“I didn’t quit because of my mistakes,” former Hillsong pastor Brian Houston says in video
(RNS) – In a video posted to his social media accounts, Brian Houston, the former head of global megachurch and Hillsong media empire, lashed out at church leaders he co-founded, saying their public allegations against him had made his position as pastor “untenable.”
“The media and others are falsely saying that I quit because I violated Hillsong’s code of conduct, but that’s just not true,” Houston said in the studio video posted on his Facebook on Thursday afternoon (November 3) in Australia. “I didn’t quit because of my mistakes. I resigned because of the announcements and statements that had been made.
Houston, 68, who co-founded Hillsong with his wife, Bobbie Houston, in Australia in 1983, resigned from his post as world senior pastor on March 21, less than a week after the church council revealed in a press release that he sent inappropriate text messages to a member of staff and that he spent time in a hotel room with a woman after meeting her at a conference.
In the video, Houston, wearing a plaid sports jacket and posing in front of a blue backdrop, said he felt it was time to share his side of the story and Bobbie’s, “to provide some clarification of our perspective on the events surrounding my resignation and much of the current narrative.
Houston went back several times in the video to how people view him now, at one point complaining that Hillsong’s board and management made their statement public before he saw it and without him. his point of view is included.
As a result, he said, the church allowed “people’s imaginations to run wild.”
“There was enough detail to pour me the ultimate shame and humiliation, but enough ambiguity to let people come to their own conclusions about what happened and what didn’t,” he said. Houston said in the video.
Boards Declaration of March 18 was released days after news of complaints against Houston surfaced in the Australian press. In the statement, Hillsong’s board acknowledged that it had “addressed two complaints filed against Pastor Brian over the past 10 years.”
The first complaint, an accusation that Houston flirted with a staff member in text messages a decade ago, the board attributed to Houston’s influence of sleeping pills – “on which he had developed an addiction”, it said. -he declares.
Houston addressed this point in the video saying, “In my sincere apologies to Hillsong Church and the church as a whole, I referred to alcohol as not having proven to be my friend. , but unfortunately it has built a narrative out there that I am an alcoholic and stories about my “alcoholism” that are the result of gossip, whispering and innuendo. »
Houston said in the video that he apologized for a specific instance that was “unbecoming of a pastor” but that he did not have an ongoing problem with alcohol. He cited an “expert therapist” who he said told him he did not display the typical behaviors of an alcoholic.
The 2019 incident that allegedly happened at Hillsong’s annual conference at Qudos Bank Arena in Homebush, New South Wales, was the result of mixing alcohol with an anti-anxiety drug, the statement said. of Hillsong’s board of directors, who said Houston had become “disoriented.”
“This led to him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his own, entering that room and spending time with the occupant,” the statement read.
Houston also addressed that complaint in the video, saying that on “the notorious night of 2019” he “mixed a double dose of anti-anxiety pills with alcohol.” But it was a “unique opportunity”, he said.
“It happened once. It hadn’t happened before and it hasn’t happened since. So I don’t have a permanent problem with anti-anxiety tablets or any other prescription medication. So s please don’t label me that way or blindly accept this narrative.
The video was released the same day an Australian court set a trial date for Houston, who is accused of failing to report sexual abuse. Magistrate Susan Horan has scheduled her hearing to begin on December 2, according to a report from The Guardian.
Houston was charged in August 2021 with covering up another person’s serious criminal act. Police say his late father, Frank Houston, also a preacher, indecently assaulted a young man in 1970. Court documents allege Brian Houston knew of his father’s abuse as early as 1999 and, “without a reasonable excuse”, did not did not disclose this information to the police. .
Houston denied covering up the abuse.
In the new video, Houston briefly addressed the lawsuit, saying he still plans to fight the charges, before returning to the issue of his resignation, which he said was “progress”, from a ruling. earlier that he would step down for 12 months. during the trial, until the release of counsel’s statement. At that point, he said, he thinks “I was completely squeezed out.”
He had hoped, he says in the video, that the board would refuse his resignation. “A big part of me hoped that the board – knowing the pressure I was under – would reject my offer and continue to fight for me. But that was not to be the case,” he said.
As in the old daysHouston spoke out about Bobbie being ousted by management after her resignation and disrespecting her years in the church and the women’s ministry she built there.
“Bobbie is a beautiful woman, with immense integrity. And of course she has done nothing wrong,” he said, noting that the gossip and rumors have affected his entire family, including his children. adults.
Under the Houstons’ leadership, Hillsong grew from a small suburban church in Sydney to a Pentecostal powerhouse and multimedia empire, with locations around the world and an average global attendance of 150,000 people per week, before the pandemic. . Hillsong’s music program has produced some of the most popular worship songs used in evangelical churches around the world, including “Oceans”, “What a Beautiful Name”, and “Shout to the Lord”.
Houston took a moment in the video to offer his thoughts on what might have been Hillsong, saying he hoped to pass leadership of the church’s Australian branch to his daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Peter Toganivalu. who both served as pastors there.
“Apart from a miracle, I guess that’s not likely to happen now,” he said.
He and Bobbie have made no firm plans for the future, he said. But he still plans to be in ministry and has spoken at churches in the United States and Australia.
“I believe in a hugely successful next decade,” he said.
For its part, Hillsong’s board said it would undergo “an independent review of our governance structure and processes.” The Global Board webpage no longer lists Board members, but instead states “Our Global Board and governance are currently under review. Please check back at a later date for updated information. »