Hillsong Church pastor Brian Houston has announced he is stepping down as the church’s global senior pastor as he prepares to stand trial for criminal charges that allege he concealed his father sexual abuse.
Houston had already stepped down from his position as Hillsong’s board chairman after being charged by New South Wales police.
The megachurch founder made the announcement during the Sunday morning service at Hillsong Sydney. He told worshippers he made the decision after consulting with the church’s leadership and legal team.
“The Hillsong Global Board feel it is in my and the church’s best interest for this to happen, so I have agreed to step aside from all ministry responsibilities until the end of the year.”
Houston is accused of knowing his father abused a seven-year-old boy in the 1970s and helping to cover it up, a charge he has denied.
The 66-year-old told Hillsong Sydney the charges came as a “shock” and he intends to “vigorously defend them”.
“I need to be fully committed to preparation and engagement with the case and work closely with my lawyers in defending this charge. I have said, including in a prior statement, that I intend to fight the charge and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” Houston continued.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Brian Houston’s father, Frank, was found to have abused up to nine boys in the 1970s and 1980s in Australia and New Zealand but died in 2004 without standing trial for the crimes.
According to Houston, Hillsong’s external legal counsel advised the church’s leadership in December that it would be “Best Practice“ for him to step aside as the court processes were likely to take up most of 2022.
They also discussed the “requirements for leadership” highlighting the impact the case has had on Houston’s wellbeing.
Houston’s wife, Bobbie will continue to be “fully engaged in church life” leading the 2022 Colour Conference while Pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley - lead pastors of Hillsong Church in Cape Town - will take on the role of interim global senior pastors.
“It is 50 years this week since I commenced Bible College in New Zealand, so with five decades of active ministry behind us, be assured we will make the best of this season to replenish spiritually, emotionally and physically.
“I am sure your complete support for Phil and Lucinda, and your prayers and goodwill will make more difference than you perhaps even realise.
“We love you church,” he concluded.
Houston is due in court in Sydney in October.