Statement from Brian Houston, Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church Re: Royal Commission – Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
12 October 2014
This past week was a challenging time for me personally and for our church. I’m sure you have seen media coverage around my appearance at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
I wanted to take a moment today to help you understand what this is about, because it’s difficult to get a true picture from media reports. The media only have a few minutes or a few lines to report so they can’t give you the full story and sometimes the headlines can be misleading.
First let me make the most important point – We fully support the commission. As we’ve seen over many years, parts of the Christian church have failed our children by turning a blind eye to abuse and even covering it up. In my eyes, attempting to cover up child abuse is pure evil. This commission allows survivors to share their traumatic experiences, and my prayer is that this will help them to heal.
Hillsong was asked to appear not because of anything that happened here but because of the abuse suffered by children at the hands of my father around 40 years ago when he was based in New Zealand – many years before Hillsong Church existed and when I was a teenager myself.
This was a Royal Commission to examine the way institutions – like the church – handle complaints of sexual abuse. There was no allegation of abuse against anyone at Hillsong Church and no one was on trial. This was a hearing, not a trial. It’s important this point is clarified.
As most of you know, I have spoken about the crimes of my father many times over many years. I have shared that when I first found out about this, I immediately confronted my father and ensured he never preached or served in any ministry capacity again. There was no delay in action – from the moment we knew and he confessed, his ministry stopped. I then consulted the elders of what was then Sydney Christian Life Centre and we referred the matter to the national executive of the Assembly of God.
The investigation and subsequent actions were then handled by the AOG without my interference.
There have been reports of money being paid to the victim. Again for clarification, this was between my father and the victim. It had nothing to do with me or Hillsong Church.
Be assured that we did not tolerate sexual abuse when we heard of these allegation in 1999 – and we don’t now. Hillsong Church has zero tolerance for abuse. We do not allow any person with convictions or findings against them of child sexual abuse to attend any Hillsong activity and we are continually reviewing and updating our procedures so that children across our campuses are protected.
While I wanted to explain these events, I also wanted to thank you for being such a wonderful and supportive church. Talking publicly about such personal details involving my father is draining, yet throughout the week Bobbie and I have felt your love and encouragement and that’s lifted us and helped us through. And though we value your prayers for us, the truth is there are many people who’s lives have been devastated by sexual abuse and specifically by my fathers actions and need our thoughts and prayers.
Please keep praying for those affected by sexual abuse and for the victims in the cases involving my father. I believe that unconditional love and total restoration is possible for anyone through Jesus Christ – and that there is no other name that can bring hope and healing to those that are hurting.
7 October 2014
Hillsong Church welcomes this Royal Commission and fully supports its objectives. We believe that exposing child sexual abuse and the response of institutions to that abuse, and allowing survivors to share their traumatic experiences, is a powerful step in the healing process.
While our involvement in this commission does not involve abuse that happened at our church, and there are no allegations against me or Hillsong, I have been touched by the horrific act of child sexual abuse in a very personal way. Having to face the fact that my father engaged in such repulsive acts was – and still is – agonising.
However as painful as this is for me, I can only imagine how much more pain these events caused to the victims, and my prayer is that they find peace and wholeness.
Hillsong Church has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and has comprehensive child protection policies that are continually reviewed. We also welcome any recommendation of the commission that would assist us to improve on these policies even further.
This Royal Commission reminds us of the vulnerability of our children and should compel every organisation responsible for the oversight of children – churches, schools or other institutions – to ensure that the abhorrent acts of the past will never happen again.