Hillsong’s Brian Houston defends handling of abuse case, sidesteps questions on gay marriage

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NEW YORK (RNS) Hillsong founder Brian Houston said that the victim who came forward to him asked him not to tell the police about his father's sexual abuse. “I would’ve gone to the police,” he said, if he had known about abuse reporting laws.

  • Jack

    This stinks to high heaven. I don’t trust him for a single second. If he is telling the truth, he needs a public relations person to help him get it out. This interview reads like a disaster.

  • Jack

    And even if he’s telling the truth about his failure to report his father’s abuse problem, how can he call himself a minister while waffling on the historic redefinition of the most foundational human institution in the history of the world?

    If he believes the Biblical position, he should have the courage of his own convictions and stand for it.

    If he doesn’t believe the Biblical position, he should find another line of work or affiliate with a different religion like Unitarianism.

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  • Fran

    Ditto!! I believe the Biblical position which is pretty clear cut, and I would stand completely for it as well (1 Corinthians 6:9,10; Romans 1:24-27) instead of what other humans consider popular.

  • Oscar

    This is a change in policy. Usually churches/religious groups avoid their paedophile past by discussing the pros and cons of something they consider moral such as gay rights/participation in their brand of religion.

    A little bit of historical background to this case. The Royal Australian Commission was only charged with investigating the child abuse history of the Catholic Church. When at least one victim of a at least one protestant religious group that operates in Australia brought to the attention of Tony Abbott (who is now the Prime Minister of Australia) this matter, the inquiry was widened to include all religious institutions who have child abuse issues in their history (and sometimes current history).

    The reason I am familiar with the case is I see that former victim each time I look in the mirror and the group involved is a large mission group based in the U.S. I am neither a U.S. or Australian citizen, which gives some idea of how many people/countries are affected by these scandals and also how speaking out can make a difference, even across international boarders.

  • This is a disaster – and it continues.

    Kids need to be taught to Question Authority, especially church authority, and not bow down and do what some authority says.

    Religious teachings about obedience hand too much power to Authority – and pedophiles are waiting to abuse children with it. What a mess. Pedophiles are awful, but religion grants them the perfect setting.

    Abandon the churches. The are houses of enabling.

  • Oscar

    I’m inclined to agree. Children should be encouraged to think for themselves, to ask questions and to formulate their own opinions.
    As a missionary child, we were taught not to question and as you say we were perfect pickings for sex offenders. And it wasn’t just a couple of errant men who had wandering hands, it was a significant percentage who raped, molested, beat and mind manipulated. The results were many ruined lives and long roads to recovery.
    What really rubs salt into the wounds, is the number of parents who now know what happened (and in many cases knew what was going on at the time) and still staunchly defend it as being some sort of collateral damage in their strange version of “spiritual warfare” and a mission that propagates the fantasy that the Saints of God were tempted beyond their capacity to resist because they were in the same “spiritual battle”.
    This was not the fault of temptation or the Devil, it was criminal activity, probably done because of a perverted need to control others.

  • Oscar,

    “the number of parents who now know what happened (and in many cases knew what was going on at the time) and still staunchly defend it as being some sort of collateral damage”

    Religion destroys critical thinking over a lifetime. Very few break free. The structure is totalitarian: birth to death and beyond.

    What good god would lend itself to something so cruel and corrupt?

    But healthy skeptical thinking is too rare.
    Religious institutions want it that way – and they have real power to create sheeple.

    In the above article Lyall Mercer said, “my personal views would line up with most traditionally held Christian views.”

    That is the creepy trick of religion – Nobody within the church has a “personal view” but they are conditioned to think the program was theirs all along.

  • nick in NC

    That just proves what everyone thinks, the christians have two sets of bibles – one for themselves and one for everyone else.
    We can’t marry because it (homosexuality) is an abomination, yet they can eat the abomination of shell fish, have divorce (promise to god to stay together until death), and the worst, child molesting and cover up.

    They literally pick and choose what they feel they want to abide by.

    This guy is no man, or he would have stood up years ago for what was right. No matter who committed the act. But then again, maybe the adage ‘like father like son’.

    Christians must be proud. Sounds like Pat Robertson, Tammy Bakker etc.

  • nick in NC

    can they spell pedophile!
    exactly what it is.

    I see a ‘sexual offenders list’ is someones future.

  • Australian

    He may not have reported it to police. But Brian made the fact that his father had committed pedophillia and was unsuitable for leadership. It has been public knowledge for a long long time.

  • Oscar

    So if the assertion is correct that this criminal offending was well known, was it well known only in “church” circles and therefore not passed on to the police, or is it being suggested that the police were incompetent and took no interest in the matter?
    In New Zealand the last scenario is very unlikely.

  • Jack

    The words, “question authority” are, if taken literally, self-refuting — for the meaning would have to include the authority conveyed by the same words.

    Thus we should also question the authority that tells us to question authority.

  • Jack

    Nick, if I had my way, pedophiles would be locked away forever. And that includes all — from theists to atheists, priests and minsters to common criminals.

    But hasn’t NC legalized gay marriage, and if so, why are you still unsatisfied?

    Maybe you’ll be satisfied if your state builds a Roman-style coliseum, throws your Christian neighbors and co-workers in, and then sends in the lions.

  • Jack

    So in other words, Atheist Max believes that the only critical thinkers in the world are those who uncritically embrace Atheist Max’s opinions.

  • Hello

    The person who wrote this article, left certain details out to make the story out to seem that Hillsong is not putting a stance on the issue of homosexuality. If you listen to the whole press conference which can be found on SoundCloud, Brian Houston states that ” the teachings of Paul are very clear on that subject”. To whoever wrote this article, thanks for twisting the story to tell the story that you want instead of the truth. Regarding the sins of the pastor, as horrible and disgusting as that might be that is between Frank Houston and God. I’m not sticking up for the guy in anyway, but this shows how horrible and how bad sin can become in peoples lives regardless if there a minister, a worship leader, or even just a member of the church. This is why it is important to stay close to God and cling to him with our whole life, because if we don’t we will find ourselves with blood on our hands. God can forgive all sin, despite how bad it is! Remember, a simple lie without the grace of God can send someone to hell, but a million lies with the Grace of God can send you to heaven. The only one who is good is God!!!!

  • “Question Authority” is not self-refuting. It is not in itself an authority but a suggestion as in ‘one should question authority’.

    And why should one question authority? That is a very good question, not a self refuting one.

    If someone claims to have authority over you, it would be wrong to allow that authority to continue without questioning:
    “why do you have this authority?”
    “what gives you the right to claim this authority over others?”
    “what is your evidence that these things you command are good for me or good for others?”

    Those are suggested questions to ask of anyone who claims to have an Authority over you.

    Some Priests say: “be baptized or you will go to Hell”
    This is a claim and a command. But it is also an Authority telling you what you must do.
    All I suggest is this: Ask ‘why?’

    If you are satisfied that the authority has answered your question then proceed to do what he commands. If not, then at least you will know why you cannot accept the claim of the authority.

  • @Jack,

    “So in other words, Atheist Max believes that the only critical thinkers in the world are those who uncritically embrace Atheist Max’s opinions.”

    Of course not.

    Critical thinking is about analyzing information and figuring out what is true.
    But Religion says, “These things are true because old stories say they are true, and if they weren’t true the old stories wouldn’t exist.”

    That is not healthy thinking.

  • @Jack,

    “Maybe you’ll be satisfied if your state builds a Roman-style coliseum, throws your Christian neighbors and co-workers in, and then sends in the lions.”

    Nobody suggested doing away with religion.
    I simply can’t understand your hysteria.

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion or forbidding the right to practice religion”

    How would anyone get away with torture or killing a Christian under american Law? It is impossible.
    Yet – The threat to torture and kill gays comes directly from RELIGION and it is far more common and it ACTUALLY HAPPENS !

    “Kill the Gays” – (Leviticus 20:13)
    “Avoid them” – (Corithians)

    You really don’t get it.
    Christians have actual LAWS WHICH DIRECT PEOPLE TO KILL.
    Atheists have no such laws.

    I would always trust an Atheist more than a person who professes Jesus – EVERY TIME.
    And I’m not even gay!

  • Larry

    So Fran, what is the Biblical position on willfully concealing crimes?
    How about the Biblical position on sexually abusing children?

    Evidently many Christians feel these pale in comparison to consensual adult relations. Doesn’t make too much sense, does it?

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  • Oscar

    Critical thinkers are those that step outside the conventional comfort zone and set sail over the horizon because they have confidence in their belief that our planet is not flat, even thought the majority of “wise persons” predict their ultimate demise.

    The art of a good post is one that engages good debate and challenges the way one thinks. A poor post is one that niggles at the messenger.

    I don’t agree with all of Atheist Max’s thoughts, but I do appreciate that he gets me critically thinking.

    (and I’m pretty sure not everyone agrees with my point of view 😉 )

  • Fran


    The sins you mentioned, that of willfully concealing crimes and sexually abusing children (or anyone, for that matter) are detestable to God as well as those who worship him with truth.

    Those who practice those sins should be immediately disfellowshipped and kept clear away from, to keep the congregation clean (2 Thessalonians 3:13, 14; 1 Timothy 5:20).

    Unfortunately, the Catholic Church did not deem to take that action concerning many of their priests, and instead moved them to other locations.

    If any person is truly repentant of his actions and genuinely asks God for forgiveness of his sins, and turns his life around by not practicing those actions any more, then the opportunity may exist for that person to be forgiven and return to the congregation.

    David committed 2 serious sins by his action with Bathsheba and also having her husband conveniently killed in battle due to Barthsheba becoming pregnant. However, David genuinely felt regret for his actions, repented, and God forgave him of his sins (2 Samuel 11:1-12:24).

    God is definitely more compassionate, merciful, and willing to pardon error, transgression and sin, knowing that we are imperfect, than humans are with each other (Exodus 34:6,7). 😀

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  • Jack

    The statement, “Question Authority” remains self-refuting. There is no getting around it.

    That doesn’t mean we should never question authority.

    It just means that you can’t absolutize something that is relative and if you try, you come up with a self-refuting statement.

    Other examples:

    (1) There is an exception to every rule. But that itself is a rule and thus it refutes itself.

    (2) Everything is relative. But that itself would have to be relative…..same problem.

  • Doc Anthony

    “Question Atheism.”

    You willing to do that? Hmm?

  • Jack

    Max, you’re assuming that religion — meaning all religions — disallow “analyzing information and figuring out what is true.”

    I can’t speak for every religion under the sun, but I have my share of books by authors who subjected the Bible and Christianity to critical thought and concluded they were true. I myself base my faith as an adult on critical thinking — on analyzing the evidence that the writers of the Gospel were accurate on historical details, that Jesus said what they claimed he said, that his claims were true, that the tomb which held his body was empty within three days after his death, and that no natural explanation for the empty tomb has been found, despite 20 centuries worth of effort.

    That’s just a sampling…

    One more point about critical thinking:

    Two critical thinkers can come up with exact opposite conclusions about the truth claims of the Bible and Christianity……

    And often the hidden reason is that they come to the matter with opposite assumptions about what scholars deem historical evidence or courts consider legal evidence.

    There is a continued misunderstanding about what constitutes burden of proof regarding both of these kinds of evidence. Most Bible skeptics, for example, erroneously assume that it is the absence of corroboration, rather than the presence of contradiction, which disproves a textual or eyewitness claim. But that’s not how historians or courts operate, and thus this is a source of misconceptions about whether the Bible has been refuted or not.

    So critical thinking is key, but in order to come to an accurate resolution, having the right methodology — the one used by professional scholars — is imperative. But the problem regarding biblical criticism is that far too often, the methodology used violates the normative rules of evidence.

  • Jack

    Max, I wasn’t offering an opinion on the likelihood of Christians being killed for their faith — although it certainly is happening around the world and is hardly new. Rather, I was commenting on a poster who, even after getting what he presumably wants, is still huffing and puffing about Christians and trying his best to demonize them. And that leads me to believe that the real issue here isn’t ultimately gay marriage, but something much deeper and darker…..a primitive hatred that really knows no bounds so long as Christians and like-minded people are among the living.

  • Chaplain Martin

    Brian Hudson: ‘“I would’ve gone to the police,” he said, if he had known about abuse reporting laws’ That’s the most sicking statement and the lamest excuse I have read since when I counseled pedophiles. Not reporting makes Brian Hudson almost as guilty as his father. No! I take that back, he, in essence raped the boy again by not reporting it. The boy was seven years old for God’s sake. Since when did the words of a trembling, fearful little boy “don’t tell the police” mean that a grown man would obey the little boys words. What about telling the parents? What about telling the child service agencies? What the child really meant was “Tell the police anyway”. Children often put something in the negative when it is the scary thing to do. The child all ready knew that the police should be informed about what happened to him, otherwise he would not have brought them up. Of course the question I have is: Did Brian Hudson tell the truth about what the little boy said?

    I am a retired licensed professional counselor, and chaplain. I spent many years counseling pedophiles (mostly prison inmates) and adults who were abused as children. Anyone that thinks a person abused as a child can really get over having been sexually/physically abused is poorly informed. The very important years of childhood is cut short. The abuse may hopefully stop, but the innocence is lost. That time can never be taken back.

    I learned in my prison chaplaincy, that a pedophile (most often) sexually abuses, rapes, hundreds of children before being caught. So he fired his father, big deal, freeing him to go on abusing little boys.

    Pedophiles go where their targets are present, wither in church, Sunday school, boy or girl scouts, boys or girls clubs, schools, the Y, music lessons, befriending a woman with children the ages she/she prefers, the list goes on and on.

    Oh yes, many will attempt to hide behind religion, and a facade of respectability.

    As a Christian who has seen evil close up, I have learned to be “as wise as serpent”, have trouble being as harmless as a dove. This is especially true when I read or hear of one more time of a pedophile going to a congregation of believers and confessing his sin and being forgiven to the point that he again is allowed to work with children/teens.

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  • Chaplain Martin

    “If any person is truly repentant of his actions and genuinely asks God for forgiveness of his sins, and turns his life around by not practicing those actions any more,…”

    This doesn’t work with pedophiles. The only “cure” is for them to be kept away from children. It is an addiction, not curable, but abstinence is extremely difficult for the pedophile when his/her favorite age boy or girl is especially vulnerable to him or her.
    As a Christian I believe in forgiveness but also believe in a very watchful eye.

  • Chaplain Martin

    It’s good to read that you call yourself a “former victim”, by speaking out on this you will help many others.

    Some churches are changing the way they view child abuse. The church I which I hold membership, has developed a personnel policy and a volunteer policy to report to proper agencies including law enforcement when abuse is even suspected.

  • @Jack,

    “but something much deeper and darker…..a primitive hatred that really knows no bounds”

    Evidence for this – Where?
    Have not read of a Christian being harmed for being a Christian anywhere in America. That is hysteria.

    I hate suffering – not sufferers
    I hate Cancer – not cancer patients
    I hate Lou Gherig’s disease – Not Lou Gherig!

    It is important to hate the right things. Society can’t solve problems unless we agree that we hate these problems enough to alleviate suffering from them.

    If it is not bigoted to preach Jesus, it cannot be bigoted to preach against Jesus.

    If this God can’t rescue its religion with better arguments, it will fail. History is full of gods long forgotten, who were once claimed invincible. That is why they were called ‘gods’ in the first place!
    Yet their names are not remembered. So it will be with Jesus and Allah, etc.

    Who wants to be the last man standing to defend Aphrodite’s existence? What a waste.

  • Chaplain Martin

    Bro Max
    Hey, I agree with your take of questioning authority. As a young child I was sometimes called a “Why” baby. I always seemed to ask why went asked or told something by “big” people. As an adult working under some sort of supervision I was sometimes told I needed to agree with what I disagreed with so it would be a “win,win situation”.
    On the priest and baptizing, I don’t know so I am neutral. Read my other comments which have to do with the article.

  • @Jack,

    “critical thinking is key… having the right methodology — the one used by professional scholars — is imperative.”

    What methodology are you talking about? Faith? Deference to authorities? Which authority? Which scholar?

    The Claim:
    God exists.

    The Questions:
    What is a God? Where is the god? Supernatural? Then how would one determine this? We are stuck with only natural evidence.
    What is ‘exist’ and how can we know if it is not also ‘evident’?
    How do we know it is only one god?
    How do we know there are not other gods?
    How does anyone make that determination?

    It doesn’t seem you have begun any analysis at all if you can’t at least grapple with the word ‘god’.

    You cannot say “God is Unknowable” and then follow that with “we know god’s absolute truths.”
    You cannot say, “We need God” and then follow it with “He is unknowable” – One cannot ‘need’ something for which there is no evidence.

    Does god exist?
    I say I don’t know (agnostic) and I do not believe in it (atheist)

    The burden of proof is on the person who claims there is a god.
    And no one else.

  • Jack

    Max, none of what you just said responded to the content of my post. My post was not a philosophical speculation about whether God exists but a response to your dubious claim that all religion opposes critical thinking.

  • Jack

    Max, when someone demands something very big, implies it means the whole world to them, and then gets it on a silver platter and is still deeply dissatisfied, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that the explanation for that person’s being dissatisfied lies elsewhere.

  • Jack

    Once you say, “question authority,” and mean all authority, that logically means you also must question the authority that tells you to question authority.

    Again, that’s the problem with enthroning relativistic statements of any kind. You end up with logical absurdities that are impossible to avoid.

  • @Jack,

    Do you not already realize that you are the authority over your life?

    If someone else tells you that they have authority over you, that is what you need to question – their authority over YOU.

    You don’t seem to grasp that your own brain should be the authority over your life. You should not be accepting anything just because the authority says you should.
    And you should absolutely question your own motive – all the time – so you will know why you do things.

    Are you not aware that the authority over you should be YOU?
    Every Christian ‘chooses’ by their own will (i’m told) to follow Christ.
    This is Your decision. This is YOUR will. You are the authority over that decision.

    Naturally, once you decide to follow Christ YOU decide which parts of Christ’s teaching YOU want to follow and which ones you don’t.
    You are still the authority.

    When you decide that Jesus told you to do something and then you do it – YOU are the one deciding to do it.

    You somehow missed that you are the Authority over your life.
    Nobody else! Question Authority or you will be incapable of thinking!

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  • it seems some people are using this conflict with this pastor’s father to bring up the homosexuality argument. first of all, didn’t he say that he was in shocked when he discovered what his father has done? so he had to remove him out of the ministry. I believed that his father repented before he passed away. the devil will always find ways to destroy the work of God in many ways….. so people don’t be diluted by man’s mistake. I put my trust in the lord than a man because a man will always fail but God never fails. the bible is clear about homosexuality so don’t get it all twisted.