Entertainment Hillsong Church Founder Brian Houston Charged with Concealing Father's Child Sex Offenses in 1970s

05:50  25 october  2021
05:50  25 october  2021 Source:   people.com

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Brian Houston, the 67-year-old founder of celebrity-relished mega church Hillsong Church, has been charged in Australia with concealing child sex offenses, stemming from the abuse of a young man during the 1970s.

Brian Houston wearing a suit and tie: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images Brian Houston © Provided by People Marcus Ingram/Getty Images Brian Houston

Houston learned this morning he has been accused of covering up abuse allegations lodged against his preacher father, Frank Houston, relating to events that happened more than 40 years ago.

PEOPLE confirms authorities in New South Wales started investigating Brian Houston in 2019 after receiving "reports a 67-year-old man had knowingly concealed information relating to child sexual offenses," according to a police statement.

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Brian Houston wearing a suit and tie © Marcus Ingram/Getty Images Brian Houston

On Oct. 5, Houston is expected to appear in a Sydney court "for allegedly concealing a serious indictable offense," the statement adds.

Houston has yet to plead to the charge, and it was unclear if he was represented by a criminal lawyer.

"Police will allege in court [Houston] knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police," the statement reads.

Houston has been living in the United States in recent months, and preached this past Sunday in California.

RELATED: Hillsong Staffer Accuses Ex-Pastor Carl Lentz of Sexual Abuse as He 'Vehemently' Denies Claims

In a statement to the Associated Press, Houston said he was bewildered by the allegations.

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"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."

The Australia-based global church said in a separate statement to the AP that the church was disappointed Houston had been criminally charged, and asked that he be afforded the presumption of innocence.

Australian officials contended in 2015 that Hillsong leaders became aware of the allegations in 1999, but did not share that information with police.

Instead, Houston's father was allowed to retire.

RELATED: Hillsong Church Calls Former Pastor Darnell Barrett's Revealing Photo Sharing 'Unacceptable'

Frank Houston had confessed to the abuse allegations prior to his death in 2004 at 82.

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Hillsong, a one-time favorite among celebrities like Justin Bieber, made headlines in November 2020 when, citing "moral failures," it fired senior pastor Carl Lentz, who shortly after admitted to being unfaithful to his wife, Laura.

The church experienced another bump in the road in April, when Pastor Darnell Barrett, the creative director of Hillsong's chapter in Montclair, N.J., quit amid a photo scandal, coupled with claims that he sent an anonymous woman similar photos and allegations that he was unfaithful in his marriage.

Then, in June, Leona Kimes, who once worked for Hillsong as a nanny for Lentz and his family, accused Lentz of sexual and emotional abuse — behavior he denied.

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