It's 40 years since Hillsong church was founded in the suburbs of Sydney Australia in 1983. That's according to Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie. The couple, who had two young children at the time, were inspired by Brian's father, Frank Houston, a former pastor who founded Sydney Christian Life Centre.
The church grew to attract millions of worshippers including a number of A-list celebrities. It became famous for publishing Christian worship albums and hosting massive charismatic worship events in several cities, including London. But the worldwide movement has been mired in controversy in recent years, battling serious allegations of abuse and admitting to moral failures.
Hillsong came under the Pentecostal church in Australia and was part of the Assemblies of God, before becoming a denomination in its own right in 2018. The success of the Hillsong brand felt like a vibrant and sought after injection of life, energy and hope to a global generation of young Christians. Its meteoric rise and star-studded following made it seem almost invincible.
But then, scandal after scandal broke out.
An internal investigation at the megachurch found that Houston had acted inappropriately towards two women. Hillsong leaders at the time said alcohol and prescription drugs had played a role in Houston’s misconduct.
The 69 year old was arrested in America, for 'DUI' (Driving Under Influence - of drugs or alcohol), and stepped down as Hillsong's global senior pastor.
He pleaded guilty to the charges saying, "At the time it seemed like all hell had broken loose within Hillsong Church and I was under immense pressure and emotional strain. Clearly that is not an excuse, and I take full responsibility for my actions."
Across the oceans a court in Australia is expected to return a verdict on Houston this week, on a charge of concealing a serious offence of another person. Brian, who says he spoke publicly about his father Frank's paedophilia before his dad's death in 2004, has pleaded not guilty to covering up the former pastor's crimes. The claims were made in a recent documentary series entitled 'The Secrets of Hillsong'.
A message on Brian Houston's Instagram account on Sunday thanked those who were a part of the Hillsong journey, and revealed a still fractured relationship with the church he and his wife created:
"Well it's 40 years this weekend since Bobbie and I pioneered our church with our 3 and 1 year old sons in tow. What a journey from small beginnings to millions who were reached and influenced with the gospel; with worship, and other globe impacting ministries and outreaches. All this was only possible because of God's amazing grace and it's to Him goes all the glory. Thank you to all those who have been part of the journey, for your faithfulness and support over many years. Our hope would have been to celebrate with you all, had the opportunity been extended to us. It was not! So once again, thank you to all who have been part of our lives and these decades together.
Much love, Brian and Bobbie."