The Banner has a subscription to republish articles from Religion News Service. This story by Roxanne Stone was published on religionnews.comMarch 23. It has been edited for length.
Less than a week after the Hillsong board released a statement revealing its co-founder, Brian Houston, had sent inappropriate text messages to a staff member and spent time in a woman’s hotel room, the board of the global megachurch has announced the longtime global senior pastor has resigned.
In a statement posted on its website Wednesday (March 23), the board said it had accepted Houston’s resignation and acknowledged “there will be much emotion at this news.”
Houston, 68, a New Zealand native, founded Hillsong Church with his wife, Bobbie, in the suburbs of Sydney in 1983. The Pentecostal multi-site church now includes 30 locations around the world, with an average global attendance of 150,000 weekly. Hillsong’s music program has produced some of the most popular worship songs used in evangelical churches all over the globe, including “Oceans,” “What a Beautiful Name,” and “Shout to the Lord.”
“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,” read the statement signed by the Hillsong Church Global and Australian boards.
News of the complaints against Houston surfaced late last week in the Australian press. In a March 18 statement, the Hillsong board acknowledged it had been “dealing with two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years” and said each was investigated by a board member or “a body appointed by the global board” and dealt with confidentially.
The first complaint, an accusation that Houston had flirted with a staff member in text messages a decade ago, the board attributed to Houston being under the influence of sleeping medication—“upon which he had developed a dependence,” it said. The board’s statement said Houston apologized to the staff member, who had resigned because of the flirtation. “We also worked closely with Pastor Brian to ensure he received professional help to eliminate his dependency on this medication, and this was achieved successfully,” the statement read.
The second incident reportedly took place during Hillsong’s annual conference in Qudos Bank Arena in Homebush, New South Wales, in 2019.
The Hillsong board statement said Houston had become “disoriented” after taking more than the prescribed dose of an anti-anxiety prescription, mixed with alcohol. “This resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant,” read the statement.
There was an investigation “by the integrity unit” after the incident, according to the board, and Houston agreed to step down from leadership for a period and “take specific action,” but ultimately, according to the statement, he did not take all of the agreed-upon steps, “which resulted in the board taking further action in late 2021.”
In January, Houston had announced he was taking a leave from his pastoral duties during 2022 in order to prepare for his trial in Australia on charges that he failed to report sexual abuse committed by his father. At that time, neither Houston nor the board mentioned the two complaints against Houston, citing only his need to focus on the trial.
The announcement of Houston’s resignation included multiple references to Bobbie Houston’s ministry at the church but did not indicate what her role might be going forward.
The statement left open future change. “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 honored, and our eyes are fixed on Jesus.”
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