Houston was asked about a gay couple potentially attending Hillsong in an interview published online by ABC News in November 2014. The Hillsong Church senior pastor stated, "Apparently, someone told me that there's two gay guys singing in the choir at New York. But we'd never be the kind of church who, when people join the choir, we ask them, 'Are you heterosexual? Are you homosexual?' We would never be that kind of church." An excerpt of his interview was published on abcnews.go.com
In their joint statement, released Aug. 7, Canfield and Kelly state that the critical publicity Hillsong has garnered since Canfield's 2014 interview was recently highlighted "has now forced our church to globally reaffirm their hard stance as a non-LGBT-affirming institution and disallow any gays from being in a position of leadership within the church."
"It's been frustrating and a bit crushing that one crazy person could interfere so easily with the healthy and steady dialogue we've been having, but in a new world of social media and instant exposure, we are left unsurprised. Thankfully we are led by pastors who are grace-filled and committed to continuing to try to discern God's will on this matter."
As for why the men would remain at a non-LGBT affirming church, they explain, "If we, as gays, pack up and leave every church we feel less than welcomed in or where we feel spiritual resistance, how will there ever be growth?"
"Many try to discredit biblical scholars and laymen alike who have shifted their stance from non-affirming to LGBT-affirming by saying 'the only reason they have changed their mind is because they know a gay person.' This only confirms to us that personal relationships are transformative," Canfield and Kelly add, noting that "personal relationship being a foundational tenet of the Christian faith."
The men conclude in their statement: "After we inadvertently and unintentionally became public representatives for gay Christianity, we feel like we have been called and have a responsibility to continue to stand authentically in our truth — especially within the church family that we call home, Hillsong NYC — we are seeking the Lord, we are Christian, we are gay, and this is our journey."
Hillsong Church, affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches, was founded by Brian and Bobbie Houston in Australia in 1983. The Pentecostal church has congregations in 14 countries and on five continents and averages a global attendance "approaching 100,000 weekly," according to its website.
The Christian Post's request for comment from Houston was not met by press time.
In a video excerpt of Houston's June 2015 interview with Hope Media, the megachurch pastor comments on the complexities he finds in speaking publicly on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.