Hillsong founder Brian Houston quit his church the day before the release of the 3-part Discovery Plus docuseries Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed. Discovery Plus announced the air date a month ago.
Watch the trailer for Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed below.
Brian Houston’s father Frank Houston became superintendent of the New Zealand Assemblies of God after beginning his ministry training with the Salvation Army. In 1977, he moved with his family to Australia and founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre.
Brian Houston and wife Bobbie then opened the Hills Christian Life Centre in 1984. Over the following years, the ‘centre’ grew into a megachurch, attracting young congregants with popular music and a ‘nightclub’ atmosphere. Later renamed Hillsong, the church opened branches across Australia and around the world.
By 1999, Brian Houston was National President of the Australian Assemblies of God. That year, a Sydney mother contacted the church about Frank Houston sexually abusing her son between the ages of 7 and 12. Brian Houston forced his father to quietly resign from the Sydney Christian Life Centre. He granted his father a pension and amalgamated his father’s church into his own.
An internal investigation uncovered further allegations of child sexual abuse.
However, Brian Houston and the Assemblies of God executive council did not fulfil their legal obligation to report the crimes. In fact, Frank Houston continued to preach until 2004, the year of his death.
Over the following years, Hillsong grew into a massive international operation. In 2010, Carl Lentz, an American who studied at Sydney’s Hillsong International Leadership College became pastor of Hillsong New York.
Lentz attracted numerous celebrities to the church including Justin Bieber. Famous congregants could worship in a newly opened VIP section of the church. Soon, the New York pastor’s fame began to eclipse Brian Houston’s.
Meanwhile, in 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse censured Brian Houston for failing to report his father’s sexual abuse of children to the police.
That apparently did not deter fans. In 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison opened the Hillsong annual conference, appearing onstage with his friend Brian Houston to extoll the virtues of ‘religious freedom’.
In November 2020, Houston fired New York pastor Carl Lentz over ‘leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures’. Carl Lentz then admitted to an extra-marital affair. However, Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed contains allegations that other women made complaints to Hillsong about his sexual behaviour years before.
In January 2022, Brian Houston stepped aside from his roles at Hillsong. He claimed at the time he needed to focus on his upcoming court case.
Then in March 2022, Hillsong’s interim global pastor acknowledge that the church dealt with two complaints against Houston over the past 10 years. However, Hillsong made no mention of those complaints when Houston stepped down in January.
A transcript of an all-staff meeting leaked to Crikey indicates Hillsong management only revealed the existence of those complaints when church elders accused them of a cover-up.
Interim global pastor Phil Dooley told the meeting, “Well, there was a statement that Brian made, that he’s taking time off, and it’s not reflective or mentioning these other issues. And therefore it could appear to be a cover-up.”
A week later, on March 23, Brian Houston resigned from Hillsong. One day before the release of Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed,
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