Hillsong founder Brian Houston has announced he is stepping down as leader of the church as he defends criminal charges that allege he covered up his father’s child sexual abuse.
In a statement made on Sunday, Houston said he made the decision after consulting with the church’s leadership and legal counsel.
“The Hillsong Global Board feels it is in me and the church’s best interest for this to happen, so I have agreed to step aside from all ministry responsibilities until the end of the year.
“The court case I am facing is related to circumstances surrounding my father, and I need to be fully committed to preparation and engagement with the case and work closely with my lawyers in defending this charge.
“I have said, including in a prior statement, that I intend to fight the charge and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
Houston was charged last October with one count of concealing the serious indictable offense of another person. He had initially stepped aside as Hillsong’s board chairman after being charged.
In the statement, the pastor said the charges came as a “shock” to him, and he intends to “vigorously defend” himself.
He said his decision to step down was also driven by his emotional wellbeing.
“We have talked about the effects of the situation with my father, which go back many years up to the current legal case, and the impact this has had on me emotionally.”
Houston’s father, Frank, died in 2004, and has been accused of the alleged abuse of a young man in the 1970s.
His son is due in court in Sydney in October, and said his latest decision came after discussions with the church’s board last December.
“In December, during our board meeting, Hillsong’s external legal counsel gave the board advice regarding the current charge I am facing,” he said.
“That it would be ‘best practice’ for me to step aside completely from church leadership during the court proceedings.
“The court processes are likely to be drawn out and take up most of 2022 (especially considering the backlog in the courts, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic).”