Scott Morrison is Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister, a branch of Christianity famous for stadium-sized gatherings and energetic sermons.
For more than a decade he and his family have been members of the Sutherland Shire’s Horizon Church in Sydney’s south, housed in a 1200-seat auditorium.
Horizon is a Pentecostal Christian church where pastors give rousing sermons, and followers can sometimes speak in tongues and engage in “divine healing”.
Horizon Church senior pastor Brad Bonhomme says Mr Morrison and his wife Jenny and daughters Lily and Abigail are regulars at the church on a Sunday, when more than 2000 people attend services.
More recently work has thwarted Mr Morrison’s regular attendance, however, his wife and daughters are heavily involved in the church’s children’s program.
The Morrisons met through church as teenagers and married at the age of 21.
Mr Bonhomme said the church would play no part in the running of the country or Liberal Party policy.
“Unfortunately there will be some that assume whatever policy direction the Liberal Party might choose to take, some would assume I or our church will be involved in that,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.
“As far as growth of the church is concerned there may be some people who may like what they see and what is happening, as far as the Liberal Party is concerned, we have no involvement in their policy making and their decision making.”
Mr Bonhomme said he and his wife Alison Bonhomme, also a senior pastor at Horizon, had a good relationship with the Morrisons.
Mr Bonhomme, a South African who “knows a good curry when he sees one”, said Mr Morrison was famous for the ones he whipped up for friends at home.
“I don’t delve too much into it as far as Scott’s political world goes, my role in his life is more on a faith base,” he said.
“Yes, our PM is a Christian, he regularly goes to a church and with that my job is to provide a place for him to express his faith.”
The pastor said he and his congregation were delighted about having one of their own in the nation’s top job.
“We are thrilled, we are just so excited and thankful and humbled all at the same time. There is a measure of responsibility too and we want to do our best. From our perspective we do all we can to represent our prime minister well,” he said.
“We are a bit more upbeat, a bit more up-tempo than a traditional church. The message is the same — love, justice, care — however the presentation is probably a bit louder, a bit more up tempo and a lot more musicians. I would say we are passionate in the way we share our beliefs.”
Mr Morrison, a former treasurer and minister for social services, immigration and border protection minister, has been open about his faith.
He was an opponent of same-sex marriage (same-sex unions do not occur in the Horizon Church) and has been roundly criticised for his tough stance on asylum seekers.
In his maiden speech to parliament in 2008 Mr Morrison thanked Hillsong pastors Brian Houston and Leigh Cameron for their “great assistance”. Hillsong, like Horizon, is a Pentecostal mega-church. It was founded by Houston and his wife Bobbie in Sydney in 1983 and claims to attract 100,000 people around the world every week.
“Growing up in a Christian home, I made a commitment to my faith at an early age,” Mr Morrison said in his maiden speech. “My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda.
“In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country.
“Australia is not a secular country — it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose. Secularism is just one. It has no greater claim than any other on our society.”
Hillsong, and therefore Pentecostal Christianity, has long been on the radar of the Liberal Party.
In 2005 the then NSW Premier Bob Carr, Treasurer Peter Costello and federal ministers Kevin Andrews, Alexander Downer and Peter Dutton attended Hillsong’s annual conference at the Sydney Superdome, along with another 20,000 people.