An ongoing investigation into Hillsong Church founder Pastor Brian Houston has resulted in him being charged with concealing child sex offenses committed by his late father Frank Houston.
The crimes — and resulting alleged coverup — involving a 7-year-old boy occurred between 1969 and 1970, and were later revealed to Frank’s son in 1999, according to Brian’s own shocking admission in a newsletter sent to his congregation over Christmas.
Authorities in New South Wales, Australia subpoenaed the 67-year-old reverend by way of his attorney on Thursday afternoon, The Australian has reported. He is due to appear in court on Oct. 5, police confirmed.
In a statement received by The Post, Pastor Houston acknowledged, “These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter. I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.”
On behalf of Houston, a spokesperson for Hillsong also told The Post they were “disappointed” by the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of up to five years behind bars.
It’s the culmination of a seven-years-long investigation by Hills District police in Sydney, where Hillsong first opened its doors in 1999 after merging with Frank Houston’s original mega-church endeavor, the Sydney Christian Life Centre, which he founded in the ’80s.
Officials for Sydney’s Royal Commission on Institutional Leaders Handling of Sexual Abuses told local outlets, “Police will allege in court the man knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police.”
Reps for Hillsong elaborated on their response to the charges: “We are disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and ask 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. We thank all who are a part of our church for their support and prayers at this time.”
In 1999, Brian, then president of evangelical group the Assemblies of God in Australia, confronted his father — news of which ended Frank’s career in ministry.
Yet when given the opportunity to aid law enforcement, neither Brian nor Hillsong’s national executive turned over evidence concerning the crimes of his father, who died at 82 in 2004.
Frank’s victim, Brett Sengstock, who previously said he was “raped, choked and brutalized,” claims the late churchman had attempted to bribe him with $10,000 (AUD) — via hand-scrawled contract on a McDonald’s napkin. The payoff was allegedly sent as a check in the mail from Brian himself, after Frank apparently failed to complete the agreed transaction, according to The Daily Mail.
According to Brian, his father’s victim insisted his abuses not be made public or brought to law enforcement.
The disgraced faith leader avoided charges in his lifetime, despite confessing to a “continuing problem” of sexual interest in young boys.
Hillsong Church operates in 28 countries worldwide, including the US where their frequently star-studded congregation includes the likes of Justin Bieber, Chris Pratt and Kylie Jenner.
Last year, Hillsong infamously ousted popular Hillsong preacher Carl Lentz, 42, who led the church’s Manhattan fellowship, after his marriage infidelities were revealed. Brian Houston later appeared on NBC’s “Today” in May 2021 to discuss the embattled Lentz.
“I think there’s a lot of things I should’ve known earlier, and hopefully, moving forward, we’ll make sure we have far better systems in place and better accountability,” Houston said at the time.