Hillsong founder Brian Houston is in hot water after allegations of sexual indiscretions toward women have been revealed.
The revelations, which have surfaced in the public space today, allege Pastor Houston was involved with two different women. According to the ABC Australia, the first incident involved a female church member who quit after making a complaint about Mr Houston.
Another complaint involved Mr Houston spending 40 minutes — while under the influence of alcohol, anxiety and sleeping medication — in a woman’s hotel room after a Hillsong conference attended by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2019.
In a specially convened staff meeting today, Pastor Phil Dooley, the church’s interim Global Senior Pastor, said the first incident, which reportedly occurred a decade ago, involved Mr Houston sending a female staff member an “inappropriate” text message.
“It was along the lines of, ‘If I was with you, I’d like to kiss and cuddle you,’ words of that nature,” Pastor Dooley told the meeting.
In the second incident, the ABC reported that it occurred during the church’s annual conference in Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney’s Homebush, which was opened by Mr Morrison.
Pastor Dooley said Mr Houston met a woman, who was not a member of the church, in the foyer of the Pullman Hotel. “It was after one of the conference nights and he was drinking with a group,” Pastor Dooley said.
“Later that evening, Pastor Brian attempted to get into his room but didn’t have his room key and ended up knocking on the door to the woman’s room. She opened the door and he went into her room.
“The truth is we don’t know what happened next. The woman has not said there was any sexual activity. Brian has said there was no sexual activity but he was in the room for 40 minutes.”
Pastor Dooley said Pastor Houston had taken three months off, promising to abstain from alcohol during that period. It is also reported that Mr Houston was drinking alcohol while on anxiety medication during the second incident in Sydney.
What is of the greatest concern though is that it appears the church’s board was aware of the allegations, yet is only responding now because of the fact that they have become public. In its official statement, the board said that they have sadly been dealing with “two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years”. Neither of these matters are related to the ongoing issue of legal action stemming from abuse from his father, Frank Houston, which has kept the pastor in the limelight for some time.
Pastor Houston stepped down from his role earlier this year in light of the fact that he will face an Australian court later this year over his father’s alleged abuse of a young man back in the 1970s. However, after sacking former New York pastor Carl Lentz after news broke that he was having an affair, there appears no way back for the church’s founder.
The statement from Hillsong’s Board has been published in full below, allowing Hillsong the opportunity to have their say.
The global board of Hillsong Church would like to advise you of some important information concerning our Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston.
There is significant media coverage around these issues, and it is important that you hear from us, understand the truth, and have knowledge of the actions of the board during these times and the heart behind these actions.
As you are aware, Pastor Brian recently stepped aside from his ministry duties. When he stepped down in January this year, the reasons he gave were genuine. The situation with his father over many years had taken a personal toll that was greater than he had realised, and he needed to focus on his upcoming legal issues.
At the time of his announcement, the Hillsong Church board did not make a public statement because we were still working through a number of issues privately with Pastor Brian. These issues are now public, and therefore we would like to share with you the details.
We have sadly been dealing with two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years. These matters – like all such matters under our code of conduct – were dealt with confidentially. In both of these cases we respected the confidentiality of both Pastor Brian and those involved, and we also must abide by local employment law. We are a church that believes in grace, love, restoration and integrity; these are our guiding values.
You can be assured that investigations into these complaints were treated extremely seriously. Each of these were conducted by either board members or a body appointed by the global board to hear and resolve complaints against credentialled pastors, and were assisted by highly respected external pastors and advisors.
The first issue was approximately a decade ago and involved inappropriate text messages from Pastor Brian to a member of staff, which subsequently resulted in the staff member resigning. At the time, Pastor Brian was under the influence of sleeping tablets, upon which he had developed a dependence. He immediately apologised to the person. We also worked closely with Pastor Brian to ensure he received professional help to eliminate his dependency on this medication, and this was achieved successfully.
To this former staff member, we again apologise and would welcome the opportunity to provide further assistance if this is needed.
The second issue involved a complaint received in 2019. Following an in-depth investigation, it was found that Pastor Brian became disoriented after a session at the Hillsong Conference, following the consumption of anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol. This resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant.
The investigation by the integrity unit appointed by the global board found that although all parts of the complaint were unable to be sustained, 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.
We also acknowledge that whatever the circumstances at this time, this person did not deserve to be placed in the situation she found herself in by Pastor Brian.
We felt that we did all we could to assist the person who made the complaint and treated this person with compassion and respect, and also abided by her requirement for confidentiality.
The board also met a request for a refund of money donated to the church by this person, and agreed to that in order to bring resolution in a spirit of love and care. Pastor Brian was extremely remorseful and insisted on repaying the church for this.
We apologise unreservedly to the people affected by Pastor Brian’s actions and commit to being available for any further assistance we can provide.
Following that investigation, Pastor Brian agreed to take specific action including stepping down from leadership for a period. However unfortunately he failed to take all of the agreed steps which resulted in further action being taken by the board in late 2021. Pastor Brian remains on a period of leave.
The board has always endeavoured to act biblically and in accordance with good governance. However we understand that there has been a significant breach of trust. The board has been seeking external, wise counsel and is reviewing our governance structure and measures to ensure higher levels of accountability across Hillsong Church globally. Like many other churches of its size, Hillsong’s governance model has historically placed significant control in the hands of the senior pastor, but we recognise that the way we do things needs to be reviewed. We know there are areas on which we can improve, and we will work honestly and transparently to that end.
We are here for you, and as we work through this together we are available to help and offer you support. Our pastoral care team can be contacted through our church office at your location. We also believe this is a time to focus our attention on the God who restores and rebuilds, and encourage you to continue to meet together regularly not just on Sundays but in connect groups.
Our Interim Global Senior Pastors, Phil and Lucinda Dooley, are doing an amazing job under difficult circumstances. We want to thank them and ask you to keep praying for everyone involved and for our church.
We love you and thank you for your ongoing support.
Hillsong Global Board