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Hillsong Church Founder Investigated for Not Reporting Sex Crimes of His Father

11-21-2018

Can a man really be tried for the sins of his father?  This is apparently the case in Australia where the founder of the Hillsong Church is being investigated for allegedly not informing the authorities about sex crimes committed by his father. 

A man who claims he was molested by Frank Houston, once an influential pastor of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand, told his story Sunday night on Channel 9's news program "60 Minutes." 

Brett Sengstock said he was molested by Houston multiple times during a five-year period almost 30 years ago. Sengstock recalled the abuse in graphic detail during the interview. He claimed Houston began to molest him when he was about seven years of age. 

Houston admitted to the molestation before his death in 2004. However, his actions were never reported to the authorities. 

The news program and other media outlets have said Houston was a pastor at the Hillsong Church. The church released a statement on its website through their attorney which reads in part:

"Hillsong and Brian Houston (Frank's son) have made it clear on multiple occasions that they are incredibly grieved for the victims and the hurt and pain that the criminal actions of Frank Houston has caused them. The victim you interviewed on your episode is no exception. We wish to emphasize that all of these criminal actions occurred before Hillsong Church existed."

Australian authorities are presently investigating Brian Houston for allegedly not reporting sex crimes committed by his father, according to aol.com

However, the church board and eldership did respond to the Royal Commission three years ago with a statement about the case. 

Among the facts listed by the church elders:

  • The victim was a 36-year-old adult when this abuse became known and could have taken the matter to police himself at any time. 
  • The victim did not want Pastor Brian or others to go to the police or to make this matter public.
  • At no time did Pastor Brian attempt to dissuade anyone – including the victim – from going to the police.
  • Pastor Brian immediately reported the abuse to each board member of Sydney CLC and also the executive of the Assemblies of God, the denomination that issued the ministry credentials for Frank Houston.
  • The perpetrator, Frank Houston, was immediately removed from ministry by Pastor Brian and church leadership and never ministered in the church again, ensuring no child was placed in danger. He is now deceased.

In its latest statement dated Nov. 21, 2018, Hillsong writes, "it is abundantly clear, through available evidence, that the victim was an adult in mid '30s when Hillsong Church and Brian Houston became aware of the abuse, and the victim did not want the matter reported to the police." 

In the statement, the church also points out "a list of representations and false statements made on the 60 Minutes program segment regarding the handling of the abuse by Frank Houston following the disclosure of the abuse."

The church also requested that Channel 9 and other media outlets make the following statement on-air: 

"On the 18 November 2018, we ran a story on Frank Houston and the involvement of the investigation of his son Brian Houston and Hillsong Church. Hillsong Church has since been in touch with Nine and we would like to clarify the following representations. The denomination had known at the time as the Assemblies of God in Australia is the denomination and Hillsong Church is one of many autonomous churches that were part of the AOG at the time. The lawsuit referred to in our story was between the victim and the denomination, not Brian Houston or Hillsong Church. 

Brian Houston was not the first to hear of the abuse by Frank Houston and when he became aware, immediately confronted his father and Frank Houston never ministered again. For years prior to the Royal Commission and following, Brian Houston disclosed the abuse by Frank Houston to the many thousands of attendees at Hillsong Church congregations and in those disclosures, specifically referred to child abuse and pedophilia. It is clear that Brian Houston did not hide or conceal his father's crimes. Brian Houston and Hillsong Church have made it clear that they are incredibly grieved on behalf of the victim and acknowledge the inexcusable crimes committed against him by Frank Houston well before the existence of Hillsong Church."

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