Dinnergate: what happened with Scott Morrison's 'invitation' for Brian Houston

Or ‘Guess who’s not coming to dinner?’

Hillsong Church’s global senior pastor Brian Houston has condemned the “baseless rumour” about being denied an invitation to a state dinner for Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Washington as “totally false news.”

Houston’s denial is in response to a report in The Wall Street Journal at the weekend that Morrison had wanted Houston to join other Australian guests such as media owner Lachlan Murdoch and golfer Greg Norman at the glamorous black-tie function in the White House Rose Garden.

The Journal claimed that Morrison regarded Houston as his mentor. However, Eternity cannot find any quote from Morrison that makes such a claim. It appears to be a paraphrase of a claim in a profile article in The Monthly in 2012.

Houston responded to the controversy with this statement: “I have had no invitation to the White House and I have had no discussion with the Prime Minister or anyone else about this.

“Hillsong Church received no inquiry from any party as to my details or availability. As far as I’m concerned this is baseless rumour and totally false news.”

“Attempts to link this untrue story to the royal commission are unconscionable.” – Brian Houston

According to the paper, relying on an unnamed source, the White House vetoed Morrison’s request to have Houston join him in the official Australian delegation. After several rounds of negotiations over 14 time zones, the White House office confirmed that Houston would not be invited. The paper made a link with Houston’s censure by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for failing to report his father, Frank Houston, to police over alleged sexual abuse of children in his church and had a conflict of interest when he assumed responsibility for dealing with the allegations.

Houston commented: “It is extremely disappointing that media outlets spread these unfounded rumours, and attempts to link this untrue story to the royal commission are unconscionable.”

Meanwhile, Morrison dismissed the story as “gossip” without specifically denying it.

The Rear Window column in The Australian Financial Review went too far today, describing Houston as a “paedophile protector.” This is unfounded. There is no evidence that Houston sought to protect his father. In fact, he confronted his father once a victim came forward and referred the matter for investigation to the ACC (Australian Christian Churches) which banned him from the ministry. The ACC then took charge of the investigation. Eternity understands that at this stage, Frank Houston was suffering from dementia. This contrasts with other cases where church officials failed to notify the authorities while offenders posed an active risk.