*UPDATE* Transcript added 09/02/2017. Source Archived.
2GB had the following interview with Brian Houston,
“I Forgive Him”
Ben Fordham talks to Brian Houston about his paedophile dad.
Source: “I Forgive Him”, 2GB, http://www.2gb.com/article/%E2%80%9Ci-forgive-him%E2%80%9D#.VDfLcfmSySr, Published 10/10/2014. (Accessed 10/10/2014.) [Archived]
Here is the interview transcript:
Ben:“You’ve described your father’s actions as repulsive. Why did you not go to police the moment you knew what he had done?”
Brian:“It was complicated in this sense, you’ve got a survivor, a victim who is so brittle emotionally, who is adamant ah they don’t want any kind of church investigation, they don’t want any kind of police investigation or any other kind of civil investigation. And ahh, obviously though just wanted to be believed, and wanted to see justice done. So there was that side of it, but to be honest Ben, I just genuinely believed that a 36 year old man, ah, if he wants to go to the police, he can go to the police. And a child if their 9, 10 or 12 there’s absolutely no doubt what I would have done. I would have made sure we went straight to the police, as we would today. So I guess I just rightly or wrongly believed that it was his ahh you know, his prerogative to go to the police if he wanted to.”
Ben:“Take us into the room for a moment and that moment that your dad admits to being a paedophile, what happens inside your heart and your head at that moment?”
Brian: “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. He went all dry in the mouth and, ahh, you know, you could see the whites on the sides of his mouth and he just said “yes that happened”. And then we went into some of the detail of what had happened. It was ahh, you’ve got to understand before this time he was my hero so, you know, it was absolutely crushing.”
Ben: “What did you say to him in the moment he admitted it?”
Brian: “Well I can’t remember any exact words. I, I just think ahh, wow yeah, I just can’t remember. I just remember the horrible stiffness in the meeting. He knew I was doing what I had to do. He didn’t fight it. He did go into detail which was relatively graphic, and you know and um, I pit? myself which was just totally traumatised by it. So I know my trauma is nothing compared to the person who was so horribly violated. (2:18) But nevertheless, this and then as time went on, more complaints of paedophilia against my father over the next twelve months or in twelve months time it became obvious it was a much bigger problem, that it was also in New Zealand.”
Ben: “When your father confessed to being a paedophile, he was suspended from his duties. Why wasn’t he fired as per the rules of your organisation?”
2:41 Brian: “Well actually that is the rules of our organisation. The rules of our organisation is when I confronted him, he confessed to paedophilic acts, to child abuse and so in that meeting I suspended him and that gives thirty days for investigation. So that’s what puts the whole train in motion. And from that day, he never ever preached again, anywhere.
So when I looked him in the eye, and it was 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.”
Ben: “Once you realized what your father was admitting to you, did you tell the congregation, did you share that with everyone so everyone was aware what was going on?”
Brian: “Yes we did, we did. It was um. It was a process and so I’m sure there will be some people who will say why didn’t you just get it out quicker and so on. But there was a lot of time just getting to the real issues, getting to the bottom of things, knowing what we were really dealing with. And then we kind of rolled it out, so initially our pastors, then our staff and then like our leaders and our vision team and sort of rolled it out within the life of the church. We have a big, what we call ‘leadership vision night’, which these days has several thousand people at, at it, which is really the heart and soul, that you know the core of the church. I remember telling them. You can’t turn up to church once and tell everyone once because there are so many services. So there was, you know a roll out of announcements at different times. The one thing that did frustrate me, was that um, amongst someone’s evidence at the Commission, ah they describe me making an announcement calling it ‘a minor indiscretion’. And I took offence to that, because I never, ever called it a minor indiscretion. I did make the mistake at one point of calling it a ‘serious moral failure’ which and even that’s not strong enough words. We should have just called it ‘sexual offences’. But ahh I never trivialized it, you know, I never tried to pretend it was anything else but what it was, to our church. And remarkably, the church, they took it on board, you know. I was shocked myself that it didn’t have a greater fallout on the church. But if you were to ask people in our church today, ‘did you know?’ They would say ‘yeah we knew’.”
Ben: “When all of this comes to light, I mean you’ve got a lot on the line here, a lot of things to protect, you’ve got your reputation, you’ve got your family, your children, your church. Did part of you just want this thing to go away? I mean did part of you want to bury this story as opposed to bringing it to light?”
Brian: “You know I’m a realist. I knew that this was happening and I knew that there was no way to avoid it. That’s why I was the person who confronted my father and suspended him and put the train in action. I was very committed to making sure that justice was done.
Um yet I’ve always kept reminding myself, I was fifteen myself, it’s not my fault. I was a boy. Ahh and even today as I was walking out of the Commission I got attacked by a protester, who was attacking me because somehow it was my fault you know which hurts because literally I was a little kid, the church I pastor, it didn’t exist. Um and so you know there’s a sense that maybe we could have done more here and there, but big picture, I feel like I did the best I could at the time.”
Ben: “One of your father’s victims claims that you said to him, ‘you tempted my father’. Can you swear to God that you did not say that, nor anything remotely like that?”
Brian: “I can. I can absolutely swear to God and I can swear any other way as well. I mean I feel tremendous sadness for this person’s hurt, but there is no way any time in my entire life that I would somehow blame or think it could be the fault of a seven year old that he gets horribly violated by an adult paedophile. I mean it’s a, it’s an insidious thought and I am absolutely convinced that I would have never said anything like that.”
Ben: “That victim was given ten thousand dollars. Was that compensation or was it hush money or was it both?”
Brian: “Well it was from my father and it really was just between my father and him and it was my father’s own money, why ten thousand dollars? I would guess that’s probably all about my father had. And um it was, it really was just an attempt from my father to somehow tell him “I’m sorry”, and um you know it’s feeble in that sense and ahh and that’s about all there is to it. You know that was very much apart from the church. Ahh I was aware that it was happening but I was very careful not to get involved front on. I was aware as the son of Frank Houston. Um and you know after this period it was just becoming too hard to juggle it all, so my brother took on you know, the family’s responsibilities in terms of these things.”
Ben: “In terms to your response to all of this, this very difficult situation, not involving anything you’ve done but something your father did. What would you change in the way that you handled all of this?”
Brian: “Well I think ahh communication definitely. Even communicating with some of the people who were not the victim themselves, but who were aware and them getting feed back on the processes we were taking. I feel I could have done better at letting those people know that. I think we could have been much clearer on um perhaps the nature of the offence. I mean I don’t think we hid from it but we most definitely did not call it a ‘minor indiscretion’ as some have stated. If anything, if the word minors came into it, what it would have been was it involved minors. Um but it’s easy in hindsight. More clarity, maybe. I feel like we acted almost as fast as we could. So maybe not change that.
If there was more that we could have done for the victim, I would definitely have done more for the victim. It’s just that his whole approach was ‘I don’t want to know about this, I just want to move on with my life’, you know, ‘I just want you to know and don’t, and I want you to know how bad it was’. That was the tenor of what he was saying.”
Ben: “Your father finally resigned in the year 2000. He was given a retirement package. On refection was that appropriate, considering what he had admitted to doing and considering the pain that he had placed on others, the impact it had on people’s lives? Your reaction to his confession, was that appropriate to give him a retirement package?”
Brian: “It was appropriate in this sense. It was he and my mother who were in ministry together. And ahh she too had led the church alongside my father for her whole life and she was yet again another victim. So the thinking in them receiving a retirement package was a lot to do with my mum, probably much more to do with my mum than it was to do with my father.”
Ben: “Did you forgive him”.
Brian: “You know [pause] I did forgive him. I did forgive him on one level.
Aahhh [pause] see the dad I know, see this is the conflict in it, was an awesome man. And so this evil side of my father was not the father that I knew. I mean, he certainly didn’t molest me or my brother. He was a generous, kind, nice, genuine sort of person. And then of course this was a part of his character, an evil part of his character that was disassociated with the father I know. So, I found a way over the five years he was still alive to keep loving him, but despise what he did.”
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. But in terms of paedophilia, no one in my family had heard anything like that. And I mean, to me it’s a miracle I was 45 years of age, how this didn’t come out before that age I just can’t understand myself.”
Ben: “You’ve got a loyal and large flock at Hillsong and this has been a difficult time for them as well. What message do you have for everyone?”
Brian: “Our church is incredibly resilient and we’ve been through a lot over the years you know. One way or another, obviously when this first came out it was a huge trial for our church. Um and some of the other things that have happened along the way that are part of life, you know the season’s of life. And they have always proven themselves to be incredibly resilient.
The one thing I know about our church is they trust Bobbie and I. They watch out lives, and they’ve watch our lives consistently. And ahh, we’ve had remarkable loyalty for people. And someone asked me the other day, ‘how do you think the church will go with this?’ And to be honest I feel like ahh, the church will be fine. Yeah it hurts you know, and there’s a little bit of a shaking, but the church will be fine.”
Ben: “This is a difficult question to ask and I’m sure it’s a difficult question for you to answer, but do you think your dad is in heaven or hell?”
Brian: “Ahh man that is a big one isn’t it? It’s a big one. I would like to think he’s in heaven, I would like to think he is [long pause].”
Brian: “I would like to think he’s in heaven. God, in my mind – God is all gracious than any of us, God is more forgiving than any of us. I feel like um, ahh you know, he definitely did everything he could, I believe to make things right, make his peace with God after these things.
He died a depressed man, he wasn’t happy with himself, he was just so full of regret, so full of, you know maybe self pity, but also I think he did have genuine remorse. He knew he totally destroyed the lives of people. And I feel like God is a forgiving God and if my dad did go to God and ask for forgiveness, ahh I feel like God would forgive him.”
Source: 2GB, http://www.2gb.com/article/%E2%80%9Ci-forgive-him%E2%80%9D#.VDfLcfmSySr, Published 10/10/2014. (Accessed 10/10/2014.) [Archive]
Hillsong member defends paedophile?