Following a two-year criminal investigation, Hillsong Church co-founder Brian Houston, 67, has been charged over allegedly concealing alleged child sex offences.
The offences are alleged to have been committed by Mr Houston’s late father, Frank, in the 1970s.
According to a NSW Police statement, detectives of Sydney’s Hills Police Area Command began investigating the matter in 2019.
The police alleged that Mr Houston “knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police”.
Following the investigation, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed the brief of evidence, before police served Mr Houston’s lawyer with a notice for his client to attend court.
There is no suggestion that Mr Houston was involved in the alleged abuse.
“I will defend these charges”
Mr Houston, who is currently overseas, said in a statement that he would fight the charges.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” he said.
“I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Hillsong Church “disappointed”
In a statement, the Hillsong Church said it was “disappointed” the pastor had been charged.
“We ask that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right,” the statement read.
“He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name.
“We thank all who are a part of our church for their support and prayers at this time.”
The alleged crime
In 2014, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that Mr Houston had failed to inform police after his father allegedly confessed to sexually abusing a seven-year-old boy.
“I confronted him. He went extremely dry in the mouth and said, ‘Yes, these things did happen,’” Mr Houston said at a hearing.
The royal commission found that Mr Houston “made no attempt to report his father to the police at the time the confession was made to him”.
In a statement released in July, Hillsong said that Mr Houston had reported his father’s alleged crime “to the National Executive Assemblies of God in Australia, relayed the matter to the governing board of Sydney Christian Life Centre, and subsequently made a public announcement to the church”.
The church also stated that the pastor sought to “honour the victim’s multiple requests not to inform the police”.
The survivor reportedly denied to the The New Daily he ever made such a request.
Mr Houston is expected to appear in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on October 5.
Frank Houston was a pastor who established the Sydney Christian Life Centre in 1977. Brian Houston and his wife Bobbie founded Hills Christian Life Centre in 1983. Sydney Christian Life Centre was folded into Hills Christian Life Centre in 1999 and the church was renamed Hillsong Church in 2001.
Report of Case Study No. 18 – The response of the Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse (October 2015) found on childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au.