MELBOURNE, Australia – The leader of Hillsong, an Australian megalopolis that attracts young people and celebrities from around the world, has resigned as he prepares to fight charges of concealing child sex abuse. in his father’s history.
The leader of the church, Brian Houston, said in a statement announced on Hillsong’s website on Sunday that he had agreed to waive “all departmental responsibilities” until the end of 2022 to focus on his legal battle on the advice of its legal advisers. Hillsong.
Australian police charged Mr Houston in August 2021 with one count of concealing a serious and prosecuteable offense by his father, Frank Houston. Police allege that Mr. Houston, now 67, “knew of information regarding the sexual abuse of a young man in the 1970s and did not give that information to police.”
Mr Houston strongly denied the allegations and reiterated in his statement on Sunday that “these allegations came as a shock to me, and I intend to strongly defend them”.
Mr Houston has pleaded not guilty, according to the Sydney court where his case is being heard.
The police investigation was launched after a charge was made against Royal Commission of Australia about child sexual abuse. In 2014, the committee heard evidence that his father had sexually abused a 7-year-old boy decades earlier. His father, who died in 2004, was never charged.
The Hillsong megachurch grew up from the merger of two organizations: the Sydney Christian Life Center founded by Frank Houston in 1977 and the Hills Christian Life Center founded by his son. It has become a global attack at a time when religion is struggling in a secularized Europe and North America. Backed by a lucrative record label that dominates Christian contemporary music, Hillsong has sold millions of albums and drawn large crowds to concert performances at the arena.
Using a “searcher-sensitive” approach, it sought to appeal to young Christians in large cities, or who were wary of or unfamiliar with more traditional churches. It attracts celebrities like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Kevin Durant. By some estimates, the church draws 100,000 people to its lounge each weekend and attracts millions of followers on social media. Its songs have been sung in churches from Uzbekistan to Papua New Guinea.
Hillsong’s ideal sermon “makes people feel better about themselves than they came to,” Brian Houston has said.
But notoriety and criticism dogged the church.
The church has been criticized for taking a hipster approach to Christianity and avoiding a firm public stance on same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
In November 2020, Mr. Houston fired Carl Lentz, senior pastor of the Hillsong branch in New York, on “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus the recent disclosure of moral failings,” according to an email to churchgoers. Mr. Lentz later wrote on Instagram that he was unfaithful in his marriage.
Mr Houston apologized in June 2020 for comments from the church’s London branch leader, who appeared to make rebuttal comment about the death of George Floyd and the antisemitism protests that followed.
This month, the church also apologized after the footage appeared churchgoers sing and dance at an orphanage in Sydney that appears to be in breach of pandemic restrictions.
After being impeached last year, Mr. Houston relinquished some responsibilities but retained his leadership role of the church. Then, in December, Hillsong’s legal counsel advised the church board that it was “the best way” for Mr Houston to give up his leadership of the church entirely while the court proceedings continued, announced today. Sunday said.
Mr. Houston said the hearings would most likely “be pulled out” and last most of the year, with the pandemic exacerbating the backlog.
Two pastors will assume the interim leadership roles, and Houston’s wife, Bobbie Houston, will continue to be “fully involved in church life.”
The next hearing in the case is on March 3.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/world/australia/brian-houston-hillsong.html Brian Houston steps down as leader of Hillsong, Australia’s Megachurch