Before reading this article, you might want to read the previous articles to develop a framework of what the Royal Commission has uncovered so far in Case Study 18 of the Hillsong Church, Assemblies of God and Frank Houston case:
Royal Commission 01: The Submission – AOG/ACC & Hillsong Exposed
Royal Commission 01.1: The Administration AOG Manual – Excerpt
Royal Commission 02: Submission Findings – Problems with AOG/ACC & Brian Houston’s Management
This is the next FactFile summarising this article.
John Lewis, AOG executive, sent the below email to all Ordained and Probationary Ministers of the Assemblies of God in Australia on 4 December, 2001, to inform them about Frank Houston’s “moral failure”.
It was the first public letter to AOG ministers, since December 1999, when the AOG Executive determined the AHA sexual abuse matter, (ie. 2 years later.). [P140]
This letter shows how the AOG managed the information presented to its members. It is more akin to propaganda and damage control.
Note: all [P..] references and additional links can be found as paragraph references in article, Royal Commission 02: Submission Findings – Problems with AOG/ACC & Brian Houston’s Management.
For additional information about the Royal Commission and submission, see Royal Commission 01: The Submission – AOG/ACC & Hillsong Exposed, which is the first article in the series.
Some of the statements made by John Lewis have comments listed in red underneath. [P..] paragraph references and [F..] references to Findings can be found in Royal Commission 01: The Submission – AOG/ACC & Hillsong Exposed.
AOG Letter to Ordained and Probationary Ministers of the Assemblies of God in Australia
4 December, 2001
To all Ordained and Probationary Ministers of the Assemblies of God in Australia
ISSUE: SEXUAL FAILURE OF MINISTERS
Thankfully, only a few leaders fail morally. Sadly it does happen. However it is more heartbreaking when national Christian leaders fail.
2. Frank Houston
Several months after taking on the oversight of Sydney Christian Life Centre in 1999 our National President, Pastor Brian Houston received a serious accusation against his father, Frank Houston. The allegation was some thirty years previous and it should be clearly noted this was the first time Brian had received any such allegations against his father.
[This was the Sydney AHA allegation where Frank Houston allegedly abused an 8 year old in 1969/70 for several years in AHA’s home and at churches in Australia (told to Brian Houston in 1999). So the abuse took place some 25-30 years previous. JL would not have known this if he only had Brian Houston’s report of Frank Houston’s “confession” of a one-off incident at the AOG executive meeting. There had not been an independent investigation into the matter. [P91] ]
Brian suspended his father’s credential in line with our policy and immediately contacted the National Executive. Brian offered to allow me as Vice President to oversee an investigation in co-operation with the New Zealand Executive (where Frank was pastoring at the time of these allegations).
[Brian found out about the child sex abuse end Oct, 1999, confronted his father mid Nov, had the National Executive meeting 22/12/1999. Brian said he suspended his father immediately when his father confessed, but the RC’s best estimate, considering the evidence submitted, is between 5 Dec to 22 Dec, 1999 [P89]. The National Executive did not know about the allegations until 2 months after Brian Houston found out. What part happened “immediately”? Brian did not follow procedure or policy. [F3]]
As a result of these investigations, clear evidence was forthcoming and Frank Houston was permanently removed from all forms of ministry by the Australian National Executive in 2000 and the following statement of prepared for those who made inquiries.
[Frank Houston had not been permanently removed from ministry before the National Executive 2000 [F4]. He was removed after the NZ investigation. That is, Frank had not been permanently removed from ministry at the 1999 National Executive meeting which determined the AHA matter, which is consistent with the 1999 minutes. So the idea that Frank had his credentials permanently removed when he confessed to Brian is false. It was a year later. Also, Frank was seen preaching after Brian had spoken to him.]
“The National Executives of the Assemblies of God in Australia and New Zealand have had the very sad responsibility of investigating claims of a serious moral failure against Frank Houston. The incidents that have been investigated happened more than thirty years ago and Frank has admitted to the failure with great remorse. The Australia Executive has no alternative but to remove his credential.
[The offense is reduced to “serious moral failure” and the reader would have assumed from the context that the offenses all occurred in New Zealand.]
Frank has accepted that he can no longer minister and we would request that you not invite him to engage in any public ministry. At the same time, we would encourage you to extend love and care to Frank, his wife and his family”.
We recognise Franks outstanding contribution to the work of the Lord in this nation and that only adds to our heartache.
Obviously both these circumstances have brought great anguish to our National President and I would encourage you to give him your prayer and support. I can assure you that Brian has demonstrated integrity and ensured that truth and justice prevailed in these difficult situations.
[Brian did not demonstrate integrity in carrying out his duties and the RC recommended he be referred to the police. Brian Houston:
1. interfered with the investigation/process [F1,3, P104-105],
2. was the conduit between the AOG and the complainant and perpetrator [P97],
3. had a conflict of interest [F2],
4. sat in the executive meeting that determined the matter [P96]
5. and as president of the AOG did not ensure that he and his executives follow policy and procedure.
Hillsong Church did not notify the Commission for Children and Young People about the suspension of Frank Houston and the withdrawal of his credential (mandatory) [P167-168]. Truth and justice did not prevail as the complainant did not have an independent investigation nor had his complaint heard [F1]. Frank did not respond properly to the allegations, he only confessed to a one-off incident, and no confession was recorded and signed [P73]. The complainant received no support from the AOG nor was updated appropriately [P154-155].
[P112. of the RC submission: It is submitted that the President is responsible for pursuing the aims of the Assemblies of God which include upholding the policies and procedures governing discipline of its ministers. The affiliated churches have an interest in seeing ministers appropriately disciplined to ensure that they do not engage in improper conduct and the movement is not undermined.]
We are aware that the above information may be a surprise and shock to some of you and therefore, we have deliberately chosen to restrict this letter to our Ordained and Probationary Ministers.
[So the news is to be limited in case its recipient may be shocked? And that is with the offence being reduced to a serious moral failure? A more likely reason not to go public with the real offense is that it is a huge embarrassment to the movement and to the Houston family, especially as they were significant figures in the Christian world [P30,32,103].
We cannot see any reason for this to be announced to your church or further afield. Sadly there are always one or two people with their own agendas who will try and get mileage from other people’s pain.
At times, sad as it may be, we must address such issues.
[Here is one reason the matter should have been announced and was raised at the RC. If the news of child sex abuse was public, it could encourage other possible victims to come forward [P142], since one of the major deterrents is that Frank Houston is like royalty in the AOG movement and the victim fears they may not be believed (as in AHA’s case). Sadly, other potential victims did not get this opportunity.
Rather than be upfront and deal with people who may have “agendas”, the AOG preferred to keep the matter hidden. Those who enquired may “try to get mileage from other people’s pain”. Or maybe the AOG preferred the enquirers to get their information from the media (which Brian Houston regularly denigrates) or in the corridors, Not only does this look like an excuse to keep the matter quiet, it also helped keep the AOG’s management of the matter out of public scrutiny. Was Frank Houston bearing fruit in keeping with repentance? He confessed to a less, one-off incident with AHA, did not repent publicly, did not go to the police for his crime, tried to get forgiveness with money, there was no formal apology, he would not sign a confession, he did not cooperate with AOG NZ investigations and denied some sense of justice for victims [P77, P82, 94,117-119].]
However, our focus must remain on the good things God is doing, the vision he has burned into our hearts, and the fulfilling of the passion of Jesus to reach our communities with the gospel.
In future articles, we will examine the importance of this statement and what Lewis means by “the vision he has burned into our hearts.” This language and mindset is essential to understand within this AOG/Hillsong cover-up.
Yours in Christ,
Source: Letter to Brian Houston from John Lewis (as to all Ministers), http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/downloadfile.ashx?guid=f9d914a2-7d3b-49eb-bc44-d6989f849dc6&type=exhibit&filename=HIL.0001.001.0011_R&fileextension=pdf.