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Hillsong Survivor Fights Back After Pastor Brian Houston Reveals Her Past Abuse

By Jackson Elliott
Brian Houston Hillsong
Brian Houston (Photo Credit: Facebook)

Hillsong founder Brian Houston today is facing harsh criticism for publicly revealing the private history a woman who recently revealed her story of abuse by a Hillsong leader. The woman, a former student at Hillsong College and trainee at Hillsong Church, Anna Crenshaw, is accusing Houston of using her story to deflect attention from his church’s failure to fire an abusive leader.

In a recent article at the Christian Post, Anna Crenshaw said she was assaulted by Hillsong worship leader Jason Mays. And instead of protecting her, the church protected her abuser, she said.

In response, Brian Houston tweeted: “It’s a sad story. A number of things in this article are factually wrong, but abuse is NEVER ok.” Houston then revealed that Crenshaw’s was sexually abused at her home church, adding “Whether abuse happens in Pennsylvania or Australia, it’s tragic.”

Anna Crenshaw said Houston’s tweet was an attempt to use her past trauma as an excuse to deflect accountability from Houston’s church.

“This is an incredibly victimizing and heartbreaking response to receive from someone I held as my dear pastor for many years,” she said on Instagram.

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The tweet revealing the abuse remained up for four days. Houston then deleted his original comment and apologized.

“In a comment on this article yesterday, I foolishly included information that was wrong for me to share. To (rightfully) be more respectful of privacy, I deleted my comment. I apologize for any pain I have caused. I know better and will do better,” he said.

Many people outraged by Brian Houston’s first tweet responded angrily, including Anna Crenshaw’s father, Ed Crenshaw.

“What happened to the 1st apologetic tweet? Had to clean it up so as not to admit too much responsibility?” Ed Crenshaw asked. “FYI, your 1st response to article is indicative of mishandling Anna from day one. I assure you there are more “factual errors” on the part of your staff than in Anna’s story.”

“You should be personally apologising to Anna, firing the person responsible and actually investigating what happened. Protect the members of your church – not just your own,” another Twitter user said to Brian Houston.

“Abuse can happen anywhere. We all agree it is NEVER okay,” responded Anna Crenshaw on Instagram. “That is not what is in question. It is the way the abuse is handled by the organisation.”

Hillsong handled the abuse by keeping the abuser on staff and making Crenshaw feel “very unwelcome,” she said.

Crenshaw said she worked for Hillsong’s CityCare ministry when a worship leader sexually harassed and assaulted her.

At a party at a church member’s house, Mays asked Crenshaw if she was “sleeping over,” touched her thigh, and grabbed her around the waist as he kissed her stomach, according to Crenshaw’s testimony.

Crenshaw said she reported Mays’ assault to Hillsong. The church waited months before telling Mays about the accusation. Then, instead of firing him, she said the church made her work under the supervision of Mays’ wife.

After pleading guilty to indecent assault, Mays received two years of probation and mandatory counselling. A church spokesperson told Vanity Fair that Mays was banned from ministry for 12 months, then put into an administrative role, where he occasionally volunteered to lead worship.  

According to Mays’ Linkedin page, he is currently the creative director at Hillsong.

Unlike Hillsong, Anna Crenshaw said on Instagram that her home church supported her after it discovered her abuse. She said the church fired her abuser, held him legally accountable, and paid for her counseling.

“Why is this too much to ask?” said Do Better Church, a church abuse survivors account on Instagram.

According to a clip obtained by the Christian Post, Brian Houston claimed at a recent internal meeting that Mays wasn’t a sexual predator, but had only gotten “much drunker than he should,” 

“The Lord has forgiven Jason and we felt he deserved another chance after we weighed up the judge’s findings and comments,” said Houston. “He was restored to paid work and volunteering, which we believe to be in line with biblical principles of discipline and restoration. 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.”

Brian Houston has been accused of minimizing sexual assault in the past. His father, Frank Houston, was found gulity of sexually abusing boys in church.

One of the victims claims that when he spoke with Brian Houston, Houston told the abuse victim that the abuse was the victim’s fault because he had tempted Houston’s father.

There also have been other sexual misconduct cases at Hillsong. Hillsong’s New York City pastor, Carl Lentz, was fired for having extramarital affairs and other undisclosed moral issues.

The church may have known about Lentz’s issues for years before his firing, according to an anonymous former insider.

Crenshaw said that Hillsong’s refusal to fire the pastor who grabbed her tells other employees that the church lets people get away with assault. She also said that many of May’s colleagues knew nothing about the story until the media reported on it.

“When staff see someone who’s very involved, whose family is very involved, be able to not only be supported but still kept in their role and given even a better job during this time, it shows people that you can get away with anything as long as you have the right connections within the higher level staff,” she said. 

The Roys Report reached out to Hillsong with questions on their discipline of Mays and on Brian Houston’s tweet, but received no response.

Jackson ElliottJackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.



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25 Responses

  1. Another thing: You can bet that leaders’ spouses get filled in on confidential information that the church leaders have access to, such as past and present abuse.
    These liars, abusers, and poor (morally, of course) leaders are being exposed little by little by investigators and watchdog groups online.

    1. This isn’t a “church”, and Houston and the others are wolves in wolves clothing, not “church leaders” by any biblical definition.

      This false church, and multitudes like it, get lumped together with the real ones but they’re not – just counterfeits that the Lord allows to remain for those with “itching ears”. Men like this are fulfilling their God-given ministries.

      1. Not “wolves” – FERAL JUNKYARD DOGS with enough mange to pass as Chupacabras.

        Wolves have more Class than that.

  2. “The Lord has forgiven Jason…”. Really? How does Houston know that? Houston is attempting to put God’s words in his (Houston’s) mouth. A very effective strategy for silencing opposition – “You wouldn’t want to question the Lord, would you?”

    That said, maybe Jason IS truly repentant over a very public and shameful sin. In that case God HAS forgiven him. But that’s still not the point. The point is that the church needs to make sure people who behave in such a way are not given leadership positions in the church. There are plenty of other talented worship leaders who do not sexually assault women.

    1. PAUL K. I love that nonsense that prophet errr profit says. Oh god forgave him. Soooooo what. Yeah your forgiven now hit the road scumbag. If you want to really see why people don’t trust the evangelical industrial complex and there churches go to RIGHT WING WATCH. Every grifter and trump loving and excuse making hate filled godless nut job for all the world to see. My experience is if you have more than about 500 people in a church. Your no longer a church your a business and like all large businesses what goes on isn’t always shared. You know: for keeping the image alive. Google TBN and some issues they have had. Oh but but one bad apple shouldn’t make people distrust the whole barrel. And your right. But if you keep the apple and just paint it red and throw it back in then TES the whole barrel is bad for hiding the bad apple. Ahhhhh evangelicals there so much fun.

      1. Congratulations! You are today’s winner! First to mention TRUMP. The reason for all of the world’s problems. What prize do you have for Gary, Bob??

        1. “All the world’s problems” is a straw man I’m sure you enjoyed knocking over, but you can’t use it to paper over the real problem of the unbridled enthusiasm for everything Trump in the major part of the evangelical community that formed his political base. This was much more than an expedient vote for someone who promised favors in return, which would have been cynical, but understandable. This is a love affair that won’t quit, with the man himself, warts especially.

          1. Uhh,”all the worlds problems” is hyperbole. And actually thou art the man erected the “strawman argument” and tore it down.


    2. There are plenty of other talented worship leaders who do not sexually assault women.

      This can never be stated often enough. Nobody is irreplaceable. If someone in a position of trust and authority abuses that trust and authority, they need to resign, and someone who is truly repentant wouldn’t think twice before doing sp.

      There are countless other jobs he can take when he can fulfil his calling — maybe not as glamorous and as well paid as being a leader in a wealthy, privileged church, and it wouldn’t hurt him at all to humble himself and, say, work for a charity helping the homeless, destitute, addicted, or otherwise hopeless who don’t have supportive church communities to give them aid.

      Now that would be a true story of repentance and regeneration, but there’s a reason why they’re so vanishingly rare these days.

      — Steve Taylor, “I Manipulate”

      With The LOOOOOOORD as their familar spirit/supernatural Enforcer, like a PA Dutch Hexen or Appalachian Witch-man extorting money or favors or sex by threat of a Curse, enforced by their Supernatural Powers.

      Though it does beg the question: Which LOOOOOOOOOORD?

  3. I continue to be flabbergasted by revelations like this as they come forth. Working in a school, I can tell you these people would be out very quickly once allegations are proven true. Granted, my example involves minors, which is a different legal situation.

    One problem schools (and churches) can face is that a person gets in trouble for sexual assault in one state, a deal is worked out for the person to leave without charges filed, then they move to another state where a background check does not turn up anything since there was never a conviction. The pattern then gets repeated in the new location.

    “ Got much drunker than he should,” Wow, that is the defense? Whatever happened to Christian leaders abstaining from alcohol, just to avoid these very issues.

    Yes, there is discipline and starting over, but there are limits as to where that should occur, and what responsibilities the person has during that time.

    1. Exactly my thought!!! “…got much drunker than he should have…” wow!
      Pathetic defense for a church leader.

      1. Right…like a certain amount of drunk is okay but he went beyond it. What is the acceptable amount of drunk for church leaders these days?

  4. Something that must be acknowledged in fairness to many church and organization leaders is they really do not know how to respond to such allegations from a legal standpoint. I spent many years working for a large state university, and they had very clear steps for dealing with issues related to wrong doing, which usually involved turning the matter over to HR staff with training on the proper steps to take. For churches and ministries, that would normally involve an independent 3rd party.

    There needs to be a procedure where the accuser gets heard, but the accused still gets due process.

    1. Hey GB that will never happen because most pastors, not all, but most in my experience are either loud mouth bullies protected by spineless sycophants or whimps who would hid behind: Jesus forgave him/her and so do I or judge least yee be judged. Google TBN and allegations. It’s the evangelical industrial complex at its best or worst.

    2. That cannot be an excuse for any Christian church or organization the size of Hillsong, with over 150,000 members worldwide. Not these days, and especially not after the all the revelations of systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

      Hillsong has General Managers, COOs, executive accountants, and a board of directors filled with executives of other corporations and companies. There isn’t a chance they don’t know how to handle cases like this. They don’t handle them properly either out of hubris or out of desperation to sweep everything under the rug and make it go away, or both.

  5. 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5 give clear guidelines of what is to be expected of Christian leaders. These include not being a drunkard and not indulging in sexual immorality. These three passages are the basis on which people should be included or excluded from ministry, and indicate that godly behaviour is the rule, not the exception.

    There is no hint in the NT that leaders who break these guidelines should be welcomed back into ministry. The OT examples of David and others do not apply because, in the Biblical scheme of things between the old and new covenants, Kings are not analogous to Christian leaders but to Christ himself.

    If a Christian has trouble fitting with any of the guidelines in the three passages above, they should not be leaders. If a Christian leader breaks any of the guidelines, they should be removed from leadership and be prevented from serving ever again.

    Leadership is different from faith. If a Christian sins, they can be forgiven, because our faith is based on grace. But leadership is based on merit. Those who do not meet the biblical guidelines, or who are leaders and break them, are still Christians and still part of the church. But they are not “owed” a position of leadership.

    Half of the problems of the modern church can be fixed by following and enforcing the biblical guidelines of godly leadership.


      Nice thoughts when you write…

      “1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5
      give clear guidelines of what is to be expected
      of Christian leaders.”

      “Half of the problems of the modern church
      can be fixed by following and enforcing
      the biblical guidelines of godly leadership.”

      One problem is…
      “Todays church leaders” will NOT enforce this…

      Too many empty pulpits. Oy Vey!!!

      Those are some tough guidelines.

      “The seminary leaders” will NOT enforce this…

      Too many empty schools. Oy Vey!!!

      Why pay to be a pastor? Pay to be a M Div.?
      When you do NOT meet the guidelines?

      Those are some tough guidelines.

      And other sheep I have, which are NOT of this fold:
      them also I must bring, and they shall “Hear My Voice; “
      and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
      John 10:16

      One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

      {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  6. “less glamorous than church” . . . “board members from other corporations” . . . that explains the conflicts of interest via all those intense fraternities. As to that man, the deed is the deed, if he preys he has added that to his ontology. Restore doesn’t mean to the same things (glamourous job). This isn’t a church in the Bible sense, it has no gospel whatever. I am devastated for the thousands that thought it was a good career being offered by such gangs.

  7. One thing that no one has mentioned here is the fact that so much of the Hillsong image is based on sexual appeal and being ultra-hip and beautiful. Are we surprised that when this sort of image is glorified, that these sorts of things happen? I don’t think Christians should go out of our way to be dowdy or intentionally uncool, but when sex appeal, physical beauty and image are glorified, we shouldn’t be surprised to see this kind of thing, in my opinion.

    1. Just like High School, with the ultra-hip and beautiful Chads and Stacys and Muffies and Buffies holding court at the Kewl Kids Table. Dispensing or denying existence to the rest of us from On High.

  8. Hillsong founder Brian Houston today is facing harsh criticism for publicly revealing the private history a woman who recently revealed her story of abuse by a Hillsong leader.

    But that’s what Biblical Counseling/Scientology Auditing Records are for!
    Seal of the Confessional is just so — ROMISH!

  9. As a member of the Christian Community, I would like to extend my support and prayers to the members of their ministry. As a member of Pastor Henderson’s flock over at, I have been taught to love my fellow Christians. The Christian churches in Houston are really one in their resolve to spread Jesus’ message of love.

  10. Really sad to hear about such things specially when a pastor is involved. This is why I have really taken time to choose the best pastor from Houston who I really think is a Man of God. Keion Henderson, is the one I truly believe in who is a man of God!

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