The founder of Hillsong, an Australian megachurch that has exported its influence to major global cities and into churches’ music across the U.S., is facing strict scrutiny for what he knew about sex abuse allegations lodged against his father.
In 1999, Brian Houston’s father, Frank Houston, who was also a minister, confessed to sexually abusing an underage male at his New Zealand congregation 30 years before. In response, the younger Houston, who was then president of the Assemblies of God in Australia, fired his father, took control of the church and merged it with Hillsong.
The elder Houston died in 2004.
On Thursday and Friday (Oct. 9-10), the son took the witness stand in Sydney and denied any attempt to cover up the allegations. Next week, Brian Houston will be in New York City for the church’s c, at Madison Square Garden.
In his testimony, Brian Houston denied trying to hide his involvement in a $10,000 compensation payment made to a man who was abused as a child by his father.
“I acknowledge the courage of the victim in taking the stand today to outline the trauma he has suffered by Frank Houston,” Brian Houston said in a statement. “However I disagree with his perception of the phone call with me, and I strongly refute that I — at any time — accused him of tempting my father. I would never say this and I do not believe this. At no stage did I attempt to hide or cover up the allegations against my father.”
Through what’s called a royal commission, the Australian government is scrutinizing how institutions — including the Pentecostal church network that gave birth to Hillsong – have handled sex abuse claims. A royal commission is Australia’s highest level of inquiry.
Frank Houston never faced prosecution for crimes committed in the 1960s and 1970s. The Assemblies of God in Australia allowed Houston to resign quietly with a retirement package.
“We believe that exposing child sexual abuse and the response of institutions to that abuse, and allowing survivors to share their traumatic experiences, is a powerful step in the healing process,” Brian Houston said in a statement. “Having to face the fact that my father engaged in such repulsive acts was — and still is — agonizing.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Sarah Pulliam Bailey