The founder of Sydney-based Hillsong Church, Brian Houston, in response to Australia's royal commission probe into "institutional responses to child sexual abuse" this week, strongly denied allegations that he tried to cover-up his involvement in a $10,000 compensation payment made to a man sexually abused as a child by his father, Frank Houston.
The abuse occurred 30 years ago, crimes which Houston admitted were perpetrated by his father, Frank Houston, when he was a high-profile Pentecostal preacher and the younger Houston was a teen.
The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse is investigating the way Australian Christian Churches, formerly the Assemblies of God, is probing abuse by Frank Houston and two other men. Houston's father, who died in 2004, admitted to molesting the man, anonymously known as AHA, in Sydney in the late '60s and early '70s.
Brian Houston, who succeeded his father as head of the Hills Christian Life Centre (now Hillsong), told the commission on Thursday that when he discovered what his father had done it hit him in "waves," The Guardian reported.
"I was like, 'Homosexual?' getting my head around that, then thinking, 'A minor? Hold on, we're not just talking about homosexual, we're talking about pedophilia'," he said. "I cried, I went home and I was devastated to be honest with you, I was totally devastated."
In a Hillsong statement released to The Christian Post prior to Houston's appearance before the commission, church officials said that Houston "commended the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for making church leaders uncomfortable, because 'we have a collective responsibility to protect children.'"
Hillsong stated that the issue for the younger Houston, who sat through evidence outlining abuse by his father Frank more than 40 years ago, was clearly personal for him.
"This crime affects so many – the victims and their families and also the families of the perpetrators," Houston said. "In my case, I had to come to terms with the fact that the person I looked up to was not who I thought he was."
He said his openness about his father's abuse was well known, which is why he emphatically refuted allegations by his father's victim earlier this week that he had blamed the victim or said "you tempted my father."
Hillsong officials said that Houston also believes it is important that people understand that this abuse did not happen at Hillsong Church, but many years before Hillsong existed, "when I was a teenager myself."
The Guardian reported that after the victim's mother approached the church nearly three decades later, Frank Houston was suspended from preaching. AHA was offered $10,000 compensation by the preacher, who allegedly said, "I don't want this on my head when I stand in front of God."
AHA's lawyer, Karen McGlinchey, told Houston on Friday that there were "inconsistencies and errors" in his statements about not being involved with talks over the $10,000 payment and that he was trying to cover-up his involvement.
"Well the suggestion is wrong. No, I didn't do that," the younger Houston said. "I wasn't involved in the payment of money."