Hillsong: Brian Houston in turmoil

The board of directors of the Hillsong international megachurch released a statement revealing two complaints against its founder, Brian Houston. The first dates from ten years ago, the second from 2019. 

Dance a statement published on Friday March 18, when the matter had just been disclosed in the Australian press, the Hillsong board of directors revealed two complaints lodged against the pastor and founder of the Australian megachurch, Brian Houston, “during the 10 last years ".

The statement indicates that these two complaints, which were treated confidentially, were each investigated by a member of the board of directors or a body appointed by the same board.

Inappropriate messages and hotel room intrusion

The first accusation, dates back “a decade” and “involved inappropriate messages from Pastor Brian to a staff member, which subsequently resulted in “the staff member's resignation,” according to the released document.

A case that had been handled internally, “successfully” adds the board of directors, which “once again” apologizes to “this former member of staff”.

“At the time, Pastor Brian was under the influence of sleeping pills, to which he had developed an addiction. He immediately apologized to the person. We also worked closely with Pastor Brian to ensure that he received professional help to eliminate his addiction to this drug, and this was successfully achieved. To this former member of staff, we again apologize and would welcome the opportunity to provide further assistance if needed. »

The second complaint, received in 2019, relates to an accusation that the married pastor spent time alone in a hotel room with a woman. Hillsong's board of directors states that "following a thorough investigation", it was found that Brian Houston was "disoriented" after consuming anxiolytics, beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol.

A state that led him to knock on the “door of a hotel room that was not his, to enter this room and to spend time with the occupant” during a conference of Hillsong.

Brian Houston broke 'pastor Hillsong's code of conduct'

ABC News Australia reports that prior to releasing a statement about it, Hillsong held a video meeting with 800 megachurch staff across the world. During this exchange, the acting senior pastor, Phil Dooley, who replaces Brian Houston, on leave due to an ongoing legal matter, filed both complaints.

Of the most recent accusation, he said, "the truth is, we don't know what happened." He specifies, however, that the victim "did not say that there had been any sexual activity", just as Brian Houston "said that there was no sexual relationship", he underlines however that the pastor stayed in the complainant's room "for 40 minutes".

The council's investigation into the complaint concludes, according to the March 18 document, that Pastor Brian Houston "violated Pastor Hillsong's code of conduct."

The board of directors claims to have done its best “to help the person who filed this complaint” and that she was treated “with compassion and respect” in particular by accepting her “requirement of confidentiality”.

"The council has also responded to a request for a refund of money given to the church by this person, and has accepted this in order to provide a solution in the spirit of love and care," the statement said. , who adds that the "remorseful" pastor Brian Houston "insisted on reimbursing the church".

A governance model that “must be reviewed”

The document states that although he at the time "agreed to take specific actions, including stepping back from leadership for a period of time", Brian Houston "unfortunately" did not take all of the agreed-upon actions, which led to “new measures taken by the council at the end of 2021”. "Pastor Brian remains on leave," it read next.

At the end of January, Brian Houston announced that he was taking a leave of absence from his role as senior pastor of Hillsong in 2022 to prepare for an upcoming trial. He is accused of hiding sexual abuse perpetrated by his father, Frank Houston, in the 70s. The board does not say whether the pastor will return to his position following the trial.

Hillsong, who claims to have "always endeavored to act in a biblical manner and in accordance with good governance", acknowledges that this case shows that the church's "governance model", which gives a lot of power to the senior pastor, "must to be reviewed". The church says it is working “transparently towards this end”.

Camille Westphal Perrier

Image credit: Shutterstock / Roland Magnusson

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