Hillsong Church co-founder Brian Houston announced Sunday that he will "step aside from all ministry responsibilities" until next year amid charges of concealing his father's child sex offenses.
The New South Wales Police Force accused Houston, 67, in August of covering up information about an incident where his father allegedly abused a boy in the 1970s.
"Last year, I received unexpected news of charges against me that allege the concealing of information that may have been material to prosecute Frank Houston," Houston told the church in a statement on Sunday. "These allegations came as a shock to me, and it is my intention to vigorously defend them."
In December, Hillsong board members advised Houston that it would be in his best interest to withdraw from his pastoral duties during the court proceedings.
"The court processes are likely to be drawn out and take up most of 2022 (especially considering the backlog in the courts, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic). Along with this, the board and I have had detailed discussion around the requirements for leadership," the statement said. "We have talked about the effects of the situation with my father, which go back many years up to the current legal case, and the impact this has had on me emotionally."
CBN's Faithwire previously reported that Houston's father, Frank, was accused of abusing nine underage boys while he was serving as a pastor. The elder Houston passed away in 2004.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse concluded the Hillsong founder failed to report his father's abuse after he confessed to it in 1999.
"These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I've always been about this matter," Houston said. "I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight."
Houston entered a not guilty plea to the charges in an Australian court in October, according to The New York Times.
Phil and Lucinda Dooley will take on the role of Acting Global Senior Pastors for Hillsong.
Houston and his wife, Bobbie, founded Hillsong Church in Australia in 1983. In May of 2020, the megachurch reported 150,000 members in 23 countries.