Australian police recently charged Brian Houston, founder of the Australia-based megachurch Hillsong, with concealing the sexual abuse of a child.
The police alleged in a statement that Houston knew about the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of the authorities. Houston said in a statement that he was innocent and would “welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Hillsong Founder’s Father Accused of Abusing Nine Boys
According to NBC News, Houston became aware of sexual abuse allegations against his father, Frank Houston, in 1999, but rather than take the appropriate action, allowed the elder Houston to retire quietly.
Frank Houston was a Pentecostal Christian pastor and headed the Assemblies of God Church in New Zealand. He also founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre, which Brian would eventually take over and merge into the Hillsong Church. Frank served as a pastor at his church for more than two decades, and in senior positions at the Assemblies of God in Australia.
During Frank’s time at the Assemblies of God, he was accused of sexual abuse. The Guardian reports that in 2000, he confessed to abusing a boy in New Zealand more than 30 years earlier. Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse investigated the allegations and found that Frank had allegedly abused up to nine boys in Australia and New Zealand and that no allegations were referred to police. Frank died in 2004 at the age of 82.
One of Frank’s victims told investigators that in the year 2000, Frank allegedly offered him $10,000 to forgive him, as he did not “want this on my head when I stand in front of God.”
Brian Houston Allowed Abusive Father to Resign Without Penalty
The same victim told investigators that he believed Brian Houston and elders of the Hillsong Church “kept the abuse as quiet as they could, and have not been held accountable.” It was his allegations that spurred the investigation in the first place, with further allegations surfacing in 2002 and 2009.
In October 2014, Australia’s Royal Commission examined the responses of the Assemblies of God in Australia to allegations against Frank Houston and two other men. In its final report, the commission found multiple failings within the church leadership—which was led by Brian at the time—in responding to the allegations.
The church, under Brian’s leadership, did not inform the public about the allegations, and though Brian told the commission that his father was dismissed instantly and that he never preached again after that time, the commission found Frank had continued to preach in Canberra the following month.
“Pastor Brian Houston and the Australian Christian Churches provided no written evidence recording the suspension of Mr. Frank Houston’s credential to the royal commission,” the report said.
Frank retired in late 2000 and was allowed to resign with a retirement package.
Brian Houston has been served with a notice to appear in a Sydney court on October 5, 2021, for allegedly concealing a serious indictable offense. He has been based in the U.S. in recent months.
This story is similar to many coming out of the Catholic Church in the U.S. According to a Pennsylvania grand jury report released in 2018, more than 1,000 victims were abused by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years while the Church took several steps to cover it up.