Docs show churches paid up to $100K to be part of Hillsong Family, an alleged honorarium scheme

Docs show churches paid up to $100K to be part of Hillsong Family, an alleged honorarium scheme

Hillsong Conference NYC
Hillsong Church’s founder, Brian Houston, appears on stage during Hillsong’s 2014 conference in New York City at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. |

Nearly 40 churches around the world paid up to $100,000, or 3% of their tithes and offerings, to Hillsong Church annually to be a part of the Hillsong Family network, which a whistleblower has alleged offers access to a global honorarium scheme meant to funnel additional income into the pockets of celebrity pastors through sophisticated means.

The list of churches currently paying or have paid to be a part of Hillsong Family was highlighted in a trove of documentsfirst made public on March 9 by Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of the Australian Parliament, thanks to the work of the whistleblower.

Among the churches stateside that have paid or are currently paying since 2014 to be a part of the Hillsong Family are: The Judah Smith-led Churchome in Washington state; City of Life Church in Kissimmee, Florida; Grace City Church in Lakeland, Florida; The Cause Community in Kansas City; Chicago City Church in Illinois; Calvary Church in Miami, Florida; City of Grace in Arizona; Capital City Church in Washington, D.C.; El Lugar De Su Presencia in Arizona; Citizen Heights in Washington, D.C., Christian Faith Center in Seattle, Washington; Colonial Church in St. Augustine, Florida; and Motor City Church in Detroit, Michigan.

Several other churches in Europe, Africa, Indonesia and South America complete the list.

When contacted about their relationship with Hillsong Family by The Christian Post on Thursday, officials at Chicago City Church and Calvary Church in Miami confirmed they no longer had any ties with Hillsong Church.

Pastor Kent Munsey of Chicago City confirmed with CP that his church’s last payment to Hillsong Church was $24,363 in 2020, and they cut ties with the megachurch in spring 2022. He explained he was just learning of the alleged honorarium scheme but was not yet ready to speak on the record.

At least one congregation, Capital City Church in Washington, D.C., is permanently closed. Their last payment of $19,563 to Hillsong Church was made in 2021. Colonial Church still boasts the Hillsong Family brand on its website, but officials from that congregation were not immediately available for comment.

Hillsong Family
A list of churches that have made payments to Hillsong Family. |

In an earlier report, The Christian Post highlighted how Hillsong Church’s alleged honorarium scheme netted as much as $1 million in additional and sometimes tax-free income annually for celebrity preachers worldwide, including founders Brian Houston, his wife, Bobbie, and famous author and evangelist Christine Caine. These honorariums appear to be primarily paid through non-profits controlled by the pastors.

Hillsong Family
Hillsong Family Payments |
Hillsong Family
Hillsong Family payments. |
Hillsong Church
Hillsong Church campuses. |

Although Churchome recently informed CP that they are no longer a part of the Hillsong Family since Brian Houston resigned in March 2022, the documents show Churchome, which reported more than $17 million in revenue from tithes and offerings in 2017, paying the maximum Hillsong Family charge in multiple years.

On paper, according to the Hillsong Family relationship agreement reviewed by CP, these churches are paying for “spiritual oversight” and, if necessary, a possibility of assistance with high-level church conflict.

“Hillsong will provide spiritual oversight and should a high-level difficult situation arise, for example between your board and the Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church would be a possible option for support and arbitration in these circumstances, should we be invited to do so,” notes George Aghajanian, Hillsong Church’s general manager, in a form letter sent to prospective Hillsong Family members.

Churchome’s payment to Hillsong. |

For this oversight, Hillsong Church asked Hillsong Family members to ensure they pay their membership fee by March 31 annually.

“To be a part of Hillsong Family, there will be a contribution of 3% of your Tithes and Offerings capped at USD $100,000 per annum (January – December). This amount is due by 31st of March of the following year,” Aghajanian explains.

Churches that join Hillsong Family are also asked to present Hillsong Church with a copy of their annual audited financial statements or equivalent within 30 days after they receive them.

According to an addendum to Aghajanian’s letter, Hillsong Family is a “relationship-based arrangement to be a blessing to both parties as we focus on working towards the greater cause of Jesus Christ and building His Church.”

It notes, however, that “nothing in this agreement implies a legal partnership or association and at all times your church will maintain its own name, autonomy, identity and governance.”

The controversial megachurch also agreed to withdraw from the relationship with any church “immediately in the event of any situation that may threaten or harm its reputation” but says nothing about what would happen in the event Hillsong’s reputation harms that of churches in Hillsong Family.

Under normal circumstances, parties in the relationship can terminate the agreement with three months’ notice.

Wilkie also contends that the whistleblower further alleged that Hillsong leaders engaged in money laundering, tax evasion and shopping sprees that would “embarrass a Kardashian.”

A spokesperson for Hillsong said in a statement shared with media in response to Wilkie’s claims that the church has been “open and transparent with our congregation about past governance failures” and that Wilkie’s claims are “out of context and relate to untested allegations made by an employee in an ongoing legal case.”

Earlier this month, Hillsong Church Global Board Chair Stephen Crouch said that the disclosures made by Wilkie stem from a lawsuit filed in Australia in August 2022 on behalf of Hillsong employee Natalie Moses as part of a Fair Work Act case against the church.

The lawsuit alleged that the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission has been investigating the church since March 2022 to verify if the organization had been complying with Australian regulations. Moses, who works in the church’s financial department, was tasked with preparing internal responses for the ACNC investigation. The filing contends that internal audits conducted by Moses uncovered questionable financial records that were unlikely to comply with Australian legislation.

“In Australia, employees have the right to test certain claims about employment matters in the federal courts. We believe those claims are incorrect, and the church has a right to defend those claims. In our legal defense, we have explained to the court that this employee privately downloaded thousands and thousands of documents from Hillsong without consent,” Crouch said.

“The documents, if published, may violate privacy principles in Australia. And we’re taking advice to see how we will now have to act to meet all of our privacy obligations. The board wasn’t satisfied in August last year just to respond to the employment claim. It immediately commenced the process of engaging a forensic accounting firm, Grant Thornton, to investigate the claims made by the employee. We ensured that the scope of the work that they completed was broad enough so they could have unlimited access to all transactions covered by the allegations.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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Michigan's largest United Methodist congregation votes to leave denomination

Michigan's largest United Methodist congregation votes to leave denomination

Cornerstone Church
Members of Cornerstone Church of Caledonia, Michigan gather at the congregation’s 84th Street Campus to vote to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church on Sunday, March 19, 2023. |

The largest United Methodist Church congregation in Michigan has voted to leave the mainline Protestant denomination over the ongoing debate over homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Cornerstone Church of Caledonia, which has satellite campuses in Grand Rapids and the city of Wyoming, voted on Sunday to disaffiliate from the UMC and become a nondenominational congregation. The final tally was 616 in favor, nine against and two abstentions. 

A spokesperson for Cornerstone directed The Christian Post to an article on the UMC Michigan Conference website, which noted that Cornerstone Pastor Ken Nash still wanted to work with the UMC on certain efforts.

“We like being networked and connected,” said Nash, as quoted by the conference. “We love the idea of connectionalism. So this isn’t a renegade spirit that we have. We want to have a connection in the future. It just doesn’t have to be as formalized.”

While Cornerstone has often been labeled conservative, Nash noted that the congregation has “a Methodist heart” and has “a lot of diversity of thought, theologically.”

“We realized we can have a gracious exit,” Nash confessed. “And because of the graciousness of [Michigan Bishop David Bard], we can have a gracious exit.”

“That allowed us an opportunity for more dialogue around how can we continue to be a bridge between the differences and not be forced into one camp or another.”

A spokesperson for the Michigan Conference emailed a statement to CP in which Bishop Bard was quoted expressing gratitude for Cornerstone and its cooperation with the disaffiliation process.

“Any separation in the church is painful for all involved,” stated Bard. “I am grateful for the ministry of Cornerstone Church over its entire history, and grateful that they have participated in the wider ministries of the Michigan Conference through the years.”

“I wish Cornerstone and its leaders well as they move into a new chapter of their ministry. I also pledge to work with any in the church that wishes to continue to be part of a United Methodist congregation.”

According to the statement, of the 721 member churches in the Michigan Conference, seven have officially left the UMC thus far, with another 23 congregations possibly leaving in June, pending a vote at that month’s annual conference meeting.

The third largest Christian denomination in the United States, the UMC has been embroiled in a divisive debate over whether to amend its rules to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of people in same-sex romantic relationships.

Although efforts to change the official rules have consistently failed, many progressive leaders in the UMC have openly defied the rules, such as opting to bless same-sex unions or approve the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.

In May of last year, the Global Methodist Church was launched as a theologically conservative alternative to the UMC, with hundreds of churches voting to join the new denomination shortly after it was created.

Since last year, more than 1,800 congregations have voted to disaffiliate from the UMC, with most deciding to join the nascent GMC, while others have opted to become nondenominational.

Earlier this month, the largest UMC congregation in Arkansas voted to amicably separate into three different congregations rather than hold a congregational vote on disaffiliation.

Central United Methodist Church of Fayetteville recently announced that the main campus would remain with the UMC, while said campus would provide for the funding of a new conservative congregation to be founded by their present leadership, and a satellite campus known as the Genesis campus would become independent.

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Seek to Speak the Truth to Each Other (Acts 5:4) – Your Daily Bible Verse – March 24

Seek to Speak the Truth to Each Other (Acts 5:4) – Your Daily Bible Verse – March 24

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Seek to Speak the Truth to Each Other
by Lynette Kittle

“Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”Acts 5:4

Do you ever find yourself “fudging” the truth in everyday life situations?

Perhaps you justify doing so because you believe you’re keeping the peace or sparing hurting someone’s feelings. Maybe in your opinion, you’re not really being dishonest or deceptive but rather managing conversations and situations for the best.

Possibly you leave out details because you don’t want people to know what’s really motivating your actions. Or maybe you only tell partial truth because you want someone to have a certain impression about you.

Yet Scripture is pretty straightforward in instructing Christians to “Speak the truth to each other” (Zechariah 8:16).

As well as Proverbs 22:21 urges you to be honest and speak the truth.

In Leviticus 19, God gave Moses’ guidelines for Israel to live by, including “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor (vs. 13).

Although many may not consider “fudging the truth” a form of defrauding, it’s robbing another of truth with an intention to be misleading.

A really severe example of the seriousness of defrauding is in Acts 5, where a couple named Ananias and Sapphira sold land and brought the money to give to the Apostles. Instead of saying they were keeping some of it for themselves, they mislead the group to believe they were giving the total amount received.

Act 5:2 describes how “With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.”

In today’s standards, it wouldn’t seem like a big deal but both were immediately struck dead and carried away from the scene (Acts 5:5-10).

Although today’s culture may not understand why this deadly incident occurred, Acts 5:4 explains why it was such a serious situation. “You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

Still, with “fudging” so widespread in present-day culture, most believe there isn’t anything wrong in practicing it. Instead of seeing it as defrauding others and a sin against God, people rationalize its use.

As you go about your daily life, ask God to help you not to defraud those around you.

Ask Him to show you any areas where you may have failed and confess your sin to Him. Psalm 32:5 states how when you acknowledge your sin and you do not cover up your iniquity, God forgives and frees you from the guilt of it.

Choose today to speak the truth in all your dealings with others.

Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman,,,, and more. She has an M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as an associate producer for Soul Check TV.

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A Prayer to Hold Fast to God – Your Daily Prayer – March 24

A Prayer to Hold Fast to God – Your Daily Prayer – March 24

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A Prayer to Hold Fast to God
By Tiffany Thibault

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him.” – Psalm 91:14,15 (ESV)

You may have heard it said that the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. I must say that something was left out of that list. Difficulties, troubles, tough times, and really hard situations. It seems that not a day goes by when someone I know faces some sort of hard, some sort of difficult struggle. Whether small and irritating or absolutely devastating and life-changing, we all have many moments in our lives that drop us to our knees as we pour out our cries to the Lord. 

A few days ago, I heard someone speak words that sent me to the depths of despair. There seemed no hope in this medical diagnosis. I felt my heart drop, my thoughts began to spin, my breathing became shorter and shallower. Cries of no, and why swirled around my head as they crashed into the more focused thoughts of there must be another way through this, there has to be a solution! 

No matter what life throws at us, we can find strength in this Bible verse. These words from Psalm 91, penned so long ago, by a man who lived a life filled with many troubles, can fill our hearts with hope. The way through the darkness, the troubled times are found in the beauty of these words.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him. Know the Lord, seek to grow closer to Him, search to find Him in the pages of the Bible. Hold to the promises found in Scripture, make them a part of your every breath and He will deliver you in the midst of that fear of the diagnosis, the pain of your broken heart, the worry of your thoughts. 

I will protect him, because he knows my name. These powerful words are a reminder to us that we must know God. We must know the power of His name and understand His character. Each moment of our lives, whether filled with good or with pain, we must learn to know Him more, to cling to Him deeper, to pray to Him in sincerity and humility, and to fall more in love with Him. He is a good Father, and He will protect those who are His children. 

When he calls to me, I will answer him. When we call on Him, when we pray to Him, He will answer! When the answer comes, trust Him. Perhaps he doesn’t answer in the way that you want but remind yourself that it’s in the way that He deems best. He alone knows the future; He is God. 

I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him. He will rescue you and He will honor you. That honor could be fulfilled by answering your prayer in exactly the way that you want, or it could be that He honors you in some other way, in a way that glorifies Him as it brings you peace, a deeper understanding of who He is and an opportunity to become more like Jesus. No matter the news, the relationship struggles, the pain and turmoil that you are walking through, He promises that He will be with you in your trouble. 

So, in the midst of the unknowns and the ‘what next’ questions that flood your mind, turn your eyes back to Jesus. Rest in Him, trust Him. He promises to deliver you, protect you, answer you, be with you, rescue you and honor you. Those are the truths that you can know that you can focus on as you go into your next moments and into every situation that stands before you. He is God, and He is a good God who loves you, hears you and stays with you through every single breath of your life. Remind yourself that you are never alone in the midst of your troubles when you have the God who created everything and who loves you so incredibly right there by your side holding you through them. 

Let’s pray:

Dear Lord, 
Thank you for these words of promise. You are a God who keeps your word. Be with me today as I cling to you in every one of my situations. Deliver me from the traps and lies of the enemy. Protect me from the fiery arrows that are falling down upon me. Answer me Lord when I call. Rescue me and honor me Lord as I cling to you, as I look to you, and as I love you with every cell in my body. May others see you through the way that you fulfill your promises in my life. 
In Your name, I pray, Amen

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/tommaso79

Tiffany Thibault is the author of the Bible study “Being Fruitful;” she loves leading Bible Study and speaking to women, encouraging them through truths from the Bible. She lives in the Mojave desert with her family and loves to explore the wilderness areas around her city.

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Does Jesus Understand Our Suffering?

Does Jesus Understand Our Suffering?

Suffering is something we are all familiar with. Despite our efforts to avoid suffering, nobody can escape suffering in their lives. We will all have various pains and suffering over the course of our life on earth.

While one person’s suffering may look different from another person’s suffering, all suffering is equally painful. Since we as human beings suffer daily, does Jesus understand our suffering?

How Does Jesus Understand Our Suffering?

Jesus does understand our suffering. The Bible tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

When Jesus came down from heaven to be born into the world, He knew He would endure pain and suffering. He grew up and felt the same pain we all experience throughout our lives.

Since Jesus was both fully man and fully God, He was able to know what it felt like to experience the same human suffering that we feel.

Similar to us, Jesus knows what it feels like to be hungry, thirsty, and tired. He also knew what it felt like to be tempted, yet unlike us, Jesus never committed a sin (1 Peter 2:22). Since Jesus knew what it felt like to be tempted, He can help us in our struggle against sin.

Even though the world causes sin to look appealing, it is not. We suffer when we are being tempted by sin or we are living in sin. Jesus can help us overcome sin through the Holy Spirit in us. Once we have placed faith in Christ, we are given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit permanently stays with us, and He never leaves us. He is able to guide, instruct, and convict us.

If we are walking in the Spirit, we will be better at avoiding sin as Paul tells us, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). All sin causes us to suffer, and God doesn’t want us to suffer in pain.

While avoiding suffering is impossible, suffering and pain were never part of God’s original plan for mankind. He wanted us to live with Him in Eden, yet due to our sin, we were separated from God and banished from Eden.

It is only through placing faith in Christ that our relationship with the Father can be repaired. Thus, even though we have suffering in the world does not mean God created it. Suffering and pain came into being after the Fall of Man.

While suffering will happen to us throughout our lives, Jesus is always with us. He knows what it feels like to experience suffering and pain. When Jesus died on the cross, He took on all of our sins, and He felt all the same pain that we feel.

Even before He was crucified, Jesus was in extreme emotional pain. He was stressed and anxious to the point that He was sweating blood (Luke 22:44). This condition, known as hemosiderosis, is extremely rare and only happens when a person is in extreme distress.

Since the Lord had this happen to Him, we can know for a fact that Jesus knew what it felt like to suffer not only physically, but also emotionally.

We can think of Jesus as being distant from us to even know what our pain is. I, too, have struggled with these thoughts before, yet they are only intrusive thoughts that are lying to us. Jesus understands our suffering and our pain.

No matter what you are going through today, know that Jesus understands your pain. Maybe you’re struggling with a physical illness, a mental illness, or an emotional problem.

Despite the various different ways that we suffer in our lives, Jesus understands all of them. Jesus doesn’t condemn us for our suffering; rather, He is compassionate to us. He understands our pain, and He is walking right beside us through every step (Psalm 23).

Why Is There Suffering?

These past years have been difficult for most of us, and many of us have gone through trauma, pain, and loss. During times of suffering, turn to Jesus. He completely knows how you are feeling, and He desires to surround you with His love.

Often, when we are suffering, we complain or compare our bad moments to somebody else’s life. Don’t gauge your own life on what is shown on social media. Social media is a highlight reel of other people’s lives.

We don’t need to weigh our bad days against someone’s highlight reel. Social media is extremely bad for our mental health and can actually contribute to depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Nobody is alone in their suffering because Jesus is always there. He promises to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). Bring your struggles and pains before God and leave them at His feet. Tell Him about your suffering and how you need His help. God knows we are not strong enough on our own.

He wants us to turn to Him and acknowledge our dependence on Him. He understands every single pain we have, whether that is feeling tired or having a loved one die. The Lord understands our suffering, and He wants to bring us peace, serenity, and comfort.

After my mom passed away, my family and I suffered greatly. As much as I would like to say that I praised God despite the pain, I didn’t. Instead, I grew angry at God, and I believed He didn’t truly understand my pain and suffering.

When we are in pain and suffering, it can be easy to lose sight of facts. Rather than being guided by facts, we are guided by our emotions. While emotions are normal, they can often get difficult when we are upset.

Instead of trusting God, I blamed Him for my mother’s death because, in my teenage mind, I knew God could do anything, so why didn’t He save my mom?

It took time for me to fully understand that God works even bad things out for His good (Romans 8:28). God does understand our suffering and our pain because He has already experienced it Himself. Jesus knew what it was like to lose a loved one. He wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35).

What Does This Mean?

If you are presently going through suffering, know you’re not alone. God is with you, and He is walking with you through this pain. Even if you feel alone, you’re not alone.

There are other Christians throughout the world who are experiencing the same suffering you are going through. While knowing this doesn’t make the pain go away, it can help us know that we are not alone in our pain.

Turn to the Lord and pour your heart out to Him. He loves to hear how you are feeling and wants to comfort you with His love. Jesus completely understands your suffering and pain. While suffering was not part of God’s original plan for mankind, it now happens because of the fall of man.

One day, all suffering and pain will go away as God will create the New Heaven and New Earth. There will be no more pain, crying, or death in the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:4).

Throughout your suffering, remind yourself God is with you and that the suffering will not endure forever. Even if the suffering lasts a lifetime, you have eternity with the Lord of lords and King of kings.

For further reading:

Why Does the Christian Life Lead to Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

What Does the Bible Say about Suffering?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/ArtistGNDphotography

Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master’s degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.

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When making exceptions for Ramadan is no longer the exception

When making exceptions for Ramadan is no longer the exception

(RNS) — Scrolling Twitter on the first evening of Ramadan 2023, I was greeted (well, as all Muslims were) by Elmo. “Ramadan Mubarak to all of Elmo’s friends!” the red toddler Muppet said. “Elmo loves you!”

In Chicago, the marquee at famed Wrigley Field displayed a Ramadan Mubarak message for the second year in a row to Cubs fans and all Chicagoans.

Even Michaels — the craft and last-minute decoration store destination for all parents who are told by their kids in the nth hour that they need special markers or poster board or some craftsy thing — offered up Ramadan stickers to me yesterday when I rushed in for some Command Strips to finish hanging up our Ramadan decorations. (And yes, items for my youngest son’s last-minute school project.)

It’s no secret that businesses, educational institutions, workplaces, even Sesame Street celebrities have been acknowledging and sharing Ramadan greetings for several years now. We’ve gone from special Ramadan Mubarak (blessed Ramadan) and Ramadan Kareem (generous Ramadan) ads on television featuring hijab-wearing women to hijabi women appearing as just another person in the background of numerous marketing campaigns. (Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad comes to mind.)

And I am joyfully here for it all.

A few years ago I completed my lunar cycle of fasting, the 33-year journey following the ever-shifting lunar calendar as it migrates through the solar-based Gregorian calendar. I fasted my first full 30 days of Ramadan as a 13-year-old seventh grader in her first (and only) season of track, when Ramadan occurred in May. Thirty-three years later (two years ago for me), Ramadan again fell in May, having shifted backwards in yearly 10-day increments over that span.

Then I was one of the only kids fasting in school (my older brother was the other one) in a Midwestern school community that didn’t really get what we were doing as Muslims but allowed us to hang out in the counselor’s office or library at lunchtime. By the time I completed the lunar fasting cycle, my ninth grader son was texting our family group chat a photo of the “Ramadan Mubarak” sign hanging in his school library.

Two children stand with their father as he and other Muslims perform an Eid al-Fitr prayer in an outdoor open area, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, May 13, 2021, in Morton Grove, Illinois. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar)

Two children stand with their father as he and other Muslims perform an Eid al-Fitr prayer in an outdoor open area, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, May 13, 2021, in Morton Grove, Illinois. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar)

And, here’s the best part. 

Last week at my son’s first ever school tennis match, one of the coaches approached me as I watched him play doubles and asked if I was his mom. When I replied yes, she asked me if he would be fasting for Ramadan.

“I’m trying to talk with the parents of all the kids who will be fasting on the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams,” she told me. “I want to know what their fasting plans will be so we can make sure to best accommodate them and keep an eye on them as they play — make sure they aren’t getting too tired or anything.”

I was floored. The coach approached me. I didn’t have to set up a meeting or send an email (as I always have) to talk through spring sports and the fasting month and how we could make it work. I also didn’t have to ask the PE teacher to go easy on my guy. (He already knew about Ramadan, and besides my son asked me to not say anything, that he could handle gym class. You know: Butt out, Mom.)

This shift is the result of so many American Muslim organizations taking on this fight over the years, so many grassroots efforts by parents and other American Muslims educating our communities around the country. We have built awareness about our faith and about humanity. It has been extremely hard-fought and messy, and, to be sure, it isn’t this way everywhere. There is always more growth to be had in our schools, workplaces and community structures. I’m not taking it for granted. But Ramadan is at last becoming baked into American life, and yeah, it feels good.

My aspiring tennis star is not the only one who is being recognized. In the United Kingdom, where Ramadan lights are up for the first time in Piccadilly Circus, officials in the Premier League, soccer’s major leagues, have been advised to allow for stoppage of play for Muslim players to break their fast at sunset.

I reached out to Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and avid soccer fan, to ask him about the magnitude of what this means. “For the longest time,” he explained, “Muslims watched certain levels of sport in the West as pure spectators, distant from the superheroes on the pitch. Over time … we began to be those superheroes on the pitch, on the fields and on the greatest sports platforms. 

“As that happened, our values and our lifestyles became less foreign and less distant. It’s not that we need validation; it’s an assertion of who we are and what matters to us. For major sports to acknowledge us, it’s really amazing. It’s another milestone of belonging,” he said.

Dilshad Ali. Courtesy photo

Dilshad D. Ali. Courtesy photo

For me, it’s just as big as my son’s tennis coach approaching me to have a Ramadan discussion about how to balance sport and fasting. It wasn’t about my son not playing or about drastically changing team schedules to accommodate the Muslim kids. It was about how to best help him make all parts of his life work in harmony. When I excitedly related the conversation to my son after his match was over, he was nonplussed, as if that was to be expected.

Yes. Exactly. 


(Dilshad D. Ali is a journalist and blog editor for the website Haute Hijab, an e-commerce company that works to serve Muslim women. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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