The founding pastor of Hillsong Church Brian Houston has stepped down from his position on the board of the megachurch after being charged with concealing his late father's sex offences.
Houston is due to appear in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court on October 5. Police have said that they will allege in court that Houston "knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police".
The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Despite stepping down from the board, Houston will remain as the church's global pastor.
Hillsong was hit with fresh allegations over the weekend after two women came forward claiming they had been sexually assaulted. The first claimant said she had been assaulted by a Hillsong worship leader, while the other said she had been raped by a Hillsong congregant. Both claimed that they were not listened to when reporting the allegations.
"They do not care at all about the fact that I was assaulted,” one of the women, 'Katherine', explained to the 60 Minutes programme. “They just care about who I’m going to tell or what I’m going to do about it, and how that will affect them.”
Lawyer Boz Tchividjian, who is the grandson of Billy Graham and an advocate for abuse survivors, said that the law firm Hillsong hired to deal with the first woman's allegations describes itself as "the most feared law firm in the world".
“What sex abuse survivor is going to feel comfortable participating in a process that’s led by an organization that defines itself in that way?” Tchividjian asked.
Tchividjian went on to lament the "celebrity culture in the church" which has given rise to an exploitative power imbalance between leaders and congregants.
“Pastors have become rock stars. Pastors oftentimes live—in these big churches—live better than most of the people in their congregation. And you create that culture inside of a church, that ultimately results in that pastor and those leaders becoming less and less accountable as those leaders become more and more insulated," he said.
Tchividjian finished with a challenge to the church: “If you love Jesus, then my goodness, start acting like Him in the most important moments of life. And that is, when you are approached by the hurting and wounded, stop everything you’re doing and reach out and expend yourself for them. Isn’t that what Jesus did over and over again? That’s what the church should look like. And unfortunately, that’s hard to find these days.”
Hillsong said the report was "gutter journalism”, before noting that it “takes any claim of assault extremely seriously" and allocates we "significant resources so that all can attend our services and events in a safe environment".