The criminal court case surrounding Hillsong Church Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston has been postponed until 2022 as the global evangelical church network leader faces allegations that he helped cover up his father’s sexual abuse of a minor.
Australian news service Eternity News reported that the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney deferred the pastor’s next hearing until Jan. 27.
Houston, who founded Hillsong in the Sydney suburbs in 1983, is charged with concealing a serious indictable offense of another person.
At issue is the allegation that the 67-year-old had known about, yet failed to report to authorities, the sexual abuse of a young man by his father, the late Frank Houston, during the 1970s.
“Believing that Frank Houston committed that offence and knowing that he had information that might be of material assistance in securing the prosecution of Frank Houston for that offence,” court documents allege Brian Houston “failed to bring that information to the attention of NSW Police.”
During a preliminary court hearing last month, Houston’s lawyers said he would plead not guilty to the allegations.
Frank Houston, who died in 2004, was the head of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand until 1971. Brian Houston was the head of the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God from 1997 to 2009.
Frank Houston was alleged to have abused up to nine young boys in New Zealand and Australia.
In 2015, a royal commission launched to investigate institutional responses to child sexual abuse had found that Brian Houston failed to inform the police of allegations of abuse committed by his father in 1970 when they were revealed to him by the victim in 1999.
The committee stated that Houston, who served as president of the Assemblies of God in Austrailia at the time, had a clear conflict of interest.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the commission was told that Houston responded to the allegations by suspending his father from the ministry, and senior church members decided at a meeting that the allegation would be kept confidential and Frank Houston would be allowed to quietly retire without public scrutiny.
In a previous statement to The Christian Post through Hillsong, Brian Houston expressed “shock” at the charges.
“These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” Houston said. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Hillsong also provided a statement to CP explaining that it is “disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and asked that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right.”
“He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name. Given that this matter is now before the court, neither Pastor Brian or Hillsong Church will be making further statements,” Hillsong added.
In September, Houston stepped away from his positions on Hillsong leadership boards. He was retained his title as Hillsong global senior pastor.
The allegations surrounding Houston come amid a slew of scandals surrounding Hillsong in recent years.
Last November, Carl Lentz was fired from his role as lead pastor at Hillsong’s New York City and East Coast branch over “leadership issues” and cheating on his wife.
Other Hillsong resignations that followed Lentz included Darnell Barrett, creative director of Hillsong Church Montclair in New Jersey, and Reed and Jess Bogard from Hillsong Dallas, which has since closed.
In May, Houston told NBC that this season has been “difficult” for Hillsong “because of a lot of disappointment in some of the things that have emerged.”
“Some, obviously, are false,” he said, adding: “Other things are real.”
“I have reflected many, many times, and I’m acknowledging that mistakes have been made and that there are things where we need to get far better, much better,” he said. “I’m not shrinking back from that.”