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Hillsong Church Admits Founding Pastor Brian Houston Displayed Inappropriate Behavior With Two Women

Hillsong Church Admits Founding Pastor Brian Houston Displayed Inappropriate Behavior With Two Women

Hillsong Church’s Board of Directors addressed a report from Australian media that revealed its co-founder Brian Houston had breached its code of conduct with women in two separate instances. The global board “confidentially” dealt with “two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years.”

In one instance, Houston had texted flirtatiously with a Hillsong staff member 10 years ago. Religion News Service reports that Hillsong had a video meeting with 800 Hillsong staffers around the world in which interim pastor Phil Dooley characterized the texts as, “‘If I was with you, I’d like to kiss and cuddle you,’ words of that nature.”

The second incident took place during the church’s annual conference in Qudos Bank Arena in Homebush, New South Wales in 2019. Dooley said Houston had been drinking.

“Later that evening, Pastor Brian attempted to get into his room but didn’t have his room key and ended up knocking on the door to the woman’s room,” Dooley said, according to Australia’s ABC News report. “She opened the door and he went into her room. The truth is we don’t know what happened next. The woman has not said there was any sexual activity. Brian has said there was no sexual activity but he was in the room for 40 minutes.”

In their statement, the board said Houston had become disoriented after mixing alcohol and his anti-anxiety prescription. “This resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant,” the statement read. The board investigated the incident and found that “although all parts of the complaint were unable to be sustained, important elements of the complaint were sustained and the conduct was of serious concern.”

The board also blamed Houston’s flirtatious text messages on sleeping medication. Houston had developed a dependance on sleeping meds, according to the statement. Houston apologized to the staff member and she resigned, according to the board statement.

Houston agreed to step down from leadership at the time but, according to the board statement, failed to take all the agreed upon steps. The board wrote that they took “further action” last year, but did not offer further details.

Houston is currently on leave from his leadership and pastoral duties to deal with charges that he failed to report sexual abuse committed by his father, Frank Houston. At the time of that announcement, Houston said his leave would last for a year.

Globally, Hillsong Church is a force, drawing some 15,000 members to its 30 locations around the world every week. Its vaunted musical ministry is behind international hits like “Oceans” and “Shout to the Lord.” But scrutiny around church leadership has grown in recent years, especially after former Hillsong New York Pastor Carl Lentz stepped down following revelations of an extramarital affair. Several other pastors and church leaders have also faced discipline or been forced to step away following other allegations of misconduct.

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