Hillsong Church pastor Brian Houston has issued a statement specifying his position on marriage and homosexuality after a news outlet reported that he "won't take (a) public position on LGBT issues."
The news report came after Houston brought up the topics of homosexuality and same-sex marriage at a press conference held on Thursday with New York City media, on the occasion of Hillsong Conference being held at Madison Square Garden.
"I encourage people not to assume a media headline accurately represents what I said at a recent press conference," Houston says in a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Saturday.
"Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage," he adds. "I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject."
The question that resulted in Houston's remarks on homosexuality centered on how his church tries to remain relevant. In his response, the Hillsong pastor offered homosexual marriage as an issue that is a challenge for some churches. Traditional Christian teachings define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
"I think with the church, the message is sacred but the methods have to change for the church to stay relevant," said Houston. "And it's challenging. It's challenging to stay relevant. I mean, if we go to the one big hot topic maybe for churches ... now with homosexual marriage legalized, and churches for generations, they hold a set of beliefs around what they believe the Word of God, the Bible says. All of a sudden in many circles the church can look like a pariah, because to many people it's so irrelevant now … So staying relevant is a big challenge. I think it's more than just singing more contemporary songs and the colors you paint your walls or whatever."
As CP noted in a previous report, Hillsong Church has among its 12 global campuses two operating in Los Angeles and New York City, both diverse and progressive cities where same-sex marriage is legal.
Houston, prompted by The New York Times' question for clarification, went on to emphasize that, for him, questions about his position on homosexuality were "too important for us to reduce" down to a "yes or no answer in a media outlet." His remarks were similar to those previously made by Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz, who has declined to take a public "yea or nay" position on homosexuality.
The New York Times published a report on Houston's remark under the headline "Megachurch Pastor Signals Shift in Tone on Gay Marriage," and notes that the Hillsong Church pastor's "spokesman said on Friday that the pastor personally agreed with traditional Christian teaching on sexuality."
The Religion News Service published in its report (under the headline "Hillsong's Brian Houston says church won't take public position on LGBT issues"):
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler declared from his blog in June of 2014, "There is no third way on [same-sex issues]."
But Brian Houston, pastor of Hillsong Church, a global family of congregations comprising more than 30,000 weekly attendees and millions of worship music album sales, apparently disagrees with Mohler. At least, for now.
The RNS report goes on to state that after the Times' request for clarification, "... Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was 'an ongoing conversation' among church leaders and they were "on the journey with it.'"
Listen to Houston's (and Lentz's) response made at Thursday's press conference in the audio player below:
Read Houston's response to media reports below in the following statement:
During the press conference preceding the start of Hillsong Conference in NYC, Houston, his wife and co-pastor Bobbie Houston, and Hillsong NYC pastors Joel Houston and Carl Lentz, also took on questions related to Frank Houston's child sex abuse involvement and how Hillsong manages its money. Read more about the press conference here: Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston Hammered With Questions About Sex Abuse, Homosexuality, Finances at Start of NYC Conference.
Hillsong Church was founded by Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston in 1983 and attracts about 30,000 worshippers weekly. The megachurch, known for its annual conferences and popular worship ministry, lists 12 Hillsong campuses in Europe, Africa and the U.S. and numerous extension services on its website.