Christianity · church · crime · greed · law · religion

Megachurch member who stole money for church gets probation

bribe shutterstockBy all accounts, Brenda Hillman and her husband, John Hook, were successful in their real estate title company. But for Brenda, that wasn’t enough. Through her real estate business dealings in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she met business owners Ben Julian and Jared Williams who were members of megachurch Wave Church in the area. Eventually, the two men invited Hillman and her husband to Wave Church.

After a short time, Hook stopped attending because he saw they were all about “money-funneling.” However, Hillman continued attending Wave Church without her husband and eventually let herself get talked into a money scheme with businessmen Julian and Williams so she could gain prominence in the church. Wave Church divides their members into three levels like a caste system based on how much members give to the church. Hillman wanted to be at the top level, so she agreed for 2 1/2 years to trick banks out of $531,000 by falsifying documents then forwarded the stolen funds to Julian and Williams who lied and said they would give it all to the church.

Hillman eventually decided to stop the stealing, which she hid from her husband. But several years after stopping, the sins of Hillman, Julian, and Williams found them out after a federal investigation. Julian and Williams were sentenced to prison last year. This past Friday, Hillman was sentenced to one year of probation instead of the prison time prosecutors asked for. All three culprits will have to pay back the money to the banks.

In the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen, after listening to Hillman and Hook’s statements that Hillman did it for God ( really?), decided to be lenient on Hillman because Hillman didn’t do it for her own personal gain but was “seeking love and spiritual validation.” Judge Allen went on to say Hillman was brainwashed and the only profit she got was “love from your church.”

In my opinion, the ultimate decision to knowingly lie and steal were all on Hillman and the judge should not have made excuses for her behavior. This case reflects poorly on everyone except the prosecutors. It shows the accepted thinking of blaming someone else for one’s wrongdoings to avoid the full weight of responsibility. Hillman, like so many churchgoers, sought the praise and exaltation of men, not the love of God, in a way similar to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. Wave Church is also wrong in doling out partiality, or favoritism, based on mammon.

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 1 Pet. 4:15

And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? James 2:3-4

 

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