By Fergus Hunter, Alexandra Smith and Laura Chung SMH
Updated August 5, 2021 — 5.04pmfirst published at 3.49pm
Hillsong pastor Brian Houston has been charged for allegedly concealing child sexual abuse by his late father Frank Houston.
Mr Houston, who has been living in the US and recently travelled to preach in Mexico, was charged following a two-year investigation into allegations he failed to report the alleged abuse of a boy in the 1970s.
Detectives on Thursday afternoon served his lawyer with a court attendance notice requiring Mr Houston’s appearance at Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on October 5 2021.
“Police will allege in court that 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,” NSW Police said in a statement.
Mr Houston, co-founder of the global Pentecostal Christian church, preached in person at a service in Mexico last month and has been based in the US with his wife Bobbie Houston for several months, overcoming Australia’s COVID-19 border restrictions.
The Sydney-based co-founders of the global Pentecostal Christian church Hillsong preached in person at a service in Mexico on Monday and have been based in the United States for several months, despite the Australian border being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brian and Bobbie Houston, the husband and wife team who are co-global senior pastors at Hillsong Church, both arrived in the US three months ago and “will remain there for some time”, a church spokesperson said.
After learning last week of Mr Houston’s international travel, Police Minister David Elliott condemned the pastor for leaving his church during a pandemic.
“He is setting a shocking example to the millions of Australians forced into lockdown and I can’t think of a more hypocritical set of values for a so-called Christian leader,” Mr Elliott said.
“My phone has gone crazy given the challenges facing the very people he claims to offer pastoral care to.”
Mr Elliott said, despite Hillsong being in his electorate, he will “never step foot in it again as long as he [Mr Houston] is leader.”
NSW Police said detectives received advice this week from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions following a request on their brief of evidence regarding Mr Houston. Following further inquiries, police proceeded with the charge on Thursday.
Frank Houston, who died in 2004, has been accused of abusing nine boys while a Pentecostal preacher.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse found Brian Houston had failed to report the abuse after his father confessed to it in 1999.
Brett Sengstock, who endured Frank Houston’s abuse over five years in the 1960s and 1970s, has publicly condemned Brian Houston’s actions and accused him of covering up his father’s actions.
The Hillsong Church published a blog post last month in which it said Mr Houston found out about his father’s actions when he was 45 and Mr Sengstock was 37.
“Numerous other pastors and individuals had knowledge of this matter prior to Brian Houston learning about it,” the post said.
“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 claimed Mr Sengstock asked Mr Houston not to inform the police. Mr Sengstock has previously denied this.
The church has been approached for comment.