Hillsong denies claim it fired Brian Houston's wife Bobbie by text

Hillsong NYC Press Conference
Pastors Brian Houston and Bobbie Houston of Hillsong Church appear at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, at The Eventi Hotel in New York City. |

Hillsong Church refuted claims Saturday that it fired its co-founder, Bobbie Houston, by text message after she and her husband, founder Brian Houston, publicly shared communications she received about her termination.

Brian Houston, who resigned last month after the global church network revealed two misconduct allegations against him, accused the church of “losing its soul” after a church leader sent a text message to his wife about the severed relationship with the church.

Houston posted a screenshot of a text message on social media, and it reads, “Dear Bobbie, I wanted to text to let you know I will sending you an email shortly regarding your employment. Please let me know if you would like to talk about it or if you have questions.”

The screenshot also carries Bobbie’s response, in part: “… I don’t even have words to express how cold and callous this has all become …”

Brian said the message was regarding the termination of her employment.

“After 39 years of exemplary service and extraordinary faithfulness and fruitfulness, this is the communication Bobbie received from the Hillsong Church board as she is made redundant (effective immediately) through no choice of her own,” he wrote.

“This just 3 weeks after she hosted her 26th year of Colour Conferences. (A total of 118 conferences around the world.) She has relentlessly served God and served people as she stood side by side with me for four decades leading Hillsong Church, faithful in the good times and the tough times alike,” he continued.

“And we are supposed to act like this is all ok. It’s not! Our beautiful church is losing its soul,” he concluded.

Hillsong Church’s global and Australian boards claimed in an email sent to church members on Saturday that the message was sent as a follow-up to discussions held with the Houstons late last month about Bobbie’s future, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“This required the board to initiate difficult and challenging conversations with Bobbie regarding the transition in her role as co-global senior pastor, given that Brian had resigned and was no longer working for Hillsong Church,” the email said.

The message alerting Bobbie to the redundancy plan, it said, was sent out of “genuine care” and the “opportunity for further discussion.”

“This has been interpreted and reported that the Hillsong board ‘made her role redundant by text,’ which is not correct. We are saddened by Brian’s public response and hope that he and Bobbie will understand the heart behind the decisions that are being made.”

Houston reportedly wrote an email to church members last month vowing that despite all the allegations facing him and other Hillsong pastors, the “best is yet to come” for Hillsong Church. 

“I am so deeply sorry,” Houston wrote in the email obtained by the Australian outlet Eternity News at the time.

“To those impacted directly by my actions, I am sorry for the pain I have caused you. To my wonderful, forgiving and gracious family who I love more than anything, I hate hurting you.”

Hillsong reported in a March 18 statement that it investigated two complaints against Houston’s behavior that date back nearly a decade.

The church said that Houston, who co-founded Hillsong in 1983, breached its pastoral code of conduct when he entered the hotel room of an unidentified woman while under the influence of alcohol and prescription medication during Hillsong’s annual conference in 2019. 

While it is unclear what occurred in the hotel room, Houston was said to have been in the room for 40 minutes.

Additionally, Houston was accused of exchanging an “inappropriate text message” with a staffer in 2013 that led to the Hillsong staff member resigning. On March 23, Hillsong announced Houston’s resignation.

In his email to church members, Houston wrote that he let them “down so badly” and that “sorry will never be enough to express my sorrow.”

“It may be some time before we see light at the end of this tunnel, but I know God has not finished with us yet,” he said. “And what now you may ask? We are living day by day right now. Bobbie and I are unified and we are believing together that this year will be a year of respite and restoration to our souls, as I continue to prepare to fight for my innocence in the legal proceedings ahead of me.”

“I still have a sense of bright hope for the future and I know God is not finished with me yet,” he added. “We have no intention of retiring. As Bobbie would say, ‘the final chapters of our lives are not yet written.’”

Houston’s resignation followed a series of misconduct scandals involving Hillsong leaders in the U.S.

Hillsong East Coast has faced a litany of allegations related to financial and sexual scandals surrounding former pastors at Hillsong NYC, formerly led by Pastor Carl Lentz, who was terminated in late 2020 for moral failures. Lentz later admitted to being unfaithful to his wife. 

Last April, Hillsong closed its Dallas campus after Pastors Reed and Jess Bogard resigned in January as they were investigated for leadership failures. The Bogards also served at Hillsong’s New York City campus, where they were alleged to have misused church expense cards. Reed Bogard was also investigated for having an extramarital affair with a junior-level staffer.  

Another Hillsong resignation is that of Darnell Barrett, the former creative director of Hillsong Church Montclair in New Jersey. He was accused of sending explicit photos to a Hillsong volunteer. 

Former Hillsong Pastors Zhenya and Vera Kasevich recently alleged that Houston was made aware of allegations concerning Lentz’s immoral behavior yet refused to address his actions due to the church’s culture of “secrecy.”

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