Hillsong preacher Brian Houston ‘mishandled sex allegations’, Royal Commission finds
The head of the Hillsong Church, high profile preacher Brian Houston, mishandled allegations that his father was a paedophile, the child sex abuse royal commission has found.
Brian Houston did not report the alleged abuse of a seven-year-old boy by his father Frank Houston to the police and had a conflict of interest as both national president of the Assemblies of God churches in Australia and Frank Houston’s son, the commission said.
“Despite Pastor Brian Houston’s evidence that he had no doubt that his father’s conduct was criminal, he made no attempt to report his father to the police at the time the confession was made to him,” the commission said in a report handed down today.
Frank Houston, a former Salvation Army officer in his home country of New Zealand, founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre in 1977 which grew into the Hillsong Church.
He was never sacked over the claims, which emerged in 1999 when the boy was aged 34 or 35, but allowed to quietly retire despite confessing to at least one occasion when he fondled the boy’s genitals.
“Pastor Brian Houston said that, while he ‘knew, for the five years my father was still alive, there was every possibility that he would be charged’, he did not report his father to the police because (the boy) was 35 or 36 years of age,” the commission said in its report.
In 2000, Hillsong Church and its predecessors, Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre, did not report the suspension and subsequent withdrawal of Frank Houston’s credential as a minister to the New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People, as required by law, the commission found.
The commission said that it did not accept Brian Houston’s claim that he did not think he had a conflict of interest because he never attempted to defend his father from the allegations and “acted swiftly to suspend his credential.”
“We do not accept the views expressed by Pastor Brian Houston,” the commission said.
“There are two aspects to a conflict of interest – an actual conflict of interest and a potential or perceived conflict of interest.
“Pastor Brian Houston was Mr Frank Houston’s son. Regardless of whether Pastor Brian Houston’s actions were proper or appropriate, there always remained a public perception of a potential conflict of interest because of the personal relationship.”
The commission had heard that as well as the alleged abuse of the seven-year-old boy while Frank Houston stayed with the boy’s family in Coogee in 1969 and 1970 and at an evangelical camp, Frank Houston had been accused of sexually assaulting another six boys.
After learning of the Sydney allegations, Pastor Brian Houston called a special executive meeting of the national executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia in 1999, which he attended.
“Although Pastor Brian Houston relinquished the position of chair at the meeting, he remained present while the national executive discussed the allegations and decided on disciplinary action for Frank Houston,” the commission said.
The commission also found that the national executive did not follow their own policy, the Administration Manual, for handling allegations against pastors and ministers, and failed to recognise and respond to Brian Houston’s conflict of interest.
The NSW executive failed to appoint a contact person for the complainant, interview the complainant, have the state or national Executive interview the alleged perpetrator, or record any of the steps it took.
The commission had investigated how sexual abuse was dealt with inside the Hillsong Church, the Melbourne-based Encompass Church and their umbrella group, Australian Christian Churches.
In a statement released today, Hillsong Church has moved to distance itself from the criticism of the child sex abuse royal commission.
It said that the commission’s investigation did not “directly involve Hillsong Church.
“The abuse committed by the late Frank Houston, the father of our senior pastor Brian Houston, occurred many years before Hillsong church existed, when he was a credentialed Assemblies of God minister in New Zealand.
“It should be emphasised that Pastor Brian is not a perpetrator of abuse, has never been accused of abuse, and took immediate action to expose and stop a child abuser,” the statement said.
The church said that no-one had told Brian Houston that he should have reported his father to the police.
“In the 16 years since these revelations came to light – despite Pastor Brian widely sharing this information, even to the entire church – no one had ever advised that this historical complaint coming from a mature adult needed to be reported to the police,” the church said.
“In terms of the findings of a “potential or perceived” conflict of interest, it is easy to look back many years with hindsight, however Pastor Brian acted in the best way he felt at the time and took decisive and immediate action against his own father,” the statement said.
Originally published as Hillsong preacher ‘mishandled sex allegations’
Source: News.com, http://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/hillsong-preacher-brian-houston-mishandled-sex-allegations-royal-commission-finds/news-story/39e6f707632e6e9e9e2927f03a709e8b,