Is Brian Houston’s version of his father’s confession reliable? Did Brian know more?
Brian reported to the Assembles of God Australia (AOGA) Executive that Frank Houston confessed to a one-off, lesser incident, 30 years before. Yet later, when referring to that same meeting when Frank confessed, Brian said “I remember just putting it to him [Frank] the complaints that I had heard”, and it was then that Brian realised “my dad had molested children”, (plural).
Other facts cast doubt on Brian’s convincing report to the AOGA executive. Brian said he’d checked with his own kids that granddad had not touched them. That does not sound like he was confident of the “one-off” Frank apparently told him. Furthermore, there had been rumours floating around about Frank’s sexuality in New Zealand and Brian admitted to the RC that he wanted to believe his father, that it was only a one-off, but deep down had doubt.
If Brian was not that confident about what Frank had confessed to, why did he ask the victim himself, or the support pastor, Barbara Taylor, who had been dealing with the matter over the previous year? Maybe Brian did not want to know…
Or maybe Brian wanted to influence the outcome of the AOGA executive meeting by controlling the information they acted on?
For example, Taylor told and wrote to Brian informing him the victim had softened and was considering legal proceedings and going to the courts.
So why did Brian Houston hide Taylor’s existence and not disclose her relevant input to the AOGA executives?
The AOGA Executive thought Brian was the only one who knew the identity of the victim, that the victim was brittle AND that the victim did not want any investigation. Maybe Brian did not want them to know? Maybe this is why Brian ignored his conflict of interest and disregarded AOGA policy/procedure so he could be the only one investigating the matter on behalf of the AOG. He didn’t want anyone else doing it.
And why did the AOGA executive let him get away with it?
So which story of Brian Houston’s should we believe and what did Frank confess to? In this article we will examine a number of his accounts and how they stack up with his conduct and evidence given at the Royal Commission.
A. BRIAN HOUSTON REPORTING TO THE AOGA EXECUTIVE
Brian Houston reported Frank Houston’s confession to child sexual abuse as a “one-off ” incident to the Australian Assemblies of God (AOGA) executive meeting in 1999:
“2. It was noted that an allegation has been made against RevFrank Houston, of a single act of sexual abuse more than 30 years ago. The complainant does not wish to be identified and does not wish to make a formal complaint, but Frank Houston has confessed to the act. “
B. BRIAN HOUSTON REPORTING TO BARBARA TAYLOR
Brian told Ps Barbara Taylor on 28/11/1999, that Frank confessed to a “one-off”
but she knew there were multiple assaults on AHA over many years at his family home, conference centres and churches.
Barbara Taylor had a meeting with Brian Houston and John McMartin (State AOG executive) on 28/11/1999. Taylor had been AHA’s support pastor for the previous year.
What else did Brian tell Taylor? Taylor gave surprising evidence to the RC about that meeting with Brian Houston on 28/11/1999: Brian had checked his own children.
Transcript87/page9218 from the Royal Commission (emphasis ours):
Q. I ask you to have a look at annexure K now. I’ll just get you to read that to refresh your memory of it. [Taylor’s notes of meeting]
Q. During this meeting, do you recall Brian Houston saying anything to you about his own feelings in relation to the matter?
A. He said he was in shock.
Q. Did he say anything else?
A. He said he’d checked with his children, and granddad had never touched them.
Q. He said that, did he?
C. BRIAN HOUSTON INFORMING THE ROYAL COMMISSION
Brian seemed to be less confident of the “one-off” when testifying at the RC, compared to what he told the AOGA executive. He even said that deep down he didn’t really believe him [Frank].
Transcript89/Page 9405 10/10/2014 B C HOUSTON giving evidence about Frank’s confession of a “one-off” incident, which is what he told the AOGA executive, though he seemed to have reservations.”
Q. You didn’t say to the national committee that you knew or you thought that there may have been other acts apart from the one-off incident?
BH-A. I just relayed what he [Frank] had told me, that there was one. I really did want to believe him. I don’t know that I did, deep down in my heart, believe him, and that would have been the spirit with which I went to the national executive.
As you can see here, Brian stated under oath at the Royal Commission that his father told him that it was a “one-off incident”. [No-one really knows what Frank actually told Brian.] However, if this is true, Brian Houston’s conduct does not match his father’s confession.
… BRIAN HOUSTON’S CHILDREN…
Going back to what Barbara Taylor recorded and stated about what Brian Houston did, it’s worth asking this question:
If Brian Houston had claimed that what his father confessed to was a “one-off” incident, why did he check his kids?
“He [Brian Houston] said he’d checked with his children,
and granddad had never touched them.”
If it was a “one-off” he wouldn’t’ need to check with his children… right?
However if Frank Houston did confess to multiple offenses, that would be a good motivation for Brian to check his children. This leads us to what Brian Houston revealed to Ben Fordham in the same week he was being questioned by the Royal Commission in 2014.
D. BEN FORDHAM INTERVIEW
Ben Fordham on 2GB asked Brian Houston to “Take us into the room for a moment and that moment that your dad admits to being a paedophile”. He then proceeded to ask, “what happens inside your heart and your head at that moment”.
In saying this, Brian Houston, for some reason, got very descriptive in his details and confessed this in the interview:
“Well for both of us it was the most painful meeting you could ever imagine. I ah remember just putting it to him the complaints that I had heard…
So when I looked him in the eye, and it was a heartbreaking day for me as well. When I looked him in the eye, realized that this man, my dad had molested children, I knew this is it. My responsibility is he can’t preach again, he can’t be in ministry, it’s over.”
Brian gave us the context.
Brian has emphatically made it clear that he doesn’t remember what he heard. But now we know he remembers that he “put the complaints” to his father and concluded “my dad had molested children” after Frank’s confession.
Complaints. Children. Plural. Not singular.
These would have been important details for him to recall at the Royal Commission, or even mention to the Australian AOG Executive or Barbara Taylor?
Why spill his heart in this media interview when the Royal Commission asked him to swear to tell the truth and the WHOLE truth on the stand?
E. RUMOURS ABOUT FRANK HAD BEEN CIRCULATING YEARS BEFORE
Other than AHA, what other “complaints” were around? Rumours had been circulating in New Zealand years before Brian found out in October, 1999. This means the rumours started around the beginning of 1998.
Transcript88/Page 9358 Keith Ainge had told the Royal Commission he discovered allegations against Frank had been circulating around New Zealand for about 3 years when he visited New Zealand AOG to investigate Frank in November, 2000.
Q. When they got to New Zealand, they discovered – and this is what Pastor Ainge told us today and is in his report – that up to 50 New Zealand pastors were aware of allegations against your father — — in New Zealand?
Q. You are aware of that?
Q. And that those allegations had been around for about three years?
Q. At that stage. You are aware of that now, aren’t you?
A. Yes, yes.
Q. Is it really the case that you heard no rumours at all about your father’s conduct in New Zealand?
A. I will swear on this Bible again if I need to. The day George walked in to my office was the very first time I heard any inkling of my father being a paedophile.
Notice the Royal Commission’s question to Brian. Did Brian hear rumours about his father’s conduct in New Zealand?
Brian could have answered ‘no’. But he didn’t. Instead he chose to qualify his answer with the word ‘paedophile’.
Maybe he hadn’t ever heard of his father being a “paedophile” but had Brian Houston heard anything else about his father’s conduct? What else did Brian know about Frank’s sexual conduct or rumours in New Zealand prior to that 1999 confession?
From a HillsongChurchWatch Contributor, KiwiPirate, commenting on the Fordham interview:
Remember, Brian said he hadn’t heard of “any inkling” of his father being a paedophile. Why did he use the word inkling?
This was a response KiwiPirate’s comment:
“I picked up on something Brian said in the transcripts of the Royal Commission. Brian maintains he had no prior knowledge of his father’s actions; however he ‘knew deep down that there was truth’ to the allegations, which seemed like an odd statement until I read your comment, it all makes sense now.
It also seemed odd for someone to automatically know that there was truth to the allegations especially when it was their father and hero… anyone faced with such allegations of their own parent would not believe them unless it was first proven or they had prior knowledge. Brian’s gut feeling did not require evidence or even a confession to not doubt the truth of the allegations!
Mr Beckett Q. “I take it, then, that you wanted to know at that stage whether the allegations were true or not, didn’t you?”
Brian Houston A. “I knew deep down in my stomach. Somehow deep down in my stomach, I knew. I can’t say why, but I feel like I didn’t doubt the truth of them.”
Mr Beckett Q. “There was some truth to it; is that what you thought?”
Brian Houston A. “I felt – I felt that this is not a good situation, that, you know, it’s not going to have a good ending.”
Mr Beckett Q. “But something had led you to not be entirely surprised by the allegation that was provided to you by Mr Aghajanian?”
Brian Houston A. “Yes, I can’t say I wasn’t entirely surprised – I was totally shocked and traumatised. It’s just that somehow, call it instinct, I had a feeling that this is not just a malicious – you know.”
Mr Beckett Q. “Yes.”
Brian Houston A. “So, in that sense, yes, I had yet to find out just what was right and what was not right. I just, also, as I mentioned, deep down in my gut felt that there was something more to this.”” [Source]
So which Brian Houston do you believe? The one that had no inkling or the one that did?
You may say at this point how we can trust the anonymous KiwiPirate’s testimony about these rumours back in New Zealand about Brian Houston and his sister. Thankfully, we have Brian Houston to support such claims:
Ben: “Looking back do you see any moments where any hints of his behaviour, any things you now look back on and think hang on a moment that might have been a bit of a hint?”
Brian: “You know I never saw anything like that of a sexual nature at all. Never anything at all. And um my sister had actually heard an accusation once, years before in New Zealand that my father hung around homosexual um you know whatever massage bars or whatever. But there was no substantiation, it was like someone in the street just told her this you know. So I guess that was always in the back of my mind.”
If it’s “in the back of [one’s] mind” is that not an inkling? [Link]
Remember – Brian Houston said he was thinking this BEFORE he went into confront his father about his paedophilia. However, Brian Houston has difficulty separating homosexuality from paedophilia:
When Frank was 78, he told Brian that Frank’s own father had once abused him after coming home drunk.
“I think my father was homosexual, a closet homosexual,” says Houston, almost as an aside. “I’m no psychiatrist … but I think whatever frustrations he had, he took out on children.”
Source: By Deborah Snow, Inside the Hillsong Church’s money-making machine, Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/inside-the-hillsong-churchs-moneymaking-machine-20151026-gkip53.html, Published November 14, 2015 – 12:00AM. (Accessed 14/11/2015.)
And here is Brian Houston talking about how he received the information from George Aghajian at his Hillsong 2014 conference. While this story also conflicts with “inkling”, notice what jumps to the forefront of his mind (emphasis ours):
I couldn’t even begin to tell you what that moment felt like [glitch] I can’t even begin to tell you, it kind of came at me like degrees. First of all I couldn’t get past the fact that he was talking about eh, you know, eh a man a a boy. And it kind of hit me at degrees, first of all that’s kind of homosexual, then the second thing, that err it was someone underage. This is something that had happened maybe 30 or 40 years before that and it happened when he was a New Zealand pastor.
Source: Brian Houston, Hillsong Conference 2014, Sydney, 2014.
The point is this – Brian Houston did not give a straight answer. He had some idea that his father’s sexual past may be questionable and carefully answered the question by saying he did not have an “inkling of my father being a paedophile”.
Once again, Brian Houston’s testimony about what he knew about Frank before the confession and what Frank Houston confessed is again challenged:
- If rumours had been known by many New Zealand AOG pastors for over three years, how can Houston claim they had not been raised or attended to for 3 years within the Australian AOG system?
- Within this context, did Brian Houston hear these rumours and believe “deep down in [his] stomach” that the allegations that his father was homosexual [not pedophilia] were true?
- We do not know what Frank confessed to Brian. However, before that meeting, Brian confessed he heard one complaint that Frank touched a child. After Franks confession, Brian said that complaints (plural) of Frank touching children (plural) were true. Did Brian ask Frank to confirm if New Zealand homosexual rumours were true when asked by Brian or did Frank confess to the New Zealand rumours without prompting?
This is worth contemplating considering Brian Houston’s selective behaviour and reporting on events around this time.
F. TAYLOR AND AHA FELT UNSUPPORTED BY AOG LEADERSHIP – NO-ONE WANTS TO TOUCH IT
Barbara Taylor was frustrated with Brian and the AOG. Brian had effectively taken over the case from her. Around the time of the AOGA executive meeting she made notes for when and if she got to talk to McMartin. She felt she was bearing the burden and it seemd “no-one wants to touch it”. (She had been cut out by Brian and not even informed there was an AOGA exec meeting).
G. BRIAN TOOK OVER THE AHA INVESTIGATION
Brian was the only one to witness Frank’s confession and convinced the AOGA executive he was the only one the victim wanted to talk to.
Transcript88/Page.9234 Brian Houston said he was the only one the victim AHA wanted to talk to, but this is wrong. Brian ensured he was the only person handling the matter before taking it to the AOGA executive.
Q. But, sir, you would appreciate, wouldn’t you, that throughout this period from the end of October through to December, the main person handling the matter for the Assemblies of God was you?
A. Yes, trying to pull in all the information so I could bring it to the Assemblies of God.
Q. And you were the son of the alleged perpetrator.
A. Yes, exactly.
Q. How did you expect that to be received by the complainant?
A. He – I was the only person he wanted to talk to.
Q. He had spoken to Barbara Taylor about the matter, hadn’t he?
Q. So that’s not entirely correct, is it?
A. No, no, he’d spoken to Barbara Taylor; he had already spoken to his mother; he had already spoken —
Q. He had spoken to Kevin Mudford about it, hadn’t he?
A. Well, he was forced to talk to Kevin Mudford.
Q. But at least he had spoken to Kevin Mudford?
A. He spoke to Kevin Mudford, and he was starting to make noises that he wanted to speak to me, which is in the documentation.
Q. You say in your statement that you had one telephone conversation with him; is that right?
Q. During that period late October 1999 to the meeting in December of the national executive, did you take any steps to appoint an independent person to liaise directly with him?
A. No, because I don’t believe he was open to that at all.
Q. I wonder if you can assist me. It appears to me, at least, on the evidence, that you, on the basis of protecting his confidentiality, controlled all communication between the Assemblies of God and him?
A. To me, it was a moving target, it was a moving process, and we were on a journey towards what had to happen. And what had to happen was I had to – I suspended my father’s credentials when I – are you talking still prior to when I met up with my father?…
CONCLUSION: LIVE, LOVE, IGNORE
Maybe what Brian Houston stated in the Ben Fordham interview was a slip up. However, that is brought into question when you put it in context of everything else from rumours to New Zealand, to his “inkling”, to what he remembers, to what he says to Barbara Taylor and the AOGA and how he checked his kids soon after Frank Houston’s confession.
The selective memory is on.
Remember, Taylor testified that Brian told her he checked with his own kids to see if Frank had touched them:
“He [Brian Houston] said he’d checked with his children,
and granddad had never touched them.”
So why did Brian feel he needed to check his kids, if it was a “one-off”?
There is another possible reason why we should consider that Brian Houston may have heard Frank confess to more than one incident but deliberately not be honest with Barbara Taylor, the AOG Executive and the Royal Commission.
Remember, Brian was the only one privy to Frank’s confession (no witnesses), and only one allegation had surfaced at that time (from AHA). So if Brian did think his father may have “molested children” it makes sense for Brian to personally “investigate” the AHA allegation and “report” on it as a “one-off”, to minimise the offence and fall-out.
From the evidence at the Royal Commission, it’s clear that Brian did NOT want more information than the notion of a “one-off” as he “really did want to believe him [Frank]“.
It’s also evident that Brian blatantly lied to the AOG executive by claiming the victim of the perpetrator did not want any legal action in spite of Barbara Taylor saying otherwise to Brian.
Barbara Taylor knew the one-off confession Brian spoke of was wrong (see her notes above).
Here is Barbara Taylor testifying how Brian Houston did not want information from her:
Transcript87/page9218 from the Royal Commission. Barbara Taylor is recalling her meeting with Brian Houston and John McMartin.
Q. Did he tell you what the meeting was for?
BT-A. I knew it was in relation to Frank Houston and [AHA].
Q. During this meeting, were you called upon to provide to Brian any explanation of what — — had been complained of or reported to you by [AHA]?
Q. Did Brian ask you for any details?
[* Why was Brian NOT interested in any details that Ps. Barbara Taylor had to offer?
- She had been the support pastor of both AHA and his mother, starting in November 1998, trying to get the AOG and Frank Houston to cooperate in having the matter dealt with.
- Barbara was the pastor who knew the most about the case and the situation with AHA, and was in communication with him.
- She would have been a great candidate for the AOGA to appoint as an independent contact/support for victim AHA if the AOGA did decide to properly investigate the allegation. Instead they allowed Brian to be the sole investigator despite his obvious conflict of interest.
This information can be found in the Royal Commission statement from Ps Barbara Taylor and the transcript of her giving evidence. Taylor has documented her activities with this matter well (which is more than you can say for Brian and the executives).
She also provided a sequence summary of her involvement.]
His actions were intentional. Brian did not want too much information.
This would help explain the time when Brian did get additional information from Taylor that AHA was considering court proceedings but ignored it and led the AOGA executive to believe that AHA did not want to go to the police.
This is shown from the Royal Commission questioning:
1. Brain knew AHA was considering taking the matter to court
Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.9330, Testimony of Brian Houston showing he knew AHA was considering court proceedings after meeting with Barbara Taylor (see her notes above):
Q. So you knew by 28 November 1999 that [AHA] was considering taking the matter to court?
BH- A. Yes.
Q. And that could include criminal proceedings?
Q. And it could include civil proceedings?
Q. Clearly, if there were criminal or civil proceedings in public, that would, first of all, cause some humiliation to your father?
2. Brain led the AOGA executive to think AHA did not want to go to the police
Excerpt from Royal Commission Transcript88/Pg.93275, Testimony of Keith Ainge (AOGA executive) giving evidence that the executives at the AOGA executive meeting (22/12/1999) were unaware that AHA had been considering taking the matter to court.
Brian was the source of this view, even though Brian knew AHA was considering court proceedings (see above):
Q. Yes. So, first of all, you would accept that the meeting understood that Brian Houston had a conflict because the allegation was against his father; that’s right, isn’t it?
KA-A. Yes, we agreed that it was a difficult situation from that perspective.
Q. Well, that he had a conflict because the allegation was against his father?
A. I’ve already answered that question.
Q. I won’t go and find it again, but do you agree with that or not?
Q. And that you were relying on what Brian Houston said to you about the complainant not wanting it to go to the police; is that correct?
Q. And you had not had the matter assessed by an independent person?
A. That’s correct.
Q. And you had not had an independent person appointed to deal with the complainant?
A. That’s correct.
Q. On that basis, you determined that there was no need to refer the complaint to the police?
A. That’s correct.
It is reasonable to conclude that rather than gather more accurate information from victim AHA or Ps. Barbara Taylor, Brian continued to assert the notion of a one-off incident and to lie to get the outcomes he wanted.
It starts to make a lot more sense why Brian Houston sidelined Barbara Taylor and “conveniently” did not know he had to report his father to the police (which was mandatory).
It also makes sense why Brian, President of the AOGA, never officially documented any of his meetings with his father or anyone else in relation to his father’s crimes.
It makes sense why Brian convinced the AOGA executive that he was the ONLY person the victim wanted to speak to, as if Barbara Taylor did not exist.
It helps make sense of why Brian’s “Hillsong City Church” had trouble understanding their obligation and failure to report Frank’s discipline to the NSW Commission for Children and Young People, in 2000. The directive looked plain enough, as can be seen below:
Directive from NSW Commission for Children and Young People letter:
“..you have until 31 October to provide details to the Commission of employees against whom relevant disciplinary proceedings have been completed within the 5 years prior to the commencement of the employment screening legislation, ie; 3 July, 2000.”
It further makes sense why it took such a long time after Frank’s confession for Brian to reveal his father’s crimes to his congregation. At best Brian veiled Frank’s paedophilia as “a moral failure” to Hillsong Church, and that probably well after the additional New Zealand allegations at the end of 2000. The AHA matter was usually conflated with the NZ allegations and it wasn’t until rumours forced the AOGA to notify, again ambiguously, AOGA ministers about Frank’s “serious moral failure” in December 2001. Even then the ministers were instructed not to tell their congregations.
- “ignorant” of the rumours of his father in New Zealand before 1999 and
- “ignorant” of his fathers past
- “ignorant” of the extent of his father’s crime
- “ignorant” of his legal obligation (to report his father’s crime to police)
- “ignorant” about his conflict of interest
- “ignorant” of his church’s obligation to report Frank’s discipline to the Commission for Children and Young People
- “ignorant” of Barbara Taylor’s role and information, and possible assistance
- “ignorant” of the victim’s issues in having to deal directly with both perpetrator and of son of the perpetrator, both popular and powerful figures in the AOGA
- “ignorant” about how much damage he caused the victim/s, his institution and himself by not following procedure. He did not have to confront his father. He should have stepped aside. His actions were intentional.
- “ignorant” that making Frank’s abuse public may have encouraged others to come forward.
It seems that Brian Houston conveniently remained “ignorant” and had nothing written to expose the extent of his knowledge. As long as he knows his children aren’t touched – all other children and their families should be alright.