Hillsong’s founder and global senior pastor Brian Houston has stepped away from his position to focus on the legal fight over charges that he was aware of his father’s sexual abuse crimes but did not alert the authorities. Houston says he will not be involved in Hillsong leadership “until the end of the year.”
Pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley, who lead a Hillsong Church in South Africa, will take over as acting global senior pastors in Houston’s absence.
Last summer, Houston was charged by the New South Wales Police with concealing the sexual abuse crimes committed by his late father, Frank Houston. Police say Houston failed to report his father’s alleged sexual abuse of a boy back in the 1970s.
“As I have said, most of you know the court case I am facing is related to circumstances surrounding my father, and I need to be fully committed to preparation and engagement with the case and work closely with my lawyers in defending this charge,” Houston wrote in a statement.
“I have said, including in a prior statement, that I intend to fight the charge and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” he continued.
Frank Houston was accused of molesting multiple boys over the course of his ministry. He confessed to the actions in 1999 and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse says Brian Houston failed to report his knowledge of the abuse. Hillsong Church has published a statement saying Brian Houston learned what his father did when he was 45 years old, though it acknowledged other pastors knew what had happened earlier. “Upon being told of his father’s actions, Brian Houston confronted his father, reported the matter to the National Executive Assemblies of God in Australia, relayed the matter to the governing board of Sydney Christian Life Centre and subsequently made a public announcement to the church,” the post reads.
Frank Houston passed away in 2009. He was never charged.