Hillsong Church’s global senior pastor Brian Houston made a surprise announcement during Hillsong’s Sunday morning church service on January 30, 2022.
Appearing alongside his wife Bobbie, who is also Hillsong Church’s global senior pastor, Houston shared that he was stepping aside as their pastor for the entire year of 2022 to focus on charges brought against him in August 2021 for allegedly concealing his father’s child sex offenses. Houston’s lawyer entered a not guilty plea in a Sydney, Australia courtroom in October of 2021.
Hillsong Church is a worldwide evangelical megachurch that was started in Australia by Brian and Bobbie in the early 1980’s. Today, the church has campuses in over 20 countries, including locations in nine states in America. Hillsong estimates a weekly attendance of over 150,000 in person attendees throughout its campuses. If they included their online attendance in that number it would be over 444,000 per weekend.
Houston announced in September 2021 that he would be stepping down from his role on the Hillsong Church boards in order that they may function at full capacity while he deals with his legal issues.
The announcement comes during the week that marks 50 years since Houston graduated Bible college and went into full-time ministry.
“It’s been an unexpected season and we’re thankful for you all and for the incredible sense of community we share,” Houston said in a video that was simulcasted to all their locations across the globe.
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Houston continued, “Last year, as you know I also received unexpected news of charges against me that alleged the concealing of information that might have been material to prosecute Frank Houston. These allegations came as a complete shock to me and it’s my intention to vigorously defend them.”
“Recently we made a decision that may come as a big surprise to you, and I wanted you to hear it from me directly,” Houston explained. “In December, during our annual board retreat Hillsong’s external legal counsel gave the board advice regarding the current charge I’m facing and that it would be best practice for me to step aside completely from church leadership during the court proceedings.”
Houston shared that because of the COVID-19 pandemic causing a backlog in the judicial system, his court proceedings are expected to be drug out for most of 2022.
Hillsong Church’s global senior pastor assured those listening that he and the board have been having detailed discussions regarding the moral requirements for Hillsong Church’s leadership.
In less than two years, Hillsong Church has been the center of pastor infidelity scandals (Carl Lentz, Hillsong New York; Darnell Barrett, Hillsong New Jersey Montclair), pastors misusing church tithes (Reed and Jess Bogard, Hillsong Dallas), Houston’s charges regarding his father’s sexual abuse case, and a 60 Minutes Australia report titled “Hillsong Hell,” accusing Hillsong leadership of sexual abuse.