BRIAN HOUSTON, the co-founder of the Sydney-based Pentecostal Church Hillsong, and now its global senior pastor, has stepped down from his position as he contests a charge that he failed to report allegations of child sexual abuse dating to the 1970s (News, 13 August 2021).
The charge relates to allegations that his father, Frank Houston, a Pentecostal preacher who died in 2004, abused nine boys both in Australia and New Zealand. The case is expected to come to court in Sydney in October.
In September last year, Brian Houston withdrew from various Hillsong boards to concentrate on the charge, against which he says he will “vigorously defend” himself. At the time, though, he continued as global senior pastor, supervising the 131 Hillsong churches around the world.
In a statement issued on Sunday, however, Mr Houston says that the Church’s external legal counsel had advised the Hillsong Global Board that it would be “best practice” for him to step aside completely from church leadership during the court proceedings. The Global Board, he continues, “feel it is in my and the church’s best interest” for him to step aside from all ministry responsibilities until the end of this year.
He writes: “Along with this, the board and I have had detailed discussion around the requirements for leadership. We have talked about the effects of the situation with my father, which go back many years up to the current legal case, and the impact this has had on me emotionally.”
He needs, he says, to be “fully committed to preparation and engagement with the case” and work closely with his lawyers in defending the charge.
The South Africa-based pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley will act as interim global senior pastors.
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which ran from 2013 to 2017, found that Brian Houston failed to report the abuse to the police after his father disclosed it in 1999. The disclosure led to his father’s resignation from the Church, with a pension.