Brian Houston, co-founder of Australian-based megachurch Hillsong, has resigned after complaints that he behaved inappropriately towards two women in two separate incidents.
In a first message from the Hillsong Board posted to its site last Friday, the church said in part that it had “sadly been dealing with two complaints made against Pastor Brian over the last 10 years.”
“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,” the statement added.
“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,” it continued.
“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,” it read.
The statement went on to say that an investigation found that “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,” it added.
In a subsequent release posted on Wednesday, Hillsong’s board said “Houston has resigned as Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church and the board has accepted his resignation.”
In late January, Houston, 68, had already stepped down from all church responsibilities due to separate charges that he intentionally concealed his late father Frank Houston’s child sex offences.
Last week’s statement referenced these charges, writing, “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 realised, and he needed to focus on his upcoming legal issues.”
The board stated that, at the time, it was already privately dealing with the complaints made against Houston by the two women.
Following an investigation, the statement said Houston had “agreed to take specific action including stepping down from leadership for a period. However unfortunately he failed to take all of the agreed steps which resulted in further action being taken by the board in late 2021.”
In January, PEOPLE reported that Houston is prepping for a legal battle over charges that he concealed child sex offences committed by his late preacher father, allegations that the younger Houston has repeatedly denied.
Hillsong, which has drawn the likes of Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Chris Pratt and Kylie Jenner as members, was cofounded by Houston and his wife Bobbie in Sydney, Australia, in 1983.
The institution has faced several waves of controversy in recent years. Pastor Carl Lentz, Bieber’s one-time spiritual confidante, was fired in 2020 over “moral failures” amid reports he had multiple extramarital affairs.
In May of last year, Houston commented on Lentz’s actions, referring to his “narcissistic behaviour.”
Additionally, Pastor Darnell Barrett stepped down last April after sending explicit photos to at least one of his followers.
The megachurch is the subject of Discovery+’s upcoming three-part docuseries ‘Breaking Hillsong’, which will explore the “headline-making world of global star-studded megachurch Hillsong and the downfall of its ultra-hip, celebrity senior pastor, Carl Lentz.”