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In Trial, Brian Houston Says Father Was ‘Serial Pedophile’; Closing Arguments Set For June

By Sarah Einselen
Brian Houston Hillsong pedophile
In this Oct. 7, 2014, photo, founder of the Sydney-based global Hillsong Church Brian Houston leaves a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings in Sydney, Australia. Houston has been charged with concealing child sex offenses. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP/RNS)

Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston reportedly told a court at his trial that he now believes, “My father was a serial pedophile and we’ll probably never know the extent of it.”

But he still thinks he did the right thing by not reporting the allegations to police during his father’s lifetime, Houston, who resigned from Hillsong under pressure back in March, stated during the final days of a three-week special hearing.

Authorities charged Houston last year with one count of concealing a serious indictable offense. Houston, 68, pleaded not guilty and made his case during the special hearing in an Australian court.

The hearing wrapped up last Wednesday. Authorities and Houston’s defense team now have six months to prepare final arguments, Christianity Today reported.

Houston is expected to return to court for closing oral arguments in June 2023. If convicted, the court could sentence Houston to a prison term of two years or more.

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Houston wrote on Instagram that he can’t comment on the court case, but that he’ll be “building for the future” in the coming months.

An earlier Instagram post shows Houston and his wife preached in November at Lifehouse Church. He also preached last month at Exchange Church, The Roys Report (TRR) previously reported, days after an apparent ministry comeback near Hillsong’s flagship campus.

The criminal charge stems from allegations that Brian Houston’s late father, Frank Houston, sexually abused Brett Sengstock when Sengstock was as young as 7 years old. Prosecutors say Brian Houston failed to report the abuse to police before Frank Houston’s death in 2004, even though he had known about it for years.

Brian Houston reportedly testified that his father admitted to him in 1999 that he abused Sengstock. Testimony indicated Frank Houston later admitted to abusing multiple children, News Corp Australia reported.

The national Assemblies of God, now known as Australian Christian Churches (ACC), reportedly yanked Frank Houston’s preaching credentials in November 1999 when Houston told the denomination’s leaders of Sengstock’s accusations.

But neither Brian Houston nor the ACC reported the allegations to police at that time.

ACC drafted a statement in 2000 acknowledging “claims of a serious moral failure” without mentioning child sexual abuse. The statement was to be published only if rumors about Frank Houston spread too widely, or if he failed to stay out of the pulpit.

Then in March 2002, Brian Houston acknowledged a “very serious moral accusation” against his father during a sermon at Hillsong, without specifying it was about child sexual abuse. The prosecution claimed Brian Houston’s sermon minimized what his father had done; he reportedly denied that.

The ACC’s national secretary also acknowledged “serious sexual misconduct” by Frank Houston, with no mention of child abuse, in a 2004 letter explaining why his preaching credentials had been revoked.

The prosecution suggested Brian Houston didn’t report the allegations because he didn’t want to risk his church’s reputation. He repeatedly denied that, news reports indicate.

The church Brian Houston founded in 1983 merged with the one his father founded to become Hillsong Church in 2001.Hillsong went on to spread across the globe, now reporting some 150,000 people attending services in 30 countries.Brian Houston was Hillsong’s global senior pastor until early this year, when he resigned in the wake of an internal investigation into alleged misconduct.

TRR sought comment from Hillsong about the special hearing. We received an automated reply from a crisis public relations firm, stating the firm’s offices were closed until January 9.

Over four days of testimony, Brian Houston and others reportedly testified they were following Sengstock’s wishes in not going to police. Brian Houston also testified he disclosed the allegations to ACC leaders over Sengstock’s objections.

Earlier in the hearing, Sengstock, now 60, reportedly denied saying he didn’t want authorities involved.

Brian Houston also claimed authorities must have known about the alleged abuse before Frank Houston’s death. News media had covered the allegations, News Corp Australia reported, and multiple police officers attended Hillsong and would’ve heard Brian Houston talk about it there.

But Brian Houston reportedly didn’t answer when prosecution pressed him about whether he ever thought his father should be imprisoned for the alleged abuses. He also reportedly defended the retirement package his father received.

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas

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6 Responses

  1. Kudos to Sarah Einselen for being a VERY effective investigative reporter.

    I was in full-time ministry with Foursquare for 25 years and then spent seven years in law enforcement as my idea of a “retirement” career. I became the chief of police in the same small Nebraska town where I had been a pastor. It should’ve been a sitcom!

    The unfortunate thing for me was that as I learned about criminal law and became proficient at doing investigations I realized that a lot of the things that I tolerated even though they disturbed me about the inner workings of my denomination, the things I saw “swept under the carpet,” and the way the financial concerns of the “corporation” took precedence over doctrine and constructive introspection, not to mention, into whose hands the monies of the denomination fell, many of these things, but for “freedom of religion” could be considered crimes.

    You have already addressed issues in Foursquare churches, and that’s what caught my eye about your website. FINALLY, someone out there was truly addressing the issue of “judgment begins with the house of God.”

    I just want to thank you all and Sarah particularly for bringing things like this to light. Your articles about Hillsong come very close to the first scandal I personally observed while I was even still in Bible college and too young to question how it was handled. I wish you guys had been around during that period.

    You are a prophetic ministry, and a true blessing to the body of Christ and I believe you are setting the groundwork for another revival. (I’m a product of the Jesus Movement.)

  2. “The prosecution suggested Brian Houston didn’t report the allegations because he didn’t want to risk his church’s reputation.”
    This is a reasonable secular argumentative phrasing. I understand that many theologically and faith grounded Christians might also currently take recourse to this phrasing.
    What niggles for me is, that the import and and force of this secular phrasing might simply swamp what could be particular authentic and faith grounded defense positions. Such that someone like BH might unfairly be denied a defense in a particular instance.
    There’s a provision in Scottish law, called “not proven”, where trial judgement ends concluding that neither guilt nor innocence can be ascertained. I wonder whether such judgment should apply when what is being secured is fresh and better cultural standards for Churches to abide by.
    Frank was the sinner and criminal. The offence by BH, if open to being proven, is of a much lower order. Yes BH may have stood in the way of needed cultural change.

  3. Anyone who protects a pedophile is allowing the abuse of children to continue. Whether or not this is considered a crime in certain countries is irrelevant. Protecting any kind of abuser is just flat out wrong. And from what I read in the article, BH knew it was wrong and did it anyway.

  4. In retrospect, as a denominational official, Brian should have reported his father. But, as a son, I cannot imagine going through this. It seems like a nightmare. I feel for BH and the whole family. Also, I feel for all the victims of Frank Houston. It’s sickening.

  5. wow: “Authorities and Houston’s defense team now have six months to prepare final arguments”. guess the aussies don’t know the concept of a speedy trial and swift justice.

  6. Years ago, a thief stole a large herd of sheep, and to
    people’s amazement herded it all the way across Australia. In due time he was arrested and tried, but the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, but he must give back the sheep. The judge ridiculed this and ordered them to deliberate further. So they did. Their new verdict was not guilty and he can keep the sheep.
    We might ridicule Australian justice. We shouldnt. I attended an Illinois church that played Hillsong music for years and when I complained I was told that it was necessary because “young people are the future of the church!” , and anyone who didn’t like it should not let the door hit ’em on the way out.(Funny…I always thought PEOPLE were the future.
    I’ve left. I watch them on YouTube from time to time. Show off worship band, dwindling congregation.

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Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $30 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “What If Jesus Was Serious about the Church?” by Skye Jethani.