Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston fighting DUI charge in California

Hillsong founding Pastor Brian Houston
Hillsong founding Pastor Brian Houston | Screenshot: NBC/"Today" show

Less than a month before he resigned as global senior pastor in March 2022 in the wake of revelations that two women had made complaints of misconduct against him in the last 10 years, Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in Newport Beach, California.

Records from the Superior Court of California in Orange County show that Houston was arrested on Feb. 26, 2022, and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more, and failing to display two license plates on the vehicle he was driving.

Houston has already been arraigned for the charges six times and is expected to appear in court again on April 4.

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In a statement released on Facebook Tuesday, Houston explained that the arrest happened at a very difficult period in his life and called his decision to drive drunk “foolish.”

“In February 2022, and in the lead up to my departure from the role of Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church, I was unfortunately charged with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol in the USA. I made the foolish decision to drive just 2 or 3 hundred meters (yards) to park the car and I am grateful to God that no damage or injury occurred,” Houston said.

“At the time it seemed like all hell had broken loose within Hillsong Church and I was under immense pressure and emotional strain. Clearly that is not an excuse, and I take full responsibility for my actions,” he continued.

Screenshot/Superior Court of California
Screenshot/Superior Court of California

More than a year removed from the arrest, Houston said he is “now in a much stronger place” thanks to the support of his family and “trusted ministry friends.”

“Thirteen months have past (sic) since that incident occurred and I am now in a much stronger place within my spirit and soul. I am grateful to God for his sustenance and grace, and I am grateful for trusted ministry friends who, along with Bobbie and our family, have offered their constant love and support in a very difficult and disruptive season,” he said. “We are looking forward together to a fruitful season ahead.”

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 Global Senior Pastor, Phil Dooley, suggested at the time 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.”

Last November Houston blamed public statements made by the church’s board for his abrupt resignation instead of any “mistakes” he made in ministry. He argued that 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 including allegations that he is an alcoholic or addicted to sleep or anxiety medication.

“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.”

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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