ACC, Aghajanian, AHA, Ainge, AOG, Brian Houston, Frank Houston, George Aghajanian, Gloria Jeans, hearing, Hillsong, John McMartin, Keith Ainge, McMartin, Nabi Saleh, New Zealand Assemblies of God, pedophile, pedophilia, Royal Commission, Royal Commission hearing, Saleh, sex scandal, sex scandals, shock
We found this article to be an insightful recap of what took place in the Royal Commission hearing a few weeks ago. We would love to hear your thoughts on this article.
The Saturday Paper reports:
Hillsong in the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse
Despite a royal commission being told that Hillsong’s senior pastor mishandled revelations of child sex abuse by his father and fellow church leader, the organisation’s global expansion continues apace.
Last week Australia’s Hillsong Church sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City, for the recording of its next concert DVD. The week before, Hillsong United, the church’s band, led by Pastor Brian Houston’s son, Joel, won five Dove Awards, the American gospel music equivalent of a Grammy. Next April, a feature film about the band,Hillsong: Let Hope Rise, will be released by Warner Bros. In the trailer for the film, spliced between shots of heaving arenas, two phrases flash in dramatic succession: “It’s not about them It’s about Him.”
Last week, those words might better have read, “It’s not about us/It’s about him.” For three-and-a-half days, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse examined how Hillsong and its board members reacted when presented with accusations against its founder and Brian’s father, Pastor Frank Houston.
The commission heard from a witness called AHA, who gave evidence that around 1970, from the time he was seven or eight, the well-respected pastor from the Pentecostal Christian denomination Assemblies of God, Frank Houston, would travel to Australia from New Zealand, with young Brian in tow, and stay at the boy’s home. AHA said his father was an osteopath and that Frank enjoyed free treatments. Their home was rearranged to accommodate the Houstons, who were considered by AHA’s family to be royalty.
For about five years, it was claimed, Pastor Frank would go to where AHA was sleeping and molest him in the night. AHA said the abuse ceased when he reached puberty. At the age of 16, AHA reported what had happened to his mother, but it would be another 20 years before contact was made with the Houstons. Soon after, in 2000, a meeting took place between Frank, then aged in his late 70s, and AHA at Thornleigh McDonald’s, during which Frank, apparently terrified he would die and face God a sinner, wanted to elicit forgiveness from his victim. He offered AHA $10,000 to go with his plea for absolution, and had him sign a napkin as confirmation that the payment – vigorously denied by Brian last week to be hush money – was the end of the matter.
Evidence tendered at the commission that Brian was emailed by the New Zealand Assemblies of God (AOG) in 1997 regarding the matter did not dissuade him from his original testimony: that he had no knowledge of his father’s offences until late 1999, when Hillsong’s general manager, George Aghajanian, informed him of the allegations they had received. The testimony of John McMartin, NSW state president of the AOG, the umbrella organisation with which Hillsong is affiliated, was that Brian was in shock when McMartin himself told him of the allegations some three weeks later, leading McMartin to believe he was the first to break the news. Houston’s evidence was that, though shocked, somehow in his stomach he knew the allegations to be true. He said he confronted his father immediately and that Frank confessed to a “one-off” incident 30 years prior.
Members of the AOG executive were called to a meeting held in the Qantas Club just before Christmas 1999. Houston said that in his newly assumed roles of AOG president and senior pastor of Hillsong, he removed his father’s credentials and told him to never preach again. Houston snr lived on Hillsong-owned property until his death in 2004. At no time did Hillsong report AHA’s accusations to the police.
At the commission hearing AHA testified that two months after the McDonald’s meeting, having never received the $10,000, he phoned Brian Houston. He stated that Houston said: “Yes, okay, I’ll get the money to you. There’s no problem. You know it’s your fault all of this happened, don’t you? You tempted my father.”
AHA responded, “Why? Did he molest you also?”, at which Brian said “You’ll be getting money” and slammed down the phone.
A cheque arrived soon after, made out to AHA with no note attached. Houston’s evidence is that he turned the matter over to “family” to address, and that he never accused AHA of tempting Frank.
Throughout the hearing, Brian Houston was clearly uncomfortable. It’s likely he has never been in such a situation, where it is compulsory for him to be the one answering questions. He smiled at counsel through much of his evidence as if they were having a conversation about the old days.
Whether he was deliberately evasive or ignorant on the stand has been a matter of great conjecture over the past week, but some responses elicited bemusement even from counsel.
When asked by the commission whether he found there was a conflict for him as the son of the alleged offender and as the president of the AOG and pastor-in-chief at Hillsong, Houston answered, “Internally, definitely I was conflicted, so I don’t doubt that at all, if you’re talking about my own, you know, coming to grips emotionally with what my father did.”
Patiently, several times, counsel attempted to elicit his understanding of the concept of a “conflict of interest”. Each of Houston’s responses were evasive, and accepted no responsibility. This, despite Houston having sat on multiple boards and led numerous companies.
He insisted he had chosen the best course of action at the time.
Houston became most defensive, however, when questioned over the choice of family friend who had driven his father to the McDonald’s meeting with AHA. Counsel inquired if Nabi Saleh, then half-owner of Gloria Jean’s Coffees and board member of Hillsong, acted more out of expertise on corporate governance than moral support. Houston was offended, retorting, “Should I have chosen a close family friend who didn’t work, who didn’t have a business?”
With the Hillsong leadership’s own evidence and documents tripping them up, what emerged from the commission’s nearly four days was a clear picture of a group of evangelical businessmen who, when faced with the worst revelations, closed ranks, took care of their own, and kept it secret for as long as they were able.
Former national secretary Keith Ainge grew frustrated during his interrogation, several times responding, “I’ve already answered that question”. McMartin also resented the questions, admitting that in order to prevent perpetrators reoffending they are encouraged to go to another church. Brian testified at times with an index finger outstretched to make his point felt to the cameras: “I’ll swear on this Bible again”.
But despite the hearing’s revelations that the Hillsong Church’s co-founder was a sex offender who preyed on adult males and boys as young as six, Hillsong won’t be going anywhere. As 2GB’s Ray Hadley heard when “Wendy” phoned his program in defence of the church, Frank Houston “changed a multitude of people”. Brian Houston roused the congregation to a standing ovation last Sunday with his message of freedom from shame.
A burgeoning franchise
Indeed, for the largely under-30 demographic of Hillsong, this is all old news. The Houstons themselves are growing old. At 60, Brian is ancient in Pentecostal years, and while widely revered, is no longer the spine of the organisation. Insiders credit his wife, Bobbie, 57, for Hillsong’s stability. “You know how Brian flies off the handle too easily?” one said. “Well, even he told the congregation one morning, ‘Bobbie is more Christ-like than I am’. Bobbie has really grown as a leader, in the Word, and as a teacher. She’s the glue that holds it together.”
But if matriarch Bobbie and Papa Brian, as he’s affectionately known, retire from the family business, their three children are well placed to carry on the traditions. Joel Houston is in charge of all things musical, the brand’s greatest attraction and largest source of revenue. Ben and his wife pastor a Northern Beaches church, while Laura and her husband head up the youth ministry nationally.
While Australian growth is steady, the church’s global presence is skyrocketing on the back of its highly commercial music arm. There are Hillsongs in London, Paris, Kiev, Cape Town, Los Angeles and more. The modern evangelical style is epitomised by the work of Carl Lentz, the new down-to-earth pastor of Hillsong New York, who reportedly baptised pop star Justin Bieber this year. His message is not so much about the gospel as standing alongside people in need, and only sharing their faith in Jesus when asked.
It is instructive in how different Hillsong is from a traditional Christian church, less a ministry than a family company. While the horrors of child sexual abuse have emptied the pews of other churches, Hillsong is unlikely to feel those effects. Instead, it will probably continue to grow. It is expanding in the manner of an ambitious business franchise, because in so many respects that’s what it is.
People wishing to contact the royal commission can do so at childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au or by phoning 1800 099 340.
Source: Tanya Levins, Hillsong in the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse, The Saturday Paper, http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/law-crime/2014/10/18/hillsong-the-royal-commission-child-sex-abuse/14135508001136#.VEJeJfmUeSo, Published 18/10/2014. (Accessed 18/10/2014.)
Would Hillsong be what it is today if the truth about Frank’s paedophilia came out publicly in the early days and he went to jail ?
This article says referring to Hillsong…. ” it will probably continue to grow . ”
So called Christian ” empires ” have collapsed [ recently Crystal Cathedral } and historically, empires eventually fall.
They said, , ” Not even God could sink the Titanic ! ”
All sin must be judged .
“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
1 Peter 4:17
“Last week Australia’s Hillsong Church sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City, for the recording of its next concert DVD.”
Nope. It was the Hillsong Conference.
“Ben and his wife pastor a Northern Beaches church,”
Nope, not for a few years now. And they are now in LA.
“Insiders credit his wife, Bobbie, 57, for Hillsong’s stability. “You know how Brian flies off the handle too easily?” one said. “Well, even he told the congregation one morning, ‘Bobbie is more Christ-like than I am’. Bobbie has really grown as a leader, in the Word, and as a teacher. She’s the glue that holds it together.” ”
I thought Tanya surely would’ve claimed credit for revealing Frank Houston’s pedophilia. On page 114 of her book she claims that she had a friend Jewels call a friend Megan who was Brian’s PA to ask Brian if Frank was a pedophile. Tanya claims that Brian replied ‘I’m going to resolve this thing this weekend’. And Brian made an announcement of sorts about Frank that weekend.
Why wasn’t Tanya called to give evidence if she was the one who caused it all to be made public, as she claims?
‘Bobbie is more Christ-like than I am’. Bobbie has really grown as a leader, in the Word, and as a teacher. She’s the glue that holds it together.”
“ummmm…has Christ-like bobbie got to the part of God’s Word…the Holy Bible where it says women are NOT to teach? They CANT be ‘pastors’ ?’
Again..hillsong just DEFY the Holy Word and carry on with their own version.
Strangely enough, old bobbie just loves to quote the dumbed down Message ‘version’ of the Bible.
Not to get off track, but it is highly ironic that the message ‘bible’ is abbreviated as MSG. MSG is a food additive banned across the world, it tasted delicious, but eventually fatal.
The Message- an artificial product that’s for sure. Probably why it is the favoured version of churches who value experience above all else.
Half-way down the critique it shows how Peterson changes words which labels homosexuality/ homosexual as sin. e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:9 “…nor homosexuals, nor sodomites” (NKJV) to “…those who use and abuse sex..” (MSG).
Perhaps Hill$ong has been reading the Message for too long…..
OK..that didn’t take long for bobby to react on her twitter: “Religious-judgment is CRUEL, Jesus is KIND” . If religious is staying true to the Word of Christ…then yes bobbie..i am HAPPILY religious, if that means i will not defy the Holy Word of God as you do. I wonder, will you consider the final judgement of God..as cruel…or justified by a Holy Sinless God?
Tanya Levin spoke at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne in March 2010. Early on in the speech she said it was a privilege to be
” … in a room of such brilliant minds”. http://youtube.com/watch?v=R6M7V6c2bpY One of those so-called brilliant minds at the conference was Richard Dawkins. Dawkins said this in 2013:
“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” http://salon.com/2013/09/10/richard_dawkins_defends_mild_pedophilia_says_it_does_not_cause_lasting_harm
Dawkins later apologised, but really didn’t retract what he said. https://richarddawkins.net/2013/09/child-abuse-a-misunderstanding-w-polish-translation
Levin should really be more discerning in who she mingles with.
So Tanya was at an atheist conference in 2010 and fellow atheist Dawkins made his comment in 2013. Bit hard to be discerning three years before the fact.
Actually CW, I asked Newtaste a question the other day, which he has ignored:
“who made Tanya Levin into an atheist Newtaste?”
I mean, yes, people do bare some responsibility for their decisions in life, but I would have to say that, by now there may be hundreds, or even thousands who have been turned away from God and the things of God, because of Brian Houston’s Hillsong cult, and the way it treats people.
Chews them up and spits them out, if they ask too many questions, Newtaste??? I mean, that’s all she did, didn’t she – ask a lot of questions that Brian Houston wouldn’t answer, then he set about ostracizing her – yes – no – you tell me Newtaste…
That video of her at that conference is very confusing. Yes, Colour does go overboard on the girly stuff. But to imply that the women are under the thumb and a slave to their husbands defies the equality in ministry of the Pentecostal churches.
Tanya Levin puts leaving Hillsong and turning away from God together. Her hatred of Hillsong and Brian Houston morphed into a hatred of God. I left one church and joined another. If I ever get disillusioned at this church I’ll find another church, but I will not lose my faith and belief in God. Levin’s belief in God couldn’t have been that strong if she let her hatred of Brian Houston turn her to hate God. I despised George Pell for many years, but that never stopped me going to mass nor turn away from God when I was a Catholic.
I’m sorry Newtaste, but that was only a part answer – as I said, there could be hundreds if not thousands affected by Hillsong’s cultishness, and the way that they treat people who ‘ask too many questions’. The kind of questions that your average church would have no trouble answering at all.
For what it’s worth, Tanya may never have known the real Jesus Christ, but may have been sold a pup from day one. I’m not judging the lady in question, but from where I’m sitting, it looks like a case of false conversion (and this happens to many who are brought up ‘inside the system’) there may yet be an opportunity for her to find the real Christ.
Hillsong’s money raking exercises (events?) and its overindulgence in all that is false and New Age would be enough to turn anyone off, who may have a genuine heart desire for God – but that desire could never be fulfilled at a place like Hillsong.
It’s a bit like the man who brings home (plastic) flowers for his wife each day. It’s the same set of flowers, resprayed with her favourite fragrance. She’ll never know, because she only gets to smell them once, and he places them in the same vase, with fresh water. He ‘replaces’ them the next night too, much to her delight, and so on, and all it costs him is a can of air freshener once or twice a month.
Looks good, smells great, but they are not the real thing folks – they are false and phony, meant to look and “smell” right, but they can never replace real flowers..
Brian Houston and his false Hillsong cult can never replace the real Jesus and His faithful church, which is made up of true believers, spread amongst the various denominations – never!.
If you were a child abuse victim from a pastor at Hillsong, would you trust Brian Houston, his organisation or ACC leadership to manage your situation appropriately and fairly? I wouldn’t.
Been reading some documents from the Royal Commission website.
Imagine the feelings of guilt and betrayal as a mother who had invited Frank into your home and he sexually abused your child. Then your child struggled telling you about it as Frank was “royalty”. The AHA family was denied what was due them because of the way they were dealt with by Brian Houston and the AOG/ACC leadership.
What is the bottom line after Royal Commission revelations?
Brian Houston and those key AOG/ACC leaders involved in the Frank Houston case mismanagement should step down.
a. justice was denied the victims;
b. Frank was never charged;
c. trust in the Houstons, Hillsong and AOG/ACC processes was misplaced;
d. leadership’s concern seemed more for Frank, his and their reputations, rumour management and minimising the actual allegations/crime in the public view;
e. restoration was about Frank, not the victims.
Where was truth, justice, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration demonstrated in this matter? This is where the church of Christ can show the world the power of the gospel. Does this leadership know what it looks like?
Instead, it takes the world to shine a light on their mismanagement, lack of leadership, lack of integrity, lack of care. The leadership showed their true colours. Men of God? Men of faith? Faith in what? In themselves, their visions, their goals, their philosophies, their empire, their legal advice. They needed to step up to the plate and failed. What do they stand for? Abstract clichés and the façade of “nice” don’t hack it in the real world and when biblical standards are required.
Barbara Taylor, a pastor helping AHA raise the child sex abuse with Frank/AOG, showed due diligence with documentation and procedure. Her biggest mistake was trusting her executive to provide fair and due process. And why would Brian Houston direct Barbara Taylor to keep future correspondence to phone calls only? Just see the quality of Brian’s testimony when it comes to details and remembering.
Brian Houston was at the helm and needs to accept responsibility. It was tough for him, but also for others, and most did not get the support that he and his father received. Brian Houston was out of his depth, personally, as a pastor, and as an executive manager. The church should have a higher standard.
The world can see the hypocrisy in how this case was managed. Why can’t the church! What a great opportunity lost.
Anna Glen said:
Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
The proper punishment of a Priest for offending a child by molestation is a public drowning , not a transfer to another parish to reoffend and a cover up by the hierarchy (2 Kings 23:7).
Jesse Berriff said:
I never did understand theonomy. In fact most theonomists will admit that you can only translate a certain amount of Old Testament law into New Testament parlance before it starts to become unwieldy. Yes, the law is God’s word, but when Christ said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, he meant that those of us who are now in Christ no longer come under the punishment of the law because He took our punishment at the Cross. Therefore, sex offenders, like any other offenders need to repent of their sins at the Cross so they can be forgiven. And, yes, there will be other consequences.
I will never forget listening to Terry Walker’s testimony. He was a serial criminal offender (theft and other crimes) who lived in Melbourne, had been arrested for a serious charge and fled to Brisbane where he was subsequently saved. God spoke to him, told him to go back to Melbourne and face the judge. The judge, who knew Terry well, took one look at Terry who testified of his salvation on the stand and proclaimed that he was a changed man, yet he still was sent to prison for his crimes. Terry did not explain the legal situation, but he said he only actually served about six weeks of his sentence before God set him free. During that time, dozens of prison inmates were saved because of the testimony of Terry’s salvation and his very evident change from being a criminal to being a new man in Christ. Thank God, Terry is one of the few public figures in this country who hasn’t been mired in controversy and is still doing good works here in Brisbane. I used to go to church with Terry here in Brisbane, he and his family were a great witness. Ironically, that church is now Hillsong owned and operated. Terry began a different church some decades ago.
My point however is that God requires criminals to face the law, as well as repent of their sins. They can become sons of God and at the same time be used by God in prison as anywhere else if they are genuinely changed into new creations and live that way.
Mr. Houston clearly was not a born-again Christian because no true believer would give themselves over to this kind of immorality on a regular basis. He needed to understand what genuine salvation is. So few of these pentecostal ‘pastors’ are genuinely saved and the shame of it is that their congregations are likewise ignorant of being soundly and profoundly changed into Christ’s likeness.
Paul is not slack in condeming men like this who refuse to change and continue to sin. He tells us to have nothing to do with them. (1 Corinthians 5:11) Handing over money to the victim of the offense is an abhomination, as is continuing on in their position of ‘authority’. These ones should be dealt with by the church in a stern and uncompromising manner.
I hope ‘Anna’ was being ironic in the suggestion that Mr Houston be drowned. Regardless of your take on OT law, it would be considered a crime in modern secular society and you would be jailed for 1st degree murder. This is where theonomy always comes unstuck. It always seems to go hand in hand with dominionism which in turn is often preached by men like Houston because they are obsessed with changing the world for Jesus, when Jesus never told us to change the world. He said go out and make disciples. And you are only a disciple if you abide in the Word of God (John 8:31). Take note Messrs Houston et al.