Founder of Hillsong Church charged over allegedly concealing his father’s abuse of children

“I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” Mr Houston said

Bevan Hurley
Thursday 05 August 2021 20:53 BST
Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston has been summoned to appear in court in Sydney on October 5
Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston has been summoned to appear in court in Sydney on October 5 (AAP)

The founder of the evangelical megachurch Hillsong, Brian Houston, has been charged by Australian police with concealing his father’s sexual abuse of children.

Mr Houston, 67, knew about the “sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police”, according to a statement from the New South Wales police force.

He has been summoned to appear in court in Sydney on October 5.

Mr Houston issued a statement to say he will defend the charges and “vehemently” professed his innocence.

“I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” he said in a statement.

“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter.”

Hillsong Church also released a statement defending its head pastor.

“We are disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and ask that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right,” the Hillsong Church said.

“He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name.

“We thank all who are a part of our church for their support and prayers at this time.”

There is no suggestion that Mr Houston committed sexual offences.

A 2015 government inquiry into historic sexual offending heard evidence that Mr  Houston’s late father Frank Houston had sexually abused nine boys in Australia and New Zealand in the 1970s.

During testimony heard at the Royal Commission, Mr Houston said he confronted his father in 1999 after learning of the allegations, and suspended him from preaching at the church.

He said he did not take the allegations to the police at the request of the victim. The victim later told media he made no such request.

Frank Houston died in 2004 aged 82.

Police in New South Wales began investigating how Mr Houston handled sex abuse allegations in 2019.

There was media speculation that the inquiry’s findings and the ensuing police investigation was behind the White House rejection of a request by Australia’s Pentecostal prime minister, Scott Morrison, to invite Houston to a 2019 state dinner hosted by then-president Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported.

Morrison confirmed that he had wanted Houston, whom he’d known “for a long time”, included on the invitation list, but that he didn’t know why Houston wasn’t invited.

Houston, who is normally based in Australia, has been in the United States in recent months, and preached at a service in Mexico last month and delivered a live-streamed sermon from California on Sunday.

Founded in Australia in 1983, Hillsong Church has 1100 churches in 28 countries with 150,000 weekly worshippers, according to the church’s website.

Agencies contributed to this report

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