On June 11th, I received a call from my dad asking me what I now thought of our home church in Kansas City, Kingdom City KC. With my dad and I attending the church that began as The Cause for almost a decade, I wondered what could have prompted such a question, that’s “our home.” After our conversation, I didn’t expect that one FX documentary would completely change the trajectory of my religious journey and affiliation with church-going altogether.
“The Secrets of Hillsong,” produced by FX, first aired on May 19, 2023. It is an exposé documentary serving to encapsulate all of Hillsong’s controversies; Brian Houston and covering up his father’s molestation crimes, Carl Lentz and infidelity, and the exploitation of church volunteers, just to name a few. Before Kingdom City KC gained its current name, it was slowly integrated into the Hillsong network through partnered events, and later a complete renaming as Hillsong KC. Given that it was a part of Hillsong before its abrupt disaffiliation and renaming as Kingdom City KC in 2022, I was excited to gain more insight as to the truths behind what happened that made them backtrack so quickly. What I didn’t expect; however, was an incident covered in the first episode that made me completely rethink those in power that I idolized growing up in the church.
In episode 1 of FX’s “The Secrets of Hillsong,” Crystal Rose is introduced as a former congregant at Hillsong KC from 2016 to 2019. She details being one of the only Black volunteers at the church, yet being promoted heavily in the church’s marketing campaigns. A friend of hers, a fellow Black woman in the church, was fired after expressing concerns surrounding the lack of Black representation within the church’s leadership. And what happened next, shocked me even more.
Crystal Rose came in as usual on a church Sunday and was asked to talk by Pastor Liz Turner. She then details being accused by Liz of “talking trash about the leadership,” then being prompted to leave and threatened to have police escort her out. The documentary then showed camera footage of police officers in their Kansas City North Location, which one of the officers warned, “If it gets to that point, you can be arrested for trespassing.”
The Church made a statement to the documentary including that they “formally suspended” Crystal before the incident took place.
Watching the use of officers to prevent Crystal from enjoying a Sunday service; however, was painful to watch. While the North Kansas City Police Department, the specific department involved in this incident, does not have a history of police brutality, its neighbor, the Kansas City Police Department, is known for its record of excessive force. While there is no relation between these police forces, the Black community of Kansas City has to pay particular caution in their everyday life toward officers on the basis of their safety, so it’s particularly harmful for anyone, especially a church, to decide to call the police on a Black citizen in Kansas City. It was an action of true neglect for the wellbeing of Crystal Rose.
By creating published discourse on this incident, I hope to combat the public inaction that Kingdom City KC has taken to resolve their distasteful treatment of Crystal Rose during its time as Hillsong KC. While I cannot comment on its current initiatives, the lack of information accessible on the internet regarding this controversy and the church’s renaming contributes to an erasure of information. Access to information brings power to our local community.
If you haven’t already, please watch FX’s “The Secrets of Hillsong.”