Hillsong founder Brian Houston drops bombshell announcement on congregation in Australia

The founder of the Evangelical Hillsong Church in Australia, Brian Houston, dropped a bombshell on his worshippers today, announcing he was stepping aside from all church activities while he defends allegations he concealed his father’s child sexual abuse.

The pastor for the powerful evangelical church was charged in October last year with one count of concealing the serious indictable offence of another person.

Police allege Houston knew from September 1999 that his father Frank Houston had indecently assaulted a male in 1970.

Frank Houston was a Pentecostal Christian pastor in the Assemblies of God in New Zealand and Australia. He was born in Whanganui.

His son Brian was born in Auckland, and grew up in New Zealand until the family moved to Australia in 1978.

On Sunday, Brian Houston told the church’s congregation that the criminal charge came as a “complete shock” and he intends to “vigorously defend” it but this meant some changes.

He revealed to his followers his decision to immediately step down from his current duties as part of the church leadership.

“In December during our annual board retreat, Hillsong’s external legal counsel gave the board advice regarding the current charge I’m facing and that it would be best practice for me to step aside completely from church leadership during the court proceedings,” he told the congregation on Sunday morning.

“So its likely to be drawn out and take up most of 2022, especially considering the backlog in courts exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. And along with this the board and I have been having detailed discussions around requirements for leadership and we’ve talked about the effects of the situation with my father, going back many years up to the current legal case, and the impact that this has had on me emotionally.

“So the result is Hillsong’s global board feel it’s in my and the church’s best interest for this to happen, so I’ve agreed to step aside from all ministry responsibilities until the end of the year.”

The 67-year-old added he need to be “fully committed” to prepare his case and work closely with his lawyers to defend the charge and “set the record straight”.

In September last year, he also stepped aside as a director of all Hillsong boards.

Earlier this week, the Hillsong founder’s court matter was delayed once again after his lawyers told a court he would plead not guilty.

Lawyers for the mega-church founder requested via email Houston’s matter be adjourned so prosecutors and legal counsel could hold a case conference in February and re-list the matter.

In court documents, police allege Houston failed to tell the authorities his father had allegedly indecently assaulted a male in 1970, despite believing his father had committed the assault, and knowing he had information that might help a prosecution.

“Believing that Frank Houston committed that offence and knowing that he had information that might be of material assistance in securing the prosecution of Frank Houston for that offence,” court documents allege that he “failed to bring that information to the attention of NSW Police”.

The period of the charge is from September 15, 1999 to November 9, 2004, the day after Frank Houston’s death.

Hills Police Area Command began investigating reports Houston had knowingly concealed information related to child sex offences in 2019.

Houston founded Hillsong in the Sydney suburbs in 1983, while his father was head of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand until 1971.

The court matter was adjourned to March 3.

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