Pastor Brian Houston Hillsong Church: This religious leader has stepped down several times in an attempt to be forgiven.
The founder and former head of Hillsong, an Australian megachurch, has again made a public display of stepping down from power, this time in the form of resignation, despite several misconduct charges.
In January, pastor Brian Houston, 68, stated that he and his wife Bobbie had decided to “stand down fully” from the leadership of the worldwide church they started in 1983.
Houston had been gradually quitting his different Hillsong positions for months, amid many scandals and a court case accusing him of concealing his late father’s child sexual abuse.
Houston resigned after an internal probe revealed that two women’s reports that he had “indiscretions” with them while under the influence of medications and alcohol were accurate.
“We are writing to inform you that Pastor Brian Houston has resigned as Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church. The board has accepted his resignation,” the international church said on Wednesday.
“Hillsong Church was born out of Brian and Bobbie’s dedication and commitment to God’s call, and we are grateful for everything they have sacrificed to construct His house.” We ask that you continue to pray for them and the whole Houston family.”
According to the religion-focused news site Protest, Hillsong has removed Houston’s sermons from its website and his formal departure from the church.
The Washington Post contacted Hillsong for more information.
Houston exchanged “inappropriate” text messages to a female staff member, prompting her departure nearly a decade ago, according to a statement given by the church on March 18. Houston’s actions were attributed to him being “under the influence of sleeping drugs, on which he had formed a reliance,” according to the statement.
Houston “became disoriented after a session at the Hillsong Conference, following the consumption of anti-anxiety medication over the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol,” according to the church, leading to him “knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room, and spending time” with an unidentified woman in 2019.
Houston has subsequently gotten “professional therapy to eradicate his dependency on this medicine,” according to Hillsong’s news release.
The former Hillsong pastor made no mention of the allegations made by the two women when he stepped down in January, citing his legal proceedings as the basis for his withdrawal. Hillsong representatives have continually denied that Brian Houston covered it up to The Washington Post.
“The judicial processes are expected to drag on for the most of 2022 (especially given the backlog in the courts, which the COVID outbreak has compounded),” Houston said.
“We’ve discussed the emotional ramifications of my father’s position, which span many years and culminate in the current court issue. As a result, the Hillsong Global Board believes that this is in my and the church’s best interests, so I’ve agreed to step down from all ministry obligations until the end of the year.”
In August, the disgraced global senior pastor was charged with neglecting to turn over evidence related to his late father, the Pentecostal minister and pedophile Frank Houston. The ministry career of the latter was effectively ended after Brian removed him in 1999.
When Houston was charged in August, officials for Sydney’s Royal Commission on Institutional Leaders’ Handling of Sexual Abuse told publications, “Police will allege in court the man knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police.”
The allegations, which carry a potential term of five years in prison, stemmed from a two-year investigation into Brian’s father, Frank Houston, sexually abusing Brett Sengstock, then seven years old, in 1969 and 1970.
Frank allegedly “raped, choked, and brutalised” Sengstock before attempting to bribe him with $10,000 (AUD) via a hand-scrawled contract on a McDonald’s napkin, according to Sengstock. Frank died in 2004 at the age of 82. According to The Post after Frank allegedly failed to accomplish the arranged deal, the compensation was supposedly sent as a check in the mail from Brian himself.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how upfront I’ve always been about this topic,” Houston said in an August statement to The Post. I absolutely deny these claims and will vigorously defend myself, and I appreciate the opportunity to clear the air.”
“We are disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and ask that he be allowed the assumption of innocence and due process as is his right,” Hillsong representatives said. He has assured us that he will defend himself and that he is eager to clean his name. Pastor Brian and Hillsong Church will not make any more statements until the case is resolved in court. We appreciate everyone’s support and prayers during this difficult time at our church.”
The latest development in the Hillsong Church saga comes ahead of the Thursday broadcast of the three-part docuseries “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed,” which was co-produced by The Post and Discovery+/TLC.