Vera and Zhenya Kasevich revealed last week how they lost two churches in Kyiv and Moscow to the disgraced head of Hillsong, Brian Houston.
Eastern European husband and wife church leaders Vera and Zhenya Kasevich, now living in the US, spoke out for the first time this week about the manner in which they were forced to hand over their Kyiv and Moscow churches, plus all their assets, to Hillsong megachurch founder Brian Houston.
According to this report, the couple, who only recently immigrated to the U.S., said Houston, above, and the director of Hillsong Church Australia, George Aghajanian, threatened to scupper their immigration plans if they didn’t comply with their demands for money and property.
After running the two churches for 20 years, both called Hillsong but operated independently, Houston began taking interest in their operations because, by 2008, the congregations had grown and were donating vast sums of money, almost $1-million a year.
And Houston—forced to resign last month after an internal investigation found he behaved inappropriately towards two women—has a voracious appetite for money. He also has a tendency to mix alcohol with prescription drugs.
The couple, according to this report, said they were compelled to hand over their churches and assets after Brian Houston threatened to open a rival Hillsong church in Kyiv.
They allege that when they tried to break away from Hillsong in 2014 and migrate to America Hillsong used blackmail tactics in a bid to stop them leaving.
In one email, Aghajanian (above) purportedly notes that he “can make things very difficult” for the Kasevichs “with the American authorities.”
Houston warned in another purported email that Vera and Zhenya Kasevich “have a lot to fear” and that his general manager has “a lot of useful information for the US embassy” on them.
Zhenya Kasevich recalled having to pay large sums for guest speakers to attend a Hillsong conference in Kyiv, something that made he and his wife “uncomfortable.” He alleged:
We had to pay $13,000 for first-class tickets from the USA to Ukraine. We could not look at our poor people’s eyes and tell them we are using church money for our benefit and our luxurious life.
The couple’s revelations come as the “Pentecostal juggernaut” faces one of its worst crises since its establishment in the early 1980s.
After Houston’s resignation, nine Hillsong branches in the U.S. broke away from the church.
Houston said an email that the Kasevichs’ account of the takeover of Hillsong Kyiv and Moscow was “a complete fantasy”, and that he made no threats regarding the US embassy.
The Kasevichs said they were finally free to speak out about their ordeal because their US residency had been secured and they no longer felt intimidated by Hillsong’s Australian leaders.
From their new home in the US state of Florida, the couple said their first church started as a small congregation in 1992, just as the fledgling independent nation of Ukraine was emerging from the collapse of the Soviet empire.
Hillsong Sydney sent an Australian pastor and some money to help them get established, and they named their church Hillsong, despite remaining independent.
The couple say they are speaking out now in the hope that others with similar experiences feel heard. Vera Kasevich said:
We are not afraid to tell the truth, and we want other people who are victims to have a voice.
Now I have to confess that I actually like Zhenya Kasevich’a preaching. He has all the attributes of a stand-up comic, and I burst out laughing when I watched a video in which he said he hated the competition among his new American neighbors for turning the street in which he lives into “Disneyland” with an overabundance of Christmas decorations outside their homes.
He singled out one neighbor for festive season excesses, someone called Brandon. He told a congregation at Airborne Church—how do they come up with such daft names?—that “everybody hates Brandon.”
Bobbie and Brian Houston in limbo
Meanwhile, news has broken that the rapidly crumbling Hillsong has dispensed with the services of Bobbie Houston in a move that she described as “cold and callous.”
Brian Houston reacted by saying that:
After 39 years of exemplary service and extraordinary faithfulness and fruitfulness the Hillsong Church board made Bobbie redundant, effective immediately, through no choice of her own.
After his resignation, Houston apologized for his behavior, but vowed that he and his wife are not done
Stand by for an announcement that these two avaricious fraudsters-for-Jesus have started Hillsong Mark II.