Brian Houston Resigns After Misconduct Investigation

By Julie Roys
Brian Houston Hillsong
Brian Houston has resigned as Hillsong Global Senior Pastor. (Source: Hillsong)

Brian Houston has resigned as Hillsong Global Senior Pastor after an internal investigation found he acted inappropriately toward two women.

Houston had been on a leave of absence, awaiting trial for charges he failed to report his father’s sexual assault of children. Last week, Hillsong revealed that Houston had allegedly spent time alone in a hotel with a woman not his wife, and had sent flirtatious texts to a Hillsong staffer.

In a letter posted to its website Wednesday, Hillsong announced that Houston had resigned and the board had accepted his resignation.

The letter from the Hillsong Global and Australian Boards stated:

We understand there will be much emotion at this news, and we all share these feelings. Irrespective of the circumstances around this, we can all agree that Brian and Bobbie have served God faithfully over many decades and that their ministry has resulted in millions of people across the world being impacted by the power, grace, and love of Jesus Christ.

Hillsong Church was birthed out of Brian and Bobbie’s obedience and commitment to the call of God and we are extremely grateful for all that Brian and Bobbie have given to build His house. We ask that you continue to pray for them, and the entire Houston family, during this challenging time.

As you can appreciate, there is still much to be done and our church leadership continues seeking God for His wisdom as we set the course for the future. We acknowledge that change is needed. We have committed to an independent review of our governance structure and processes, understanding that this is a time of humble reflection and we are committed to doing what is necessary to ensure God is honoured, and our eyes are fixed on Jesus.

According to ABC News, the acting head of Hillsong, Pastor Phil Dooley, announced Houston’s resignation at an all-staff meeting today and read the board’s statement to staff.

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Last week, Hillsong’s board disclosed that Houston had spent time alone in a hotel room with a woman during Hillsong’s annual conference in New South Wales in 2019. The statement came as the story was breaking in the Australian press.

The church said Houston had been “drinking with a group” and also was on anti-anxiety medication at the time.

At a meeting with 800 Hillsong staffers on Friday, Pastor Dooley said, “The truth is we don’t know what happened next.” ABC reported. “The woman has not said there was any sexual activity. Brian has said there was no sexual activity, but he was in the room for 40 minutes.”

Dooley also revealed that Houston had sent a text saying something to the effect of, “‘If I was with you, I’d like to kiss and cuddle you,’ words of that nature.”

The board’s statement said Houston was also under the influence of sleeping medication at the time he sent the inappropriate texts, “upon which he had developed a dependence.” The text messages ultimately led to the staff member resigning, according to the statement, and Houston then apologized to the staff member.

The board’s statement also disclosed that the agreed to pay the woman a sum of money “in order to bring resolution in a spirit of love and care,” and to “abide by her request for confidentiality.” The statement said Houston repaid the money to the church. 

Hillsong, a Pentecostal powerhouse was founded by Houston and his wife, Bobbie, in 1983. The church, which draws a reported 150,000 to services in 30 locations, has also produced some of the most popular worship songs used in evangelical churches around the world, including “Oceans,” “What a Beautiful Name,” and “Shout to the Lord.”

The board concluded its statement on Houston’s resignation by saying it valued people’s “ongoing support and prayers. We are also praying for our entire church family at this time.”

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7 thoughts on “Brian Houston Resigns After Misconduct Investigation”

  1. After an earlier story here I wondered: If you chose the 100 biggest names in the US protestant Church in 2000, how many of them would have fallen into some kind to scandal by now?

    Brian Houston is about the biggest name in the Australian protestant Church. Hillsong’s main site was probably the biggest single church site in Australia, then the network grew then eventually became a separate denomination. So it’s like the Bill Hybels story – without the longer list of victims/incidents (so far) – and the similarity that medication was blamed in some cases.

    In the 90s we on the other wing of broad evangelicalism were critical of the hype & celebrity and shallow theology (esp prosperity) of the pentecostal megachurches of which Hillsong was the exemplar. We sang their songs though.

    But now the whole Church here is small enough that we feel the shame of this more than if it happened in 1998.

    He’s not the only big name to face scandal here. On the Catholic side the biggest name was Cardinal George Pell, who after lots of trouble about how he handled child abuse claims (like many other bishops), was actually found guilty of child abuse himself, although that was later overturned.

    1. Pell was found guilty after a set up by the Victoria police, incredibly poor judgements by the trial court (they read like gutter press). At the court of appeal one justice exonerated him in a fabulously argued judgement, the two ‘woke’ justices just replayed the gutter press. It then went to the High Court (equivalent to the US Supreme Court), where Pell’s conviction was unanimously overturned. Therefore he is not guilty. Period! Clearly the whole case, from the vindictive ‘victim harvesting’ of the Victoria Police, the biased reporting by the national state broadcaster to the shrill trial by media was a set-up job. The evidence was as good as a lace umbrella. Pell and the alleged victim could not be placed in the same place at the same time. The Australian magazine Quadrant has a detailed discussion of the case.

  2. The reporting of all the falls from grace of mega-church pastors sounds like a stanza from the old rockabilly “hymn”- Drive Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder:

    I’m gonna race with the devil
    Speedin’ down the track
    And if he beats me to the line
    I ain’t a-comin’ back
    You ain’t worth nothin’
    When your six feet under
    Drive like lightning
    Crash like thunder

    I guess all those insignificant churches of 60-150 people in their body might seem a little more significant now as the Big Boys have forgotten the biblical mandate to “flee temptation”.

  3. Douglas Cumming

    At a time when churches across the West decry the lack of young people, Hillsong with Brian and Bobbie Houston at the helm have actually done something about it.
    I have no connection with Hillsong, but I recognise that their contribution to the 21st-century church is immense. Pressures on a senior pastor like this are immense, I am not condoning his behaviour, but I do think what is at fault here is a church model which expects pastors to be CEO instead of a shepherd to the flock.
    Time for a rethink on how we do church.

    1. Body count does not ‘count’. Do these young people turn up to grow in faith, to enable their personal apologetic and conversational evangelism, to deepen their knowledge of the scriptures, to serve? I’ll bet they largely turn up for a fun concert at the giant Hillsong coffee shop (the only church I’ve heard of where you have to buy a coffee! It’s free at my little church, served for fellowship, not profit.)

  4. Richard Donaldson

    Should these old quotes from Houston–commenting on previous Hillsong scandals–be seen in a different light now?

    On Carl Lentz: “Carl was Carl. He’s a unique character. There’s a lot of things I miss about Carl,” Houston said in a clip of the interview, which is set to air in full on Wednesday morning. “But having said that, there were leadership issues that I believe included lying, included what I would call narcissistic behavior.”

    On Jason Mays: “One thing I do know is that we are not talking about a sexual predator here. We’re talking about a young man, young married man who did something stupid. Got much drunker than he should, which is an issue that we should keep addressing, and got himself in a bad situation.”

  5. Reshma Immaculate

    I kind of feel bad for Hillsong church. They probably started off well with good intentions. I remember my childhood was all about songs by Darlene and Reuben Morgan. For someone like me from a non English speaking country, their songs were amazing. Songs like Shout to the Lord, Majesty and so many others truly brought people to Christ. I feel like somewhere down the line they lost focus and stopped emphasizing on Spirit led worship and started prioritizing worldly matters. I wish they’d continually checked their hearts all these years. They had the potential for so much goodness. I feel very bad actually about all this. Their songs were a part of my childhood and will always be a part of my life.

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