Hillsong Church’s founder and former global senior pastor Brian Houston blamed public statements made by the church’s board for his abrupt resignation earlier this year instead of any “mistakes” he made in ministry. Houston said the board's statements led to public speculation and allowed “people’s imagination to run wild and draw their own conclusions” about his departure from Hillsong.
Houston, who is set to fight charges that he covered up his father’s child sexual abuse in an Australian court in December, said in a Facebook video early Thursday morning that he was essentially forced out of leadership with a narrative that was misleading.
“I want to be clear. The media and others incorrectly say I resigned because I breached the Hillsong code of conduct, but that’s just not true. I didn’t resign because of my mistakes. I resigned because of the announcements and statements that had been made, which Bobbie and I felt made my position untenable. And I spelled out my reasons for my resignation in my resignation letter to the Hillsong Church board,” Houston said.
A March 23 statement from Hillsong Church Global and Australian boards published on the global megachurch network’s website said Houston formally resigned as global senior pastor in the wake of revelations that two women had made serious complaints of misconduct against him in the last 10 years.
Hillsong Church said Houston violated the church’s pastoral code of conduct by entering the hotel room of an unidentified woman for 40 minutes while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs during the church’s annual conference in 2019.
Houston and the woman both said they did not recall what happened. Hillsong Church’s Interim Global Senior Pastor, Phil Dooley, suggested that their accounts of what happened were not entirely reliable because they were impaired by alcohol and Houston was also under the influence of anxiety medication.
The church also revealed that Houston exchanged an “inappropriate text message” with a staffer in 2013. According to Dooley, the text message was “along the lines of, ‘if I was with you I would like to give you a kiss and a cuddle or a hug.’” The staffer resigned shortly after. Hillsong Church blamed Houston’s actions in this case on “sleeping tablets.”
Houston said in his video message on Thursday that when he offered to resign in March, he was expecting the board to reject it and fight for him, understanding how much pressure he was facing at the time.
“I guess 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,” he continued. “We certainly did not want to just abandon the Hillsong congregation, as some have suggested. We adore the people of Hillsong Church, and to be honest, we miss you all terribly.”
Houston then proceeded to share excerpts from his resignation letter in which he said he made it clear that it was the statements made by the board that made it difficult to continue in his role.
“The board statement to the church has made my position untenable. The board gave enough detail to allow people’s imagination to run wild and draw their own conclusions. The statement did nothing to add my perspective,” the letter said. “The statements that are being made have left me with no choice but to end our time as pastors and leaders of Hillsong Church.”
Houston said he also made it clear that while he was resigning from Hillsong Church he would not stop doing ministry.
“'Thank you for the opportunity. It has been an honor and I can truthfully say, Hillsong Church is our life’s work. I have no intention of retiring. And in the future, we’ll still be in ministry, whatever that looks like. Wherever that is. My hope is that we could have an active role as founding pastor of our church.’ That’s what I wrote to the board and that’s the resignation the board was quick to accept,” Houston said. “Sadly, in the statements and announcements made, there was enough detail to pour ultimate shame and humiliation on me, but enough ambiguity to lead people to make their own conclusions about what did or didn’t happen. Frankly, in many cases, those conclusions are wrong.”
Houston further insisted that he is not an alcoholic or addicted to sleep or anxiety medication despite statements from the church indicating otherwise.
“In my heartfelt apology to the people of Hillsong Church and to the Church at large, I spoke about alcohol having not proven itself to be my friend. But sadly that has built a narrative out there that I’m an alcoholic,” he said. “The stories about my ‘alcoholism’ are the result of gossip, whispering and innuendo. The narrative that I’m an alcoholic is false. In fact, I’ve been told by an expert therapist that I do not display the behaviors that are typical of an alcoholic.”
The Australian megachurch founder said when he apologized for his use of alcohol he was referring to specific incidents which were “unbecoming for a minister of the gospel. And for which I’m deeply sorry.”
In addressing his use of sleeping tablets, Houston also explained that that habit is now a thing of the past.
“It was in the early 2000s with my constant global travel and the stress that I was under, I became dependent on sleeping tablets which I have spoken about openly many times including in my book, Live Love, Lead. But let me be clear, the last time I took a single sleeping tablet was over ten years ago. And even though I’ve continued to travel widely I haven’t taken one sleeping tablet for a decade. It’s not an ongoing problem,” he said.
“The notorious night in 2019 where I mixed a double dose of anti-anxiety tablets with alcohol was a one-off occasion. It happened once. It hadn’t happened before and it hasn’t happened since. So I don’t have an ongoing problem with anti-anxiety tablets or any other prescription medication,” he added. “I respectfully ask you to please not label me that way or blindly accept that narrative.”