ABC Investigations

By Lorna Knowles and Kevin Nguyen

Posted Yesterday at 12:22pm, updated 21h ago

Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 52 seconds
Hillsong pastor Phil Dooley announces the resignation of founder Brian Houston.

The founder of global megachurch Hillsong, Brian Houston, has resigned after an internal investigation found he behaved inappropriately towards two women.

Key points:

  • Head of Hillsong Church Pastor Dooley acknowledged “that change is needed”
  • He thanked Mr Houston and his wife Bobbie for their commitment to the church
  • The church revealed last week Mr Houston had engaged in conduct of “serious concern”

The acting head of the church, Pastor Phil Dooley, made the announcement at an emergency all-staff meeting on Wednesday and said Hillsong will launch an “independent review” of its governance structure.

Pastor Dooley read a statement by the Hillsong global and Australian boards which said: “We would like to advise you that Pastor Brian Houston has resigned as global senior pastor of Hillsong Church and the board has accepted his resignation.”

He said it was time for a “humble reflection” for the church and thanked Mr Houston and his wife Bobbie for their service.

“We understand there will be much emotion at this news and we all share these feelings,” he said.

“We ask that you continue to pray for them and the entire Houston family during this challenging time.”

Pastor Dooley acknowledged “that change is needed”.

“As you can appreciate, there is still much to be done and the church leadership continues to seek God for his wisdom as we set the course for the future,” he said? 

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Hillsong last week revealed that an investigation into two incidents involving Mr Houston found he had breached the church’s moral code of conduct for pastors and engaged in conduct of “serious concern”.

The church’s global board on Friday afternoon said in a letter to its members: “We have sadly been dealing with two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years.”

The first incident, detailed in the letter and by Pastor Dooley in an extraordinary meeting involved 800 staff members, involved “inappropriate text messages” sent to a female staffer in 2013.

Brian Houston
Hillsong founder Brian Houston stepped down from all Hillsong boards earlier this year.(Supplied: Hillsong)

The church said Mr Houston was under the influence of sleeping tablets, which he had become dependent upon, when he sent the texts.

“He immediately apologised to the person,” the global board said, adding it had since helped Mr Houston eliminate his dependency on the medication.

The female staffer, however, was “upset and felt awkward” and made a complaint to Hillsong general manager George Aghajanian before resigning.

When she returned months later and told the church she was unable to find employment after resigning, Mr Houston paid “a couple of months salary” as compensation from his own pocket. 

“Pastor Brian said, ‘I want to pay that personally because it was my fault,’ because it was personal indiscretion,” Pastor Dooley said. 

‘Indiscretions’ aired about Hillsong founder Brian Houston

Hillsong Church says founder Brian Houston breached its code of conduct, with the organisation apologising “unreservedly” to two women who complained about his inappropriate behaviour. 

Brian Houston

Read more

The second incident occurred in 2019, during a Hillsong annual conference in Sydney Olympic Park that Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened.

The church said Mr Houston was drinking with a group and after being locked out of his hotel room, ended up knocking on the door of a woman who he met earlier. 

The woman, who was not a member of the church, opened the door and Mr Houston went into her room and spent 40 minutes there. 

Pastor Dooley said “no sexual activity” was reported, but the woman raised a complaint. 

Lighting and music draw thousands of people for a Hillsong service.
The church leader said the second incident occurred during an annual conference in Sydney’s Olympic Park in 2019.(Hillsong)

The board said an investigation found Mr Houston “became disorientated … following the consumption of anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol”. 

The investigation did not uphold all parts of the complaint but “important elements of the complaint were sustained and the conduct was of serious concern”. 

“Ultimately, the board found that Brian had breached the Hillsong Pastor’s Code of Conduct,” the board said. 

The church apologised “unreservedly” to both women and said Mr Houston had paid compensation or refunds to them from his own pocket.

Mr Houston in January stepped down as the director of all Hillsong boards to defend a criminal charge that he concealed his father’s child sexual abuse.

Hillsong Church was approached for comment.

Contact Lorna Knowles on the Signal app +61 400 941 469 or on ProtonMail