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It has been a difficult year for the Hillsong mega-church, in large part because of the calamity of the “moral failings” that unfolded around flashy former minister Carl Lenz last fall. But now Hillsong founder Brian Houston faces criminal charges in Australia as police allege he knew about and covered up his late father’s sexual assaults on minors.
“The police allege in court that the man knew of information relating to the sexual abuse of a young man in the 1970s and did not bring this information to the attention of the police,” it reads. a statement from the New South Wales Police, which indicted Houston on Thursday. . For his part, the pastor told Washington To post: “I vehemently profess my innocence … and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
The substance of the accusations is not new: In 2013, the Australian Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard allegations that Frank Houston had repeatedly sexually assaulted a 7-year-old boy in 1969 and 1970. The preacher, who died in 2004, would form the Sydney Christian Life Center in 1977, a predecessor of Hillsong. During an investigation in 2014, Brian Houston admitted he discovered the alleged abuse in 1999 and confronted his father, who confessed. Houston then discovered about eight of his father’s other victims but, according to commissioners, he deliberately kept silent, forcing his father to retire rather than go public and go to the police. Houston told the commission that, “Rightly or wrongly, I sincerely believed that I would get ahead of the victim if I were to just call the police at this point.” But the commissioners concluded that although Houston “had no doubt that his father’s conduct was criminal, he made no attempt to report his father to the police.”
In 2019, NSW Police began investigating reports that Houston had “knowingly withheld information relating to sexual offenses against children,” according to their statement. Although Hillsong – now a sprawling global entity with churches in 30 countries – did not respond to the cut’s request for comment at the time of publication, it has already addressed the issue, saying in a previous statement: “L Frank Houston’s abuse happened many years before the Hillsong Church existed. It is an indisputable fact that Pastor Brian is not an abuser, has never been charged with abuse, and took immediate action to expose and arrest a child molester.
The charges are just the latest in a string of scandals Hillsong has faced this year. Last November, “hype-priest” and celebrity pastor Carl Lentz – best known as Justin Bieber’s former spiritual advisor – lost his job after it emerged he had been “unfaithful to him. [his] marriage. ”Lentz’s affairs catalyzed his dismissal, but then came the allegations of exploitation and assault – against Lentz and against fellow staff, Jason Mays. In May, a Boston pastor named Leona Kimes brought forward accused Lentz of intimidating her during the seven years she worked as a nanny and housekeeper and said he “physically raped” her by “repeated unwanted sexual touching by [her] intimate areas. Vanity Show also reported that Lentz made a volunteer “extremely uncomfortable” with his flirtatious behavior in 2017, while Mays allegedly assaulted a Hillsong College student in 2016.
Houston then said that Kimes’ experience was brought to his attention during an investigation he launched on the east coast of Hillsong after Lentz was fired, writing that “abuse of all kinds, under all circumstances , are still deplorable “and” as a church we are committed to learning more about how to identify such trauma and to provide meaningful support to anyone who has experienced it.
For his alleged cover-up of the serial abuse of his father, Houston will appear in court in Sydney on October 5.