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Hillsong Church Founder Steps Down from Governing Boards Ahead of Trial

Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston told church members in a Sept. 17 email that he has stepped down from his role on governing boards for the Australia-based church, making the move just weeks before he goes on trial on charges that he covered up child sex crimes committed by his late father, Frank Houston, in the 1970s. 

Brian Houston said in the email he would remain global senior pastor of Hillsong, reported the New York Post, which obtained a copy of the email. 

Houston was subpoenaed last week to appear in court Oct. 5 for the alleged concealment of child sex offenses, the Post said. He faces a maximum of five years in jail.

An Australian government commission found in 2014 that Houston had “made no attempt to report his father to the police” after Frank Houston confessed to him in 1999 that he had sexually abused a seven-year-old boy in the 1970s. The commission said Brian Houston failed to come forward despite “evidence that he had no doubt that his father’s conduct was criminal,” The New York Times reported.

Houston said that the charges came as a surprise as he had always been transparent about the matter. A December email to church members from the church said in regards to his awareness about the abuse he “has always been very open and clear about the circumstances around this.”

Brian Houston has said the victim asked him not to report the incident, but the victim has denied it. 

The Post also cited reports from Australian news outlet Crikey that Brian Houston’s name also has been removed from other titles within the church since the subpoena was issued, including leadership roles at almost all of the charities Hillsong has registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission. 

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.