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World News

Hillsong apologises over inappropriate behaviour by leader Brian Houston towards two women

by Marcus Jones

The global leader of the Hillsong church network is facing two new allegations of misconduct.

Brian Houston is accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a member of staff and entering the hotel room of a different woman while drunk.

Hillsong says it apologises unreservedly to the people affected by his actions and are seeking new structures of accountability within the church leadership.

The misconduct was revealed in a public statement the day after the global staff team were made aware.

In the statement, the church revealed the two incidents happened over the past decade and although dealt with confidentially when they arose, the issues are now in the public, so it is right they share the full details.

In the first instance, Houston is accused of sending inappropriate text messages which led to the woman who received them resigning. Numerous publications report that Houston told the woman he wanted to kiss her.

Hillsong says Houston was under the influence of sleeping tablets of which he developed a dependence for. The Church says it worked with him to ensure he received professional help and he immediately apologised to the woman.

The second incident saw Houston enter the hotel room of a woman during the Church's annual conference in 2019. Hillsong says the leader became disorientated after drinking alcohol and consuming anti-anxiety tablets. He then spent time in the room but Hillsong's investigation was not able to confirm exactly what happened.

In the statement, the Church said: "We also acknowledge that whatever the circumstances at this time, this person did not deserve to be placed in the situation she found herself in by Pastor Brian.

"We felt that we did all we could, to assist the person who made the complaint and treated this person with compassion and respect, and also abided by her requirement for confidentiality."

Following that complaint, the Church asked Houston to step down from leadership for a period, but he failed to follow through with the request. That resulted in further action in 2021, from which he remains on leave.

Houston had previously announced that his leave was taken, so that he could concentrate on fighting his legal case in which he stands accused of covering up the historic child abuse of his father.

Acknowledging wrongdoing at the top of the organisation, Hillsong says it's now committed to changes to its accountability structures.

"The board has always endeavoured to act biblically and in accordance with good governance. "However we understand that there has been a significant breach of trust. 

"The board has been seeking external wise counsel and is reviewing our governance structure and measures to ensure higher levels of accountability across Hillsong Church globally. 

"Like many other churches of its size, Hillsong's governance model has historically placed significant control in the hands of the senior pastor, but we recognise that the way we do things needs to be reviewed. 

"We know there are areas on which we can improve and we will work honestly and transparently to that end."

Hillsong appointed Phil and Lucinda Dooley as interim global senior pastor, earlier this year, but it's unknown how long they will stay in that position and if Houston will return.

Houston is yet to respond to the recent statement outlining his misconduct. He does however remain active on social media, sharing wisdom and reflections with his 600,000 followers.

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