trust in who I am and have your respect! Thank you for supporting me.”

The remaining finalists include Willie Spence, Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham and Casey Bishop.

Kennedy’s mother, Anita Guy, gave a statement to MSN claiming that the video was taken when Kennedy was 12 and inspired by a movie he had seen.

“I hate this has happened and how Caleb is being portrayed by people online,” Guy said. “This video was taken after Caleb had watched the movie ‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ and they were imitating those characters. It had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but I know that’s how it looks. Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”

On Tuesday, Kennedy had posted an upbeat message on Instagram, thanking his followers for their support. “Hey guys! So glad to have y’all on the journey with me through #Americanidol,” he wrote. “Also really happy to be in the studio working on songs!! I love you guys so much!!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTEQXN6WZak

On the most recent episode this past Sunday, May 9, Kennedy performed a throaty version of the Coldplay song “Violet Hill,” plus an original tune, “Mama Said,” according to Heavy.com.

Mid-afternoon Wednesday, the show posted a Twitter teaser that Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas would mentor finalists in the upcoming episode on Sunday, but it did not mention Kennedy’s move.

It’s not the only shocking exit this season on “American Idol.” Wyatt Pike, 20, left the competition series after making the top 12, citing “personal reasons.”

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