Co-founder of Australia's Hillsong Church, Brian Houston, was "disorientated" after mixing alcohol and anti-anxiety pills before entering a woman's room.
Another day, another awful chapter in saga of Hillsong, the disaster-prone global Pentecostal megachurch and music empire co-founded by Australian pastor Brian Houston, 67.Houston is due to stand trial in Australia on charges that he failed to report his father’s sexual abuse of a boy in the 1970s.
It emerged Friday that an investigation by church authorities found that Houston became “disorientated” after mixing alcohol with anti-anxiety medication during a conference in 2019 and accidentally wound up in the hotel room of a woman attending the event.
A statement from the church board says that consumption of the medication—”beyond the prescribed dose”— mixed with alcohol:
Resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant.
The statement revealed that this was the second complain made against the married pastor.
The first issue was approximately a decade ago and involved inappropriate text messages from Pastor Brian to a member of staff, which subsequently resulted in the staff member resigning.
At the time, Pastor Brian was under the influence of sleeping tablets, upon which he had developed a dependence. He immediately apologised to the person. We also worked closely with Pastor Brian to ensure he received professional help to eliminate his dependency on this medication, and this was achieved successfully.
Religion News Service reports that, prior to the statement being released, Hillsong held a video meeting with 800 church staffers around the world in which interim senior pastor Phil Dooley— who is leading the church while Houston is on leave due to ongoing legal troubles— discussed the complaints for the first time with the church at large.
Dooley, above, explained the texts said “If I was with you, I’d like to kiss and cuddle you,” or “words of that nature.”
The second incident took place during Hillsong’s annual conference in Qudos Bank Arena in Homebush, New South Wales, in 2019. According to ABC, Dooley said Houston had been “drinking with a group.”
Later that evening, Pastor Brian attempted to get into his room but didn’t have his room key and ended up knocking on the door to the woman’s room. She opened the door and he went into her room.
The truth is we don’t know what happened next. The woman has not said there was any sexual activity. Brian has said there was no sexual activity, but he was in the room for 40 minutes.
The board’s statement also said they agreed to refund money the woman had donated to the church, “in order to bring resolution in a spirit of love and care,” and to “abide by her request for confidentiality.”
The Hillsong statement said:
Pastor Brian was extremely remorseful and insisted on repaying the church for this.
The statement did not indicate whether Houston would return to his position at the church.
In January, 2022, Houston announced he was taking a leave from his pastoral duties during 2022 in order to prepare for his trial in Australia on charges that he failed to report sexual abuse.
Houston was charged in August 2021 with concealing a serious, indictable offense of another person. Police say his late father, Frank Houston, also a preacher, indecently assaulted a young male in 1970.
Court documents allege Houston knew of his father’s abuse as early as 1999 and, “without reasonable excuse,” failed to disclose that information to police.
RNS reports that recent concerns have arisen over how Houston and Hillsong have handled allegations of abuse within the church and about the conduct of its pastors, some of whom are celebrities in their own rights.
Carl Lentz, above, former lead pastor of Hillsong NYC, was fired in November of 2020 for “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failings.”
Lentz, a friend of Jesus-possessed pop star Justin Bieber, subsequently admitted to having an extramarital affair.
Bullying, abuse of power and sexual abuse
According to RNS, six months later, a former staff member at Hillsong alleged she was subjected to “bullying, abuse of power and sexual abuse” over the course of the seven years she worked as a nanny in Lentz’s home. Lentz denied the allegations.
Reed and Jess Bogard, lead pastors of Hillsong’s Dallas franchise, abruptly resigned in 2020 as well, leading to the Dallas church being shuttered for the foreseeable future. The couple had served in New York with Lentz and “failed to meet the commitments and standards of Hillsong Church,” church leaders later said.
In April 2021, Darnell Barrett, a pastor for the Montclair, New Jersey, Hillsong campus, resigned after sharing revealing photos of himself on Instagram.
Anna Crenshaw, an American student who attended Hillsong College in Sydney, told RNS earlier this year that she was inappropriately touched by a Hillsong staffer, Jason Mays, the son of the church’s human resources chief, at a party in early 2016.
Crenshaw didn’t tell Hillsong leadership about the incident for two years and told RNS in May that she believes there is “a lack of institutional accountability” and a cultural tendency at Hillsong “to value those ‘higher up’ or more connected.”
Crenshaw said that while Hillsong leadership took her accusations seriously, they were slow to take action and that Houston seemed initially dismissive of Mays’ behavior, saying Mays was “just young, drunk, stupid, and in a bad situation.”
Mays pleaded guilty to indecent assault in 2020 and received two years’ probation and mandatory counseling.
Naked and drunk, a colleague knocked on the doors of beauty pageant contestants in a London hotel
This report reminds me of the time a fellow journalist brought shame on a publishing company we both worked for after he was sent to cover a beauty contest at a hotel near Heathrow airport. I was due to report on the event, but came down with the flu.
After necking far too much booze, he grabbed a floral display in the hotel lobby and began wandering along corridors and knocking on doors. Contestant let out shrieks when they saw him standing stark naked in their doorways, offering them the flowers.
He was arrested for public indecency and summarily sacked. As he left the editorial office after his release on bail he bellowed, “you’ll remember me for a long, long time.”
A few days later a terrible stench permeated our office. It took days to locate its source. Somehow, before his ignominious departure, he gained entrance to the office and nailed kippers to the undersides of all of our desks.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn.