This article is broken into three sections, exposing the lazy journalism of Channel 9’s online report (Brian Houston speaks out on dealing with Hillsong’s nasty secret), on Hillsong Church. In section 1 we introduce the issues in Channel 9’s article. In section two we review the online report. And in section three you can examine all the sources to the material we referenced throughout our article.
WHAT WAS CHANNEL 9 THINKING?
News.com pre-viewed Channel 9’s Inside Story which covered Brian and Bobbie Houston of Hillsong on 21/2/2016. It reported Leila McKinnon stating,
“All the questions and scandals were addressed, and I think he (Houston) has answered in an upfront way, and from here we have left it for people to make up their own minds.” [Source]
However, Channel 9’s Inside Story failed to deliver any detail of the scandal. They did not do their homework and failed to ask the right questions. Did Hillsong’s PR machine write the script for them? Why was Inside Story doing this coverage?
Inside Story gave Hillsong’s Brian Houston a platform to spin and cover his shocking handling of his father’s crimes. He was also allowed, unchallenged, to denigrate anyone who questioned or criticized either he or Hillsong.
While “poor” Brian was getting lots of sympathy, the victims had it reinforced on Inside Story that it’s not about justice for them, making Inside Story party to it. As per usual, the victims do not have a voice. And if that’s too hard for Inside Story to provide, how about investigating the evidence presented at the Royal Commission (RC) as a start?
Here’s the link to the 2015/10 Royal Commission final report. There were questions that needed answering
Up front, we want to say that Brian, like many, is a victim, not physically but emotionally. But that cannot be used as an excuse for incompetence and lack of due diligence, and what many are beginning to suspect as a cover-up.
It cannot be used as an excuse when Brian continues to be hailed as the leader of leaders, even described as an apostle (see transcript/video of Terry Crist, pastor of City of Grace Church announcing they are now Hillsong Pheonix, call Brian an apostle – specifically referring to Brian’s leadership of the AOG in Australia).
When the AHA allegation was made to Brian in late October 1999, Brian was the leader, head of his denomination, head of his megachurch, employer of Frank, Frank’s pastor and son. With his obvious conflict of interest and trauma, Brian needed to step aside, ensure the Assemblies of God executive handled Frank’s AHA allegation properly and according to policy, and ensure his denomination met their legal responsibilities.
NONE of these responsibilities were met and this was confirmed in the Royal Commission report (c).
The Royal Commission also uncovered a culture where the ministers are given priority protection over the safety of children. And this was also on Brian’s watch as President:
“The Australian Christian Churches’ current Grievance Procedure for handling complaints against pastors for sexual misconduct gives priority to the protection of pastors over the safety of children.” (c)
Rather than just accept Brian’s word, Inside Story needed to put the burden of proof on Brian, that he was upfront about his father’s paedophilia right from the start and hence wasn’t a cover-up. The important period was within the 12 months after November, 1999 when Brian confronted his father. At the RC, Brian couldn’t remember the details but was sure he had told his church over that period… that he wasn’t hiding it. He offered no proof. No minutes, no instructions to church elders/leaders, for something so important. However, there is evidence to suggest otherwise that it was a cover-up.
So why does there appear to be an Australian media-blackout on the findings of the Royal Commission?
News.com published the article below about the upcoming Inside Story show on TV. Comments are made in green through the article. The source text is in blue.
Brian Houston speaks out on dealing with Hillsong’s nasty secret
So Inside Story thinks “All the questions and scandals were addressed?” What about these:
- Did Inside Story mention the reasons why the Royal Commission thought Brian should be referred to police for not reporting his father? Why the RC concluded Brian had a conflict of interest? No.
- Did Inside Story ask why Brian and Hillsong and the Australian Christian Churches submitted (after the RC) that Brian heard Frank’s admission of guilt as a “Religious Confession” and Brian should therefore be offered a degree of protection – that is given Clergy Privilege protection? No
- Did Inside Story ask why Brian or the AOGA executive did not know that reporting Frank Houston was mandatory? It was their job to know. Brian even went to a lawyer.
- Did Inside Story ask why Brian appointed himself, to be the sole official investigator of both the victim and the perpetrator when it was NOT his job?
Brian presents himself as both the big leader and a victim, having to go through the trauma of confronting his own father. BUT he should not have been there in the first place. Brian put himself in that place and by doing so threw out the procedures manual and compromised the integrity of the investigation, the AOG leadership, the AOG denomination, his church and the due process and care deserving of the victim, the support pastor (B. Taylor) and Frank.
- Did Inside Story ask why Brian decided NOT to follow procedure? Why did the AOGA executive allow Brian to ignore procedure and do the same? How did the AOG allow Brian to play such a key role when he had an obvious conflict of interest?
- Did Inside Story ask why Brian and the AOGA executive treated the AHA matter so differently in 1999 to the NZ allegations a year later in November 2000?
One thought is – the 1999 AHA allegation was covered up and the 2000 NZ allegations couldn’t be.
Hence it is important for Brian that people believe he told his church across the 12 months following his 1999 investigation. So what did Brian say? To whom and when and how did the church leadership decide the process of making Frank’s crime public? (The AOG had said not to make it public.) Brian couldn’t really remember and provided no evidence. Did Hillsong/CLC leadership consider the legal implications of what they would say? What was the official line Hillsong church leaders would give if queried further or media asked? What if someone at church disclosed another abuse allegation? It was more likely in 2001 or later that Brian told his church. It took until the end of 2001 for the AOGA ministers to be notified by the AOGA of “serious moral failure” and even then they were instructed not to tell their congregations. It didn’t hit the media until much later.
- Did Inside Story ask why the AOGA executive determined the matter based solely on the information Brian gave them at the executive meeting 22 December, 1999?
Brian offered no reports, so no-one knows what the official allegation was and what the official admission was. Someone at the meeting gave the advice they didn’t need to report Frank to the police – but they can’t remember who. Why did Brian not table Barbara Taylor’s letter saying AHA was considering legal advice?
- Did Inside Story ask why the AOGA did not remove Frank’s credentials permanently in 1999? This wasn’t done until the November 2000 AOG executive investigation into more abuse allegations from New Zealand.
Brian spins this story by conflating the 1999 AHA matter and the NZ investigation of Nov 2000 (when the AOGA actually did follow procedure and did permanently remove Frank’s credential).
- Did Inside Story ask Brian why Frank was not fired in 1999? He was allowed to retire quietly after Frank submitted his retirement notice on 24 November, 2000.
- Did Inside Story ask why Brian did not tell the AOG executives in December 1999 that Ps. Barbara Taylor had been working with the victim for over a year, trying to get the matter dealt with by the AOG? She wrote to Brian on 29/11/1999, saying AHA had softened at the news Frank had not denied it and AHA was considering legal proceedings. The executives were under the impression that only Brian knew the identity of the victim, that AHA was brittle and adamant about not having an investigation. Hence they allowed Brian to be the sole conduit between the AOGA executives and both victim and perpetrator. They did not offer the victim an independent contact, support and investigation. If they knew about Barbara Taylor’s role, they may have determined the matter very differently, reported Frank to the police and made good use of her support role.]
The article continues,
Houston, 61, speaks in detail about his actions on that day, why he did not report his father, and how his struggle with the revelation saw him spiral into depression and sleeping pill dependency.
“He was a paedophile. My dad was a paedophile. I can say it now. I have sort of come to grips with it now. But I do sort of find myself carrying the can for stuff that had nothing to do with me,” Brian Houston tells Inside Story in an interview to air on Thursday night.
“This was not my crime. I didn’t do this. I hate paedophilia. And I mean it. I hate paedophilia with a passion.”
“This was not my crime.” Good grief!
Brian is great at straw man arguments and them-and-us dichotomies. Who ever said it was his crime? WHO?
Brian was being investigated for how Brian and the institutions he was responsible for responded to child sexual abuse allegations. Everyone knows it was not his crime. So why the word games, Brian?
“But I do sort of find myself carrying the can for stuff that had nothing to do with me.”
Is Brian delusional, or in denial?
Which “can” didn’t you want Brian? Son of Frank, Head of the AOG, Head of Hillsong/CLC, Confessor to Frank? Man up. You are the apostle! They were your cans Brian. And when you stuffed it, you throw out all responsibility and claim “it had nothing to do with me”.
Brian, you insist you are the leader of leaders which is why groom people to buy your books. But in reality, you stuffed it big time, got caught, then failed to take responsibility for your actions. You mentioned no-one told you that you had to go to the police. Why was that their “can”? It was your job to find out. This is the real world, not the school playground or Hillsong church.
Let’s see – what is this “stuff” that had nothing to do with Brian? Could it be Frank was a paedophile years ago and Brian was his son, head of the denomination and head of the megachurch that employed Frank? That Frank was AOG royalty and a credentialed minister in the AOG, that he abused a child in Australia and the trust placed in him for decades? And did you know that Brian and his family were requested to assist with the NZ investigations? They declined. What about asking Brian Houston about that, McKinnon?
Brian’s job, as the top leader, was to ensure all procedural and legal aspects of this matter were attended to with integrity. He failed! Neither the AOGA nor “Hillsong City Church” fulfilled their legal duties and the AOG threw away the procedure book. It looked like a cover-up which was not helped by Brian’s obvious conflict of interest (which may have contributed to his poor report card).
Brian could not escape all of these “cans” – BUT he chose to carry “cans” that he should not have. “Nothing to do with me!” Brian, man up. You interfered when you shouldn’t have, then when it got too hot, you back-pedaled as fast as you could, trying to distance yourself and your beloved Hillsong brand from the bungle you made of it. It was such a debacle and looked like a cover-up that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse asked you to appear before them because they suspected you and the institutions you led had something that warranted investigating.
The Royal Commission doesn’t summon people to appear for no reason. hey were questioning the institutional responses – and Brian was carrying the leadership “can”, largely self-appointed when he should have stepped aside.
Houston’s father, William Francis ‘Frank’ Houston, served as a pastor for his church for more than two decades but in 2000 confessed to sexually abusing a boy in New Zealand 30 years earlier.
[WRONG. Frank confessed in Nov 1999 to Australian AHA’s abuse in Australia!, then again in Nov 2000, to abuse of NZ boys. The detail is important.]
Brian Houston, then
[in May 1999, BH was pastor of both Sydney CLC and Hills CLC]
a pastor with Hills Christian Life Centre, dismissed his father immediately from the church
[when was that? in 1999 when Frank first confessed to AHA or when Frank gave his retirement notice on 24 Nov 2000?],
and by 2007 more claims against his father had emerged.
[There were a further 5 claims from NZ in Nov 2000. Where is News.com getting this info from??]
Hillsong was founded by Brian Houston in 2002.
[WRONG. Hills CLC adopted the name Hillsong Church in 2001. Hillsong used to celebrate their beginnings in Sherbrook Hall in 1977/8 when Brian’s father came to Sydney and started Sydney CLC. And then as a CLC church plant, Brian with a 40 strong team (including Geoff Bullock) was the pastor of Hills CLC in 1983. Brian liked leveraging off the story of his father’s pioneering spirit and passing on the mantle through generations (Brian’s book in 2000) until Frank’s paedophilia picked up traction in the media.
Hills CLC started Hillsong Conference and music and the Hillsong brand took off in the mid 1990s (largely due to the contribution of Bullock). Rebranding CLC as Hillsong in 2001 allowed the church to leverage off the Hillsong brand and Brian could distance himself and both churches he ran from his dad and associated CLC legacy.
Before “Hillsong Church” was formally established in 2001, the Hillsong name was used to refer to the CLC churches during the transition (eg. in July 2000 “Hillsong City Church” requested WWCC registration, elders met in “Hillsong Boardroom” in Nov 2000, Frank resigned from “the staff and eldership of City Hillsong Church” on 24, Nov 2000.). Brian plays frequent Hillsong-church-name-games, trying to distance Hillsong from his dad’s tainting of the CLC name. It was a constant source of frustration for the RC when questioning Brian.
Excerpt from Hillsong Media Release (trying to distance Hillsong name)
Response to Royal Commission report – from Hillsong Church Board and Elders,
23 November 2015
This Royal Commission 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.
However, in 2000, “Hillsong City Church” requested a Working With Children Check and failed to declare Frank Houston’s discipline. Same churches, same leader.]
Frank Houston died in 2004. In 2014, Brian Houston admitted to a Sydney hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that his father was guilty of other cases of sexual abuse against children.
Reliving the day he found out the awful truth, Brian Houston says his heart shattered.
“I was meeting with one of my colleagues and he told me someone had rung into the Church office and made a complaint that, 30 years before, my father had abused a boy,” he says.
“At first I thought, ‘That’s immoral.’ Within a split second I thought, ‘That’s criminal.’ And I was just stunned, shattered.”
[ At Hillsong Conference 2014, Brian talked about his father’s crimes. He said it hit him in degrees- first realising it was a man, it was a homosexual thing, then it was someone underage… a child. This article’s version is more politically correct. Wouldn’t thinking “criminal” be a good reason for Brian to have sought proper legal advice?.]
Brian Houston’s wife, Bobbie, tells of Brian taking her to lunch in Sydney, saying he had “something terrible” to tell her.
“My heart sunk — I thought he was going to tell me he had an affair — which now is almost laughable — but he told me. I don’t remember his words. I just know I was stunned. I was stunned,” she says.
Recounting his struggle to deal with the truth about his father, Brian Houston says “the dad that I knew, right up to really his dying day, was a totally different person than what now the world knows was an evil side of him”.
“I was never at any time in any way exposed to that, so it’s still hard to reconcile.
“At first I felt very sad and very disappointed, and obviously I felt terribly sad for the victim, because there’s no doubt about it, my father’s violated him and done irreparable damage to his life.
“I felt it was my moral duty to face up to it with my own father. Hopefully anyone who is slightly human can think about that.”
[Inside Story needed to query why Brian jumped into this without getting proper counsel or proper legal advice. Brian had a conflict of interest, perceived or real, and he needed to have the AOG follow procedure. This was the time not the time to have YES men around him.
Brian we are human and so are the RC folks, the victims, Ps Barbara Taylor and others who have been concerned about what happened. Of course we can imagine it would have been terrible to confront your father. We can also imagine it was even worse for the victim to have to confront your father and you also, son of the perpetrator and head of the National AOG. The victim was worried he would not be believed as he understood Frank was AOG royalty. Brian it is you who seems not to comprehend how difficult it was for the victim, Ps Taylor and even your NSW AOG executive to approach you with this matter. Yet you demand people have to understand your trauma – else they are not even slightly human!
Think about what you just said. Human people would have taken more care to document and do right, follow procedure, consider more wisely the implications (especially being the son of the perpetrator), show more concern and respect for the victims and Ps Taylor, and discuss the options available before jumping in, boots and all.
Brian wants people to look at his noble pursuit (“moral duty”) and his painful sacrifice rather than notice he actually broke the rules of his denomination and should not have been there in the first place. If Brian Houston’s “moral duty” is not tugging at your heartstrings, then you are not even slightly human.
Welcome to the Hillsong conditioning process.
In this example, Brian redefined the AOG investigation task, was the hero and we should be thankful for it. And if not, we have the problem.
In 2015 the Royal Commission found Brian Houston had failed to alert the police about allegations his father had sexually assaulted children, and had a conflict of interest when he assumed responsibility for dealing with the accusations.
Brian Houston had previously told the Commission he did not go to police because “rightly or wrongly I genuinely believed that I would be pre-empting the victim if I were to just call the police at that point”.
[IMAGE Source:News Corp Australia]
“I had to confront my own father — my hero — we didn’t cover it up.
[You didn’t prove this at the Royal Commission Brian. Repeating a statement doesn’t make it true. You need to prove it.]
“We did tell people straight away.
[Where’s the evidence Brian? Where’s the question Inside Story? Brian cannot remember what he said, when and to whom, but it was “definitely” to the church and at a conference in the 12 months after Dec 1999 – Brain told the RC.]
We did take his credentials away.
[He was suspended at first, his credentials were not taken away permanently until Nov 2000 when the NZ AOG got involved.]
He never did preach again and we did oversee and ensure that he was never put in a position to be close to kids to be able to do that again.
[One father commented on social media that his kids used to sit with Frank at services in Frank’s new church and they did not know about Frank’s crimes or that he had been moved to that church on discipline. The minister overseeing Frank at Erina in 2003 wrote to the AOGA for clarification about Frank’s discipline – “I would like to treat Frank as the same as any member of my congregation who is not in public ministry”. It makes you wonder what the minister knew about Frank: Letter from Ian Zerna, Senior Minister, Coastlife Church Erina NSW to Keith Ainge, National Secretary, AOG National Office Brian also allowed Frank to contact the “brittle” AHA victim directly, even though inappropriate and distressing to AHA.]
“What we didn’t do is report it to the police.
[Is Brian suggesting this was the only thing he didn’t do right? Inside Story – this was a no brainer. You needed to challenge Brian and read to him the summary of issues the Royal Commission found and ask him to answer them. Leaving Brian unchallenged with this statement has made you complicit in having the Australian population believe that this was the only thing Brian did wrong.
It is called lying by omission.
Insight Story has allowed Brian to undermine the findings of the Royal Commission.
“Hillsong City Church” did not report Frank when requesting a Working for Children Check. How about Brian’s conflict of interest and Brian and the AOG neglecting their duty? The victims and Ps. Taylor were all unhappy with the way it was dealt with and the support given them. And it still looks like a cover-up.
And where was Brian’s humanity when he boldly declared the victims should not seek support from him or Hillsong? To whom should they have gone?
His family kept using Frank’s health as the reason – even in the early days of 1999-2000. Frank was healthy enough to preach around Nov/Dec 1999, had scheduled speaking engagements (though not allowed) – even at the 2000 Hillsong Conference, and travelled to NZ for a vacation in January 2001 (when he retired) – but too sick to deal with victim requests and assist the AOG NZ enquiry.]
“When he (the victim) came forward he was 36 or 37 years old. And he was very adamant he didn’t want to involve the police. He didn’t want the church authorities involved, or the police authorities involved.
[The facts are, Ps Barbara Taylor wrote to Brian 29/22/1999 telling him that AHA was thinking about legal proceedings. Brian didn’t even tell or show the AOGA executive the letter about AHA’s pleased response that Frank hadn’t denied it. Why?]
“And so he was brittle and I think because of that I didn’t see the police as an option.”
[29/11/1999 – AHA was thinking of the police as an option, had softened and wanted to talk to Brian about it as AHA was relieved Frank hadn’t denied it (AHA was actually being believed by the system). Did Brian NOT read Barbara Taylor’s letter prior to the AOGA executive meeting in Dec 1999? Interesting to see what Brian chooses to disclose. Also note, Brian was not so concerned about AHA’s “brittle condition” when his father, under discipline, was allowed to contact AHA directly, which AHA did not want.]
Brian Houston concedes the true extent of this father’s crimes may have gone with Frank Houston to his grave.
[You can thank Brian for not reporting the matter to the police! The result is Frank was never charged, never officially investigated, never signed an admission, (Brian and church elders stopped Frank from signing), and other possible victims were robbed of an opportunity to come forward. Now, people like Brian can gradually change history with their spin, which is what this Inside Story is assisting.]
“Of course it’s come out since then (the initial complaint) that there were others as well.
“And I don’t think we know to this day the full extent of it — I don’t know the full extent of it — I think I would be aware of about six, but listen, I have no idea — it could be much bigger than that, I just don’t know.”
Inside Story host Leila McKinnon says the comments are part of a wide-ranging interview in which “nothing was off limits” with Brian Houston’s and his wife.
It encompasses the rise of Hillsong — a phenomenon that began in Sydney’s Hills district and, more than 30 years on, has a presence in 15 countries, and asks questions about its finances, its converts, its success and its beliefs — including claims it’s a cult (to which Houston responds: “Cults hold people against their will, hold their minds, try to divide families those sorts of things … at Hillsong. People come, people go — no one has to do anything.”)
McKinnon says: “All the questions and scandals were addressed, and I think he (Houston) has answered in an upfront way, and from here we have left it for people to make up their own minds.”
“The fact is they (the Houstons) haven’t done a lot of media — they largely speak to their own congregations — which means this may be a side to them we haven’t seen before,” she said.
[WRONG. Brian Houston is regularly in the media and interviewed. Just Google him. He is currently promoting his book “Live, Love, Lead” on international television, involved in internet, radio and tv interviews and is invited to speak at many speaking engagements in Australia and overseas. Hillsong even hired a PR company in the USA because they are serious about their public image. ]
Inside Story. Thursday, 7.30pm, Nine
a. See article: Brian claims clergy privilege to prevent police investigation?
This article has many references and sample support materials to support comments above.
b. Excerpt from Brian Houston’s statement given to the Royal Commission in 2014. – Hillsong Church name was adopted in 2001.
c. Excerpt from the Report of Case Study 18 of the Royal Commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse. The blue section notes the poor report card for the AOG, Hillsong/CLC and Brian Houston.
The Australian Christian Churches’ current Grievance Procedure for handling complaints against pastors for sexual misconduct gives priority to the protection of pastors over the safety of children.
Hillsong Church (New South Wales), Assemblies of God in Australia and Mr Frank Houston
Mr Frank Houston was the leader of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand during the 1960s and early 1970s. He came to Australia from New Zealand to preach in 1969 and 1970. On these two occasions, Mr Frank Houston stayed with AHA and his family. During these stays he sexually abused AHA, who was seven years old at the time.
In 1977, Mr Frank Houston founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre. His son, Pastor Brian Houston, founded the Hills Christian Life Centre in 1983. Both churches were affiliated with the Assemblies of God in Australia and merged in 2000.
In 2001, the two churches were renamed Hillsong Church. Hillsong Church remains affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches to the present day.
When allegations about Mr Frank Houston’s abuse of AHA emerged in 1999, Pastor Brian Houston was the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia. He confronted his father, who confessed to the abuse. Pastor Brian Houston then called a Special Executive Meeting of the National Executive, which Pastor Brian Houston 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 Mr Frank Houston.
In handling AHA’s allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston and Mr Frank Houston’s admission, the New South Wales State Executive (and, separately, the National Executive) did not follow its Complaints Procedure set out in the Administration Manual. The New South Wales Executive failed to:
- appoint a contact person for the complainant
- interview the complainant to determine the precise nature of the allegations
- have the State Executive or National Executive interview the alleged perpetrator
- record any of the steps it took.
In 2000, neither Hillsong Church nor its predecessors, Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre, reported the suspension and subsequent withdrawal of Mr Frank Houston’s credential as a minister to the New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People, as required by section 39(1) of the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW).
In 1999 and 2000, Pastor Brian Houston and the National Executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia did not refer the allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston to the police.
In 1999 and 2000, Pastor Brian Houston had a conflict of interest in assuming responsibility for dealing with AHA’s allegations because he was both the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia and the son of Mr Frank Houston, the alleged perpetrator.
In 1999, members of the National Executive who attended the Special Executive Meeting of the Assemblies of God in Australia did not follow the National Executive’s policy for handling allegations of child sexual abuse against pastors and failed to recognise and respond to Pastor Brian Houston’s conflict of interest.