Brian Houston has resigned as Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church following a finding that he had breached the church’s code of conduct for pastors in two instances of inappropriate conduct towards women.
The move was announced in a letter to church members released by the Hillsong global and Australian board on Wednesday.
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“We would like to advise you that Pastor Brian Houston has resigned as Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church and the board has accepted his resignation,” the email reads.
“We understand there will be much emotion at this news, and we all share these feelings. Irrespective of the circumstances around this, we can all agree that Brian and Bobbie have served God faithfully over many decades and that their ministry has resulted in millions of people across the world being impacted by the power, grace, and love of Jesus Christ.
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“Hillsong Church was birthed out of Brian and Bobbie’s obedience and commitment to the call of God and we are extremely grateful for all that Brian and Bobbie have given to build His house. We ask that you continue to pray for them, and the entire Houston family, during this challenging time.”
“We acknowledge that change is needed.” – Hillsong Australian and global board
The email acknowledged that there was still much to be done by the church leadership, which continues to seek God’s wisdom as they set the course for the future.
“We acknowledge that change is needed. We have committed to an independent review of our governance structure and processes, understanding that this is a time of humble reflection and we are committed to doing what is necessary to ensure God is honoured, and our eyes are fixed on Jesus.”
On Sunday, Hillsong’s interim Global Senior Pastor Phil Dooley issued an emotional apology to the two women who had made complaints against Houston over the past ten years.
This followed an email sent to Hillsong Church members on March 18 by the church’s global board, which detailed the two complaints of inappropriate conduct against Houston.
Houston had entered the hotel room of an unidentified woman for 40 minutes while “disoriented” after mixing alcohol with a higher-than-prescribed dose of anti-anxiety medication during the church’s annual conference in 2019.
It remains unclear if Houston and the woman had sex. Houston doesn’t recall having sex, and the woman has not said if they had sex.
The earlier incident involved an “inappropriate text message” Houston sent to a staff member in 2013, which Dooley said was “along the lines of, ‘If I was with you I would like to give you a kiss and a cuddle or a hug.’” The woman resigned soon afterwards and Houston personally paid her the equivalent of two months’ salary.
“We as a leadership of Hillsong Church have repentant hearts in this season.” – Phil Dooley, interim Global Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church
Hillsong Church blamed Houston’s actions in this case on “sleeping tablets” on which he had developed a dependency that the church helped him recover from.
“We as a leadership of Hillsong Church have repentant hearts in this season. I want to say we are sorry for anyone who has been a victim of any form of harassment,” Dooley told the church on Sunday.
Dooley took over the interim role from Houston in January after Houston stepped down from ministry duties to fight criminal charges of allegedly concealing sex abuse committed by his father, Frank Houston, in the 1970s.
In an email released last Friday, Hillsong’s global board assured church members that the “investigations into these complaints were treated extremely seriously”; that it worked “closely with Pastor Brian to ensure he received professional help to eliminate his dependency on this medication”; and it apologised “unreservedly to the people affected by Pastor Brian’s actions and commit[s] to being available for any further assistance we can provide.”
It said Houston had apologised immediately to the staff member he texted in 2013, and that its investigation of the 2019 incident found that “important elements of the complaint were sustained and the conduct was of serious concern.”
“We also acknowledge that this person did not deserve to be placed in the situation she found herself in by Pastor Brian,” the statement read, adding: “Ultimately, the board found that Brian had breached the Hillsong Pastor’s Code of Conduct.”
“Pastor Brian was extremely remorseful,” the board said.