SYDNEY, Australia — Hillsong, the worldwide megachurch that cultivated a picture of cool, city Christianity for years, has apologized “unreservedly” to 2 girls who had accused the church’s Australian founder, Brian Houston, of inappropriate conduct.
Mr. Houston, 67, stepped away from all ministry duties in January. He declared on the time that he wanted time to battle a felony cost of concealing youngster sexual abuse that the Australian police say his late father, who was additionally a pastor, dedicated a long time in the past.
However in a statement revealed late Friday, Hillsong’s board stated that Mr. Houston had been below investigation by the church for his personal actions and that he had breached the church’s code of conduct no less than twice over the previous decade.
The revelation additional tarnishes the repute of a church that had attracted celebrities like Justin Bieber with compelling music and an upbeat message that many described as if it had been a model: comforting Christianity, adorned with pop music and stylish style.
At its peak two years in the past, Hillsong had congregations on six continents and stated it had common weekly attendance of 150,000. But it surely obtained its begin in Australia with Mr. Houston, a charismatic chief now accused of the sorts of indiscretions which have toppled rich, highly effective males in different fields.
The primary incident that the church investigated, from 2013, concerned “inappropriate textual content messages” that Mr. Houston had despatched to a workers member, “which subsequently resulted within the workers member resigning,” in line with the Hillsong assertion.
The assertion didn’t describe the content material of the texts. However in a video leaked to the Australian information media, one other Hillsong pastor, Phil Dooley, told church members that they’d included feedback alongside the traces of, “‘If I used to be with you, I’d wish to kiss and cuddle you,’ phrases of that nature.”
The second incident occurred in 2019, throughout the church’s annual convention in Sydney. Within the video, Mr. Dooley stated Mr. Houston had met a girl there who was not a member of the church and that after “he was ingesting with a bunch,” Mr. Houston ended up knocking on her door.
“The reality is we don’t know what occurred subsequent,” Mr. Dooley stated. “The girl has not stated there was any sexual exercise. Brian has stated there was no sexual exercise, however he was within the room for 40 minutes.”
In a single indication of Hillsong’s attain, and of Mr. Houston’s connections, the 2019 convention was opened by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a Pentecostal Christian.
In its Friday assertion, Hillsong’s board stated that on the time of the 2013 episode, Mr. Houston had been below the affect of sleeping tablets, on which he had developed a dependency that the church helped him get better from. Through the 2019 incident, he was “disoriented” after mixing alcohol with a higher-than-prescribed dose of anti-anxiety treatment, the board stated.
The board apologized to each girls. It stated Mr. Houston had apologized instantly to the workers member he texted in 2013, and that its investigation of the 2019 incident discovered that “vital components of the criticism had been sustained and the conduct was of significant concern.”
“We additionally acknowledge that this individual didn’t need to be positioned within the state of affairs she discovered herself in by Pastor Brian,” the assertion learn, including: “In the end, the board discovered that Brian had breached the Hillsong Pastor’s Code of Conduct.”
In each instances, Hillsong stated, Mr. Houston personally paid the ladies. He gave the workers member the equal of two months’ wage, and he compensated the lady he met on the Sydney convention for her convention charge and for a donation she had made to the church.
“Pastor Brian was extraordinarily remorseful,” the board stated.