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Hillsong Founders Brian & Bobbie Houston Announce Plans For New Church

By Brittany Smith
hillsong brian bobbie houston comeback
Brian and Bobbie Houston, formerly senior pastors of Hillsong Church, lead prayer at the megachurch in Sydney, Australia. (Photo courtesy Hillsong Church)

Former Hillsong founder Brian Houston announced that he and his wife, Bobbie, will launch a new church in 2024.

He broke the news on his X/Twitter account that the two would be “starting a weekly online ministry and church” and that he was “excited about building this new community.”

For Boz Tchividjian, an attorney who represents abuse victims with Boz Law, the announcement is a red flag.

“I’m troubled to learn he’s jumping back into formal ministry,” he said.

Houston resigned as the lead pastor at Hillsong over allegations of inappropriate contact with two women, as well as numerous legal and financial issues.

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Hillsong Brian Houston doc structure corporation
Hillsong global senior pastor Brian Houston appears in a promotional image for “Hillsong Church: God Goes Viral,” a 2021 documentary. (Image: BBC Four)

His church announcement comes just eight months after Australian Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie accused Houston of lavish spending and misuse of funds during his time at Hillsong.

Wilkie obtained information from a whistleblower that included 17 binders full of documents that he presented to the Australian Parliament in March of 2023.

This included financial information on the misuse of church funds by the Houston family.

“In 2021, four members of the Houston family and their friends enjoyed a three-day luxury retreat in Cancun, Mexico using $150,000 of church money,” Wilkie told Parliament.

Additionally, in 2020, after a return trip to the United States, the Houstons paid $5,389 in flight upgrades with undisclosed tithe money.

He also noted that Houston “treated private jets like Ubers, again all with church money” and that his wife Bobbie received a $6,500 Cartier watch and $2,500 worth of Louis Vuitton luggage in the form of gifts from Hillsong.

The financial accusations surfaced almost a year after an internal Hillsong investigation that found Houston sent inappropriate text messages to a female staff member and spent time alone in a woman’s hotel room after drinking and taking strong anti-anxiety medication. These allegations ultimately led to his resignation in March of 2022.

exposé hillsong
On December 19, 2022, Hillsong founder Brian Houston exits Downing Centre court complex in Sydney, Australia. (Video screengrab / 7News)

The resignation and subsequent financial allegations have not appeared to slow Houston’s zeal to continue in ministry. Rather than stepping back or grappling with the scandals plaguing Hillsong, Houston and his wife have continued with various preaching engagements and events.

“We live in an era where we make it far too easy for well-known pastors who engage in misconduct to go down the street, or the next state, or next door and open up a new church — some of these guys barely skip a beat,” said Tchividjian.

Amy Stier also notes that this kind of behavior in fallen ministry leaders is not uncommon. Other pastors, like Mark Driscoll, “have gone on and started their own church plants.”

Stier is a practicing attorney in Texas, and prior to that spent the last 10 years conducting independent investigations into faith institutions with GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).

In her experience, pastors and institutions showing true repentance “accept the consequences of their actions.” But in accepting those consequences, it might mean “taking themselves out of ministry and making a true apology.”

For her, the biggest red flags in a ministry leader who has faced scandal is someone who displays a lack of repentance and accountability and believes they are always right.

While Houston has not issued a direct apology to the women involved, he has apologized to his wife publicly. But he has framed what happened at Hillsong as a betrayal. In August of 2022, as a guest preacher at the Seattle megachurch Christian Faith Center, Houston hinted at his hurt over the Hillsong scandals.

“I’ve never been betrayed like this,” he told the Seattle crowd. “I’ve never been spoken about like this. I’ve never been lied about, gossiped about — I’ve never been defrauded like this.”

brian houston seattle cancel culture
On August 21, 2022, Brian Houston preaches at Christian Faith Center in Federal Way, Washington. (Video screengrab)

Houston’s wife has posted similar sentiments. She took to social media in December of 2022 in the midst of Houston’s legal battle where he was on trial for failing to report his father’s sexual abuse to police.

“As a wife of near 46 (years) I’m weary of the relentless assault on this man, weary of the unchallenged, uncontained narratives left to fester. I vowed to him last (year) that if no one stands up & vindicates his integrity, character & worth, I will,” Bobbie wrote. She also noted that the media coverage of their ministry was “accusatory, cowardly, and appalling” and “modern day persecution.”

Houston was later acquitted, but not before facing one more charge against him for a DUI. He was arrested in California and pleaded guilty in April of 2023.

Currently, he is preparing to launch his church in 2024 and is working on an autobiography.

This article originally appeared at MinistryWatch and has been reprinted with permission. It was initially reprinted under an incorrect byline, and has been corrected.

Brittany Smith is a freelance writer living in Colorado Springs. She is the co-author of Unplanned Grace: A Compassionate Conversation on Life and Choice, and a contributor to MinistryWatch.

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11 Responses

  1. We live in a nominally democratic Western world. We also nominally enjoy access to fair due process.

    One consequence of enjoying democratic rights and due process, is: that those who are accused (of anything), have the right to defend themselves.

    Whatever the merits of the accusations to which Brian Houston has been made subject, a specific jury and the general jury of a wide population, have not yet determined culpability across those accusations. His defence of himself has not yielded to the force able to be brought to bear by his accusers. So he can and does intend what this article reports on, under democratic and legal and cultural aegis of rights and due process. And some may end more believing him rather than his accusers; that splitting any jury.

    This aspect of matters, should be respected, no matter what our view and judgement of other dynamics also in play.

      1. Don’t know the Houstons or their Churches personally. From Scotland and have a secular understanding of Christian evangelism grounded in social science. What I ‘know’ about the Houstons, the Christian variant they favour, and the Churches they have been associated with, has been gleaned from reading media such as TRR and the Christian Post.
        My own thinking, parallels the thinking informing the TRR project, especially as regards abusing and reforming what has mediated abusing. Albeit my concern has had to do with supporting individuals ontologically, and the collective process allowing or mediating abusing has not been as codified as Christian collective process tends to be. I have advocated for autistically characterised persons vis a vis their ‘care’ contexts, and employees vis a vis their employers. Starting point for advocating push-back of collective understanding of the individual, tending to be defending the nominally indefensible individual. As an adolescent I was haunted by the powerlessness of the Jewish individual vis a vis the Nazi abuser; and in adulthood have explored what resource and agency is available to the so powerless individual.
        TRR then rightly advocates for the individual abused by collective process to which the Houstons are central. However, as that project gains traction, and the Houston’s become individuals made subject to that project’s perspective and judgment; the same safeguarding principles grounding and driving that TRR project, must be applied to the bearing of that project on the Houstons. If we casually reject those finding value in the Houstons, we commit the fault of those who initially casually rejected TRR reporting. We instead have to engage with those others, with all involved in their position taking.

  2. Wow. Can’t wait to miss that. Excited about wrecking a whole new community. Please, give it up, Brian!!!

    2 Timothy 4:3–4 (ESV): “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths…”

    1. Well grifters have to grift. The Houstons are merely looking for another bunch to con. And they will find them, as that famous saying of P.T. Barnum holds true.

  3. I’m excited for Brian and Bobbie. I’m sure they have short comings, but I’m impressed by all they created and what they will create. Even with failure, they’ll have a great legacy.

    1. Yes, they will have a legacy–a legacy of monetizing the gospel, enriching themselves and other elite pastors, abusing staff, and being a stench to the unbelieving world.

  4. Richard Anthonty says:

    I came into spiritual, religious faith, aged 15, mid 1980’s.

    Then inducted into a similar style church organization, Australia, (large numbers of members nationwide), I noticed something strange. Wealthy realty magnates and network marketing people, (Amway-huge at the time), handed out calling cards after services, conducting business in the foyer… Wearing lavish suits, priority parking in fancy cars, and MONEY to burn. None of what I witnessed, what they actually preached, apart from the prosperity doctrine, and did they flog it, realty and religion, hand in hand, under the cloud of gospel faith, seemingly untouchable. Social circles were tight, not invited, not allowed to enter.

    I met the Houstons, twice, once in my home state, another time, 3 years later at their home church, watching the same principle of wealth gathering applied, just worse. I thought, the Holy Scriptures require humility and service, where these guys use it as a business, generating millions of tax-free dollars to burn as they see fit.

    Now I’ve learned millions across the globe, swindled fradulantly out of millions per fiscal year, funding lavish lifestyles, tithe money loaded onto luxury spending cards. And they’re a pittance in the pot of the global money generating religious pandemic, not feeding the poor at all.

    Apparantly, the love of money is the root of all evil. I’m glad today, now aged fifty something, living on a few hundred dollars per week, happy with my lot, far from the political-religious biggots and tax-free havens. You people disgust me, unworty of the title of, “Christian,” meaning Christ Like. Pure evil personified. “No man ought think himself better than any other”, a personal viewpoint on Christianity.

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