Hillsong founder Brian Houston apologizes but says he has no intention of retiring

Brian Houston
Hillsong Church Senior Pastor Brian Houston of Sydney, Australia, speaks at Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Oct. 7, 2016. |

Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston, who resigned last month after the evangelical megachurch network revealed two misconduct allegations against him, has apologized to church members for letting them down but says he has “no intention of retiring.”

Houston reportedly wrote an email to church members last week vowing that despite all the allegations facing him and other Hillsong pastors in recent weeks, 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.

“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.”

“As hollow as it may sound, I believe I am the person and pastor you believed me to be,” he declared. “Imperfect and flawed, but genuinely passionate about God, people, calling and life. I am determined that my mistakes will not define me.”

Houston stated that he accepts “full responsibility” for his actions and has “no one to blame but myself for the position I find myself in.” 

“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 called his wife, Bobbie, is “the most Christ-like, beautiful, loyal and faithful person alive today.”

“It crushes me to see your heart breaking as we navigate this season, letting go of so much that is precious to you,” Houston told his wife. “I love my family and it pains me deeply to see you navigating these waters.”

In a recording of a recent meeting with 800 Hillsong staffers cited by Crikey, Hillsong Interim Global Senior Pastor Phil Dooley said Houston doesn’t recall having sex with the unidentified woman in the hotel room in 2019.

Houston reportedly met the woman, a non-member of Hillsong, in the foyer of the Pullman Hotel while several Hillsong officials were drinking.

“It was after one of the conference nights, and he [Houston] was drinking with a group,” Dooley said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Later that evening, he went to go to his room, didn’t have his room key and ended up knocking on the door of this woman’s room, and she opened the door, and he went into her room.”

Dooley said the woman in question did not say if there were any “sexual activity,” and Houston claimed “there was no sexual activity.” 

“But he was in the woman’s room for 40 minutes,” Dooley said. “He doesn’t have much of a recollection because of the mixture of the anxiety tablets and the alcohol. This woman had also been drinking, so her recollection is not completely coherent.”

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 paused 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.”

Dooley took over for Houston earlier this year as Houston fights criminal charges of allegedly concealing allegations of sex abuse committed by his father decades earlier. Houston has maintained his innocence. 

Houston’s resignation came just a day before Discovery Plus aired its docuseries “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed.”

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