Friday, September 29

Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston steps down amid scandal

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Hillsong Church founder, Brian Houston is temporarily stepping down from leading the megachurch as he prepares for his trial in Australia.

This is coming amid numerous scandals and an ongoing court case accusing Houston of hiding his late father’s sexual abuse of children, all of which the church has denied.

Houston said he’s resigning from “all ministry responsibilities” until the end of 2022, pending his legal battle over charges that he concealed child sex offenses committed by his late preacher father Frank Houston. Brian has repeatedly denied the allegations.

He wrote; 

“In September last year, I learned it was necessary for me to step aside as a director of all Hillsong boards during this season, enabling me to give attention to these charges.

“But recently, we made a decision that may come as a surprise to you, and I want you to hear it from me directly.”

The decision for Houston to “step aside completely” from the leadership of the multinational church he and wife Bobbie founded in 1983 came in December, at the recommendation of “Hillsong’s external legal counsel.” 

He added; 

“The court processes are likely to be drawn out and take up most of 2022 (especially considering the backlog in the courts, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic).

“We have talked about the effects of the situation with my father, which go back many years up to the current legal case, and the impact this has had on me emotionally. The result is that the Hillsong Global Board feel it is in my and the church’s best interest for this to happen, so I have agreed to step aside from all ministry responsibilities until the end of the year.”

65-year-old Bobbie who is not charged in the yearslong case, will “remain fully engaged in church life” during Brian’s “sabbatical,” as the couple’s daughter Laura Toggs referred to his resignation in an Instagram post.

“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,” officials for Sydney’s Royal Commission on Institutional Leaders’ Handling of Sexual Abuse told publications upon charging Houston in August. The charges carry a maximum sentence of up to five years behind bars and followed a two-year investigation pf Brian’s father Frank Houston’s sexual abuse of Brett Sengstock, then 7 years old, in 1969 and 1970.

Frank — who died in 2004 at age 82 — “raped, choked and brutalized” Sengstock, then attempted to bribe him with $10,000 (AUD) — via a hand-scrawled contract on a McDonald’s napkin, Sengstock has stated. The payoff was allegedly sent as a check in the mail from Brian himself after Frank apparently failed to complete the agreed transaction, The Post previously reported.

Brian is charged with failing to turn over evidence concerning the crimes of his father, whose ministry career was functionally terminated after Brian sacked him in 1999, the Guardian reported in 2014.

Representatives for Hillsong have repeatedly denied claims that Brian Houston covered it up to The Post.

Hillsong, which has drawn the likes of Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Chris Pratt and Kylie Jenner as members, has faced several waves of controversy in recent years. Pastor Carl Lentz, Bieber’s one-time spiritual confidante, was fired in 2020 over “moral failures” amid reports he had multiple extramarital affairs. Pastor Darnell Barrett stepped down last April after sending explicit photos to at least one of his followers.

The church is the subject of Discovery+’s upcoming three-part docuseries Breaking Hillsong, which will explore the “headline-making world of global star-studded megachurch Hillsong and the downfall of its ultra-hip, celebrity senior pastor, Carl Lentz.”

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