Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston violated the church’s code of conduct by entering the hotel room of an unidentified woman for 40 minutes while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs during the church’s annual conference in 2019, officials revealed Friday.
In a statement outlining investigations into two complaints against Houston’s behavior in the last 10 years, the global evangelical church network also said that its global senior pastor exchanged an “inappropriate text message” with a staffer in 2013, resulting in her resigning shortly after. In a recording of a meeting with 800 staffers of the global megachurch cited by Crikey, Hillsong Interim Global Senior Pastor Phil Dooley said Houston doesn’t recall having sex with the unidentified woman in the hotel room in 2019.
As you are aware, Pastor Brian recently stepped aside from his ministry duties. When he stepped down in January this year, the reasons he gave were genuine. The situation with his father over many years had taken a personal toll that was greater than he had realized, and he needed to focus on his upcoming legal issues.
At the time of his announcement, the Hillsong Church board did not make a public statement because we were still working through a number of issues privately with Pastor Brian. These issues are now public, and therefore we would like to share with you the details.
We have sadly been dealing with two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years. These matters – like all such matters under our code of conduct – were dealt with confidentially. In both of these cases, we respected the confidentiality of both Pastor Brian and those involved, and we also must abide by local employment law. We are a church that believes in grace, love, restoration, and integrity; these are our guiding values.
You can be assured that investigations into these complaints were treated extremely seriously. Each of these was conducted by either board members or a body appointed by the global board to hear and resolve complaints against credentialled pastors and were assisted by highly respected external pastors and advisors.
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 apologized 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.
To this former staff member, we again apologize and would welcome the opportunity to provide further assistance if this is needed. The second issue involved a complaint received in 2019. Following an in-depth investigation, it was found that Pastor Brian became disoriented after a session at the Hillsong Conference,
following the consumption of anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol. This 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 investigation by the integrity unit appointed by the global board found that although all parts of the complaint were unable to be sustained, important elements of the complaint were sustained and the conduct was of serious concern. Ultimately, the board found that Brian had breached the Hillsong Pastor’s Code of Conduct.
We also acknowledge that whatever the circumstances at this time, this person did not deserve to be placed in the situation she found herself in by Pastor Brian. We felt that we did all we could to assist the person who made the complaint and treated this person with compassion and respect and also abided by her requirement for confidentiality.
The board also met a request for a refund of money donated to the church by this person and agreed to that in order to bring resolution in a spirit of love and care. Pastor Brian was extremely remorseful and insisted on repaying the church for this.