Australian-originated and global church, Hillsong, has been under the microscope during the last few years. Beginning with Hillsong East Coast Pastor Carl Lentz’s extramarital affair, and later, Hillsong New Jersey Creative Director Darnell Barrett's sexting scandal, the church is now grappling with accusations against the lead pastor of it all, Brian Houston.
Hillsong Church Founders Bobbie and Brian Houston. Image Source
It is necessary to preface these latest developments with acknowledgment of Hillsong Church’s remarkable impact on the worldwide Christian movement. The charismatic megachurch was founded in 1983 by Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston in Western Sydney, Australia. The church had humble beginnings yet quickly flourished under the Houstons' leadership, especially thanks to their highly impactful worship music and the likes of singer Darlene Zschech. As of February 2022, Hillsong Church went from 150 people at its very first conference to reporting 150,000 regular attendees globally in over 30 countries. Since its founding, the church has become a Christian household name, and churches across the globe are consistently playing Hillsong Worship music every Sunday.
One of Hillsong Worship's most well-known songs:
Despite Hillsong’s noteworthy success, Brian Houston has been trying to free himself and the church from a tainted past. His late father, Frank Houston, was exposed as a pedophile in May 1999. The Houstons managed to keep this tragic stain at bay for years, however, as of January 2022, Brian was forced to step down as global senior pastor after being charged with “concealing child sex offenses” involving his father and a young boy in the 1970s. As Houston, 67, is currently battling these allegations, he stands by his own innocence, stating that he has been completely “transparent” in matters regarding his father and he was just a teenager at the time of the abuse.
As of March 18, 2022, matters sadly worsened as Hillsong Church revealed in a statement that founder Brian Houston violated the church’s code of conduct on two occasions. Directly from their website:
“The first issue was approximately a decade ago and involved inappropriate text messages from Pastor Brian to a member of staff, which subsequently resulted in the staff member resigning. At the time, Pastor Brian was under the influence of sleeping tablets, upon which he had developed a dependence. He immediately apologised to the person. We also worked closely with Pastor Brian to ensure he received professional help to eliminate his dependency on this medication, and this was achieved successfully.”
“The second issue involved a complaint received in 2019. Following an in-depth investigation, it was found that Pastor Brian became disoriented after a session at the Hillsong Conference, following the consumption of anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol. This resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant.”
In response to these shocking and disappointing revelations, Hillsong’s Interim Global Senior Pastor Phil Dooley reminded congregants and the world that their church is “built on Jesus and not any one person.” He went on to assure people that the entirety of the Hillsong leadership team is “repentant” and “apologizes unreservedly” to anyone affected by Pastor Brian’s actions. In his tear-filled, sorrowful sermon, Dooley emphasized the Biblical message of “redemption” and insisted that the future for Hillsong Church is filled with 'Grace, Truth, and Hope.' "If we stay close to Jesus," Dooley said, "He can do through all of us what we never imagined."
Watch a clip of Pastor Phil Dooley's heartfelt sermon here: