Houston’s name may be intricately linked with the megachurch, but it is no longer on 18 of 19 Hillsong entities as he faces criminal charges.
SEP 17, 2021
Pastor Brian Houston, whose name is synonymous with the Hillsong megachurch, has stepped aside from virtually all his directorships in Hillsong entities in a major corporate overhaul before he is due to face criminal charges of concealment early next month.
ASIC records show Houston resigned as a director of Hillsong Church Ltd, one of the original entities, from August 17, 12 days after being charged by NSW Police with concealing information on the crime of child sex abuse committed by his father, Frank Houston, in the early 1970s.
The McClellan royal commission heard that Houston had become aware in 1999 of the crime and had failed to pass on the information to police at the time. Houston has consistently asserted that he was respecting the victim’s wishes.
A friend and mentor to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Houston has been a fixture on the boards of Hillsong entities — in some cases for more than two decades. Over that period Hillsong has grown exponentially from its base in Sydney’s north-west to become a global phenomenon.
As registered charities the entities are exempt from an array of taxes.
Hillsong has made no public announcement of Houston’s move or the reason for it.
As Crikey reported, it is possible Houston would be ineligible to be a company director should he be convicted of the crime of concealment, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ jail.
Houston’s case is listed for hearing in a magistrate’s court in Sydney on October 5. Houston has said he will return from the United States to appear in court and will vigorously defend the charge.
Hillsong has also been under siege from the media in the US and the UK. And this weekend Australia’s 60 Minutes is set to air allegations of sexual harassment and assault from two young women.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR @D_HARDAKER
David has an extensive career as a journalist and broadcaster, primarily at the ABC where he worked on flagship programs such as Four Corners, 7.30, Foreign Correspondent, AM and PM. He spent eight years reporting in the Middle East and can speak Arabic.
Weeks out from Brian Houston’s scheduled court date, he has stepped down from nearly all responsibilities at megachurch Hillsong.
Hannah Frishberg, NY Post
|news.com.auHillsong founder charged for allegedly covering up child sexual abuse|
Hillsong founder charged for allegedly covering up child sexual abuse
Brian Houston, the founder of scandal-plagued Hillsong Church, has stepped down from almost all of his positions at the Australia-based megachurch ahead of a looming court date next month.
“I’ve made a decision to step aside from my role on the Hillsong Church boards that oversee the governance of our operations,” Mr Houston, 67, wrote in an email sent to congregants Friday (local time) and seen by The Post.
“I did this so that these boards can function to their fullest capacity during this season.”
Despite his reduced workload, Mr Houston said he would retain his role as Global Senior Pastor.
“This doesn’t change my role as Global Senior Pastor. I thought it was important to let our church family know in the interests of transparency, and I wanted you to hear it from me directly,” he wrote.
He also expressed optimism that about the future of the church, saying he was “still full of vision” and thought there was “an exciting season ahead for our church”.
Hillsong did not return The Post’s request for comment.
Mr Houston’s announcement, and the corporate gut restructuring of Hillsong it implies, follows Australian authorities’ August subpoenaing of the pastor.
He is charged with concealing alleged child sex offences committed by his late father, the Pentecostal pastor and paedophile Frank Houston.
Hillsong founder Brian Houston’s name has quietly been being removed from church paperwork since last month. Picture: Getty
“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 local outlets at the time.
In a statement received by The Post last month, Mr Houston said, “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.”
He is due to appear in court on October 5.
Despite his formal removal from virtually all church board mastheads, the mentor to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed to churchgoers that he’s still running the show at Hillsong, which receives numerous tax exemptions as a registered charity.
The email made no mention of Frank or Brian’s court date next month.
Mr Houston has been charged with concealing alleged child sex offences. Picture: Getty
According to an investigation by Aussie news outlet Crikey, Brian’s name has been quietly being removed from various titles since last month, soon after he was subpoenaed.
On August 17, 12 days after he was charged, he resigned as Hillsong’s director. He is no longer on 18 of the 19 charities Hillsong has registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission.
And his transition into what was previously deemed a “support role” at the church has been going on for far longer, since February, amid a barrage of multimillion dollar international lawsuits, his wife’s apology for body-shaming slurs and a hard-partying top staffer flaunting wild extramarital sex romps.
Hillsong — which did not return The Post’s request for comment — has yet to make any public announcement of Mr Houston’s resignation, nor the reason for it. The email to congregants followed Crikey publishing its findings.
If convicted, Mr Houston faces a maximum of five years in jail, and may become ineligible to be a company director, Crikey reported.
This article originally appeared on NY Post and was reproduced with permission
September 18, 2021 — 6.48am
Brian Houston has stepped aside from all of Hillsong Church’s boards but will remain a global senior pastor.
Documents submitted to the corporate regulator ASIC show that Mr Houston quit his governance roles 12 days after he was charged by NSW Police for allegedly concealing child sexual abuse by his late father, Frank Houston.
Mr Houston, a co-founder of the evangelical megachurch and a friend of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is due to face court in Sydney on October 5 over allegations he did not inform police after learning that his father abused a young boy in the 1970s.
Frank Houston, who died in 2004, has been accused of abusing a total of nine boys while a Pentecostal preacher.
Mr Houston previously said that he had always been transparent about the matter.
“I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” he said in a statement in August.
Records show Mr Houston, 67, stepped down as company director on August 17. A fortnight later, Stephen Crouch, an existing board member and husband of pastor Donna Crouch, was appointed director, according to records lodged with ASIC one week ago.
The Corporations Act forbids anyone from being a company director if they are convicted of a crime involving dishonesty that carries a jail term longer than three months. Under the NSW Crimes Act, the maximum penalty for concealment is five years’ imprisonment.Advertisement
There is no concrete definition of what constitutes dishonesty under the Corporations Act, which defines it as being “dishonest according to the standards of ordinary people”.
On Friday Mr Houston, who has been based in the US since May and recently preached in Mexico, emailed his followers.
He began the email, a copy of which has been seen by this masthead, by offering words of encouragement to his supporters.
“With much of our country still in lockdown there are many people doing it tough,” he said.
“I know our pastors, leaders and CityCare team have been busy ministering to people and helping them in practical ways through these times.
“It’s important that we all continue to lean in, encourage one another and help each other through this pandemic.
“I also wanted to let you know that I’ve made a decision to step aside from my role on the Hillsong Church boards that oversee the governance of our operations.
“I did this so that these boards can function to their fullest capacity during this season.
“This doesn’t change my role as Global Senior Pastor. I thought it was important to let our church family know in the interests of transparency, and I wanted you to hear it from me directly.”
Mr Houston then expressed surprise that the Christmas festive season was already nearing.
“A year ago, we certainly didn’t expect to be still dealing with lockdowns and restrictions. Let’s pray that Australia will turn the corner soon so we can meet together in worship with no barriers.”
Hillsong was contacted for comment. The church’s website still lists Mr Houston as a board member.
Mr Houston and his wife, Bobbie, were given an exemption to leave the country earlier this year.
Mr Houston is a friend to the Prime Minister, a committed Pentecostal Christian who put the pastor’s name forward to be invited to a White House state dinner with former US president Donald Trump in 2019. The request was denied by the hosts, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
Speaking to radio station 2GB in March last year, Mr Morrison said Hillsong was a large and respected organisation in the US and “so well known that Brian was actually at the White House a few months after I was”.