Brian Houston, co-founder and leader of the Hillsong megachurch, has been charged with allegedly covering up child sex abuse.
Houston and his wife are the current global senior pastors of Hillsong megachurch.
On Thursday (5 August), Houston was charged by Australian police, accused of concealing his father’s sexual abuse of a seven-year-old boy, which took place in the 1970s.
In a statement, the New South Wales Police Force said an investigation into Houston began in 2019, following reports that a “67-year-old man had knowingly concealed information relating to child sexual offences”.
The statement continued: “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.”
Houston is set to appear in court on 5 October, 2021.
According to the New York Times, Houston has denied the charges and said in an emailed statement provided by Hillsong: “These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter.
“I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Hillsong leader Brian Houston has already admitted to knowing about his father’s child sexual abuse
Brian Houston’s father Frank Houston founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre in 1977, which went on to merge with Brian Houston’s Hills Christian Life Centre, later renamed Hillsong.
Now, Hillsong has 150,000 members across 23 countries.
A 2014 report by the Australian government’s royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse found, while conducting a case study on Houston, that he had failed to report the abuse to police.
According to transcripts, he said his father, who died in 2004, had confessed the sexual abuse to him in December 1999.
Houston said: “I confronted him. He went extremely dry in the mouth and said: ‘Yes, these things did happen.’”
While Houston stopped his father from preaching, he never mentioned the confession to authorities.
The final report found: “Despite pastor Brian Houston’s evidence that he had no doubt that his father’s conduct was criminal, he made no attempt to report his father to the police at the time the confession was made to him.”
Houston claimed that the victim, now 36, had said he didn’t want to go to the police.
“I am the victim. I’ve been brutally raped by Frank Houston. He destroyed my life.
“Brian covered it up and there is no doubt about that. Why would I want to cover Frank Houston or him?”
Hillsong leader Brian Houston wrote essay about ‘not affirming gay lifestyle’
Hillsong has long been plagued by accusations of homophobia, and attempting to dissuade his critics, in 2015 Brian Houston wrote a blog post titled: “Do I love gay people?”
While Houston claimed to “love and care about people”, he added: “I also live by my own convictions, and hold to traditional Christian thought on gay lifestyles and gay marriage.
He continued: “Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles.
“Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid.”
Last year a queer former Hillsong member spoke out about her “traumatising” experience in the church.
Speaking to Insider, Noemi Uribe said that when she came out as bisexual to her pastor at the church’s Boston branch, he told her that if she “were to start practicing” homosexuality, “that’s where there’s a problem”.
Uribe said that “being at Hillsong was really traumatising” and her mental health deteriorated to the point that she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. She added: “None of the pastors ever [visited] from Hillsong.”
Houston and his wife Bobbie were close friends with Sy Rogers, who before his death was an “ex-gay” leader and former president of the infamous Exodus International, which at the time was the world’s largest promoter of the discredited belief that gay people can “overcome” their sexuality through God.
When he died, Bobbie Houston paid tribute to Rogers, who had preached at Hillsong.
She said: “Heaven truly welcomed home a treasure today who will light up that landscape with his warmth, humour and goodness. With love and affection – Brian, Bobbie and your global Hillsong family.”