Pastor Brian Houston, the criminal pedophile Frank Houston's son. In denial.

Pastor Brian Houston, the criminal pedophile Frank Houston’s son. Found guilty of pedophile protection crimes by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

 

On Monday the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse published its Report on Hillsong, the Australian Assemblies of God (AoG), Brian Houston, and their protection of Hillsong’s founder, the pedophile Frank Houston.

The Australian AoG has been called the Australian Christian Churches since 2007.

The Royal Commission found Pastor Brian Houston, the Head of Hillsong International Church, guilty of not reporting his pedophile father Frank Houston to the Police in 1999 and sheltering him for five years.

These offences are criminal offences under NSW and Australian Law.

The headquarters of Hillsong International are in the Sydney suburb of Baulkham Hills.

Below are all the salient passages from the Royal Commission Report in respect to Hillsong, the Australian Assemblies of God (AoG) movement in respect to Frank Houston, and Brian Houston.

These extracts are unedited.

I’ll make comments in various places in the Report, when I feel it will assist my readers.

In subsequent articles this week I’ll take extracts from the Royal Commission report and offer my views and comments.

You can read a full history of Frank Houston’s pedophile activities in my article on this site published on 13 September 2012 entitled, “Pastor Frank Houston. part 1. Frank’s Houston’s pedophile activities”.

The article can be accessed by googling the above title or google “Frank Houston abuse”.

 

The criminal pedophile Frank Houston, Liked surrounding himself with young males and boys.

The criminal pedophile Frank Houston. Dumped his life on his only church-going son Brian. Brian who loves him and can’t get over him, sheltered his old pedophile dad for five years, from 1999 to 2004 when Frank Houston died, maybe longer.

 

REPORT OF
CASE STUDY NO. 18

The response of the Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse

OCTOBER 2015

Report of Case Study No. 18

ISBN: 978-1-925289-31-2

© Commonwealth of Australia 2015

All material presented in this publication is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia licence (www.creativecommons.org/licenses).

For the avoidance of doubt, this means this licence only applies to material as set out in this document.

The details of the relevant licence conditions are available on the Creative Commons website as is the full legal code for the CC BY 3.0 AU licence (www.creativecommons.org/licenses).

Contact us

Enquiries regarding the licence and any use of this document are welcome at:

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse GPO Box 5283
Sydney, NSW, 2001

Email: mediacommunication@childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

 

Report of Case Study No. 18

The response of the Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse

October 2015

COMMISSIONERS

Justice Jennifer Coate Mr Bob Atkinson AO APM

 

Report of Case Study No. 18

 

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

 

Table of contents

 

Preface

This case study

Executive summary

  1. 1  The Australian Christian Churches and the Pentecostal movement
    1. 1.1  Pentecostalism
    2. 1.2  Structure of the Australian Christian Churches
    3. 1.3  Principle of autonomy
    4. 1.4  Ministers’ credentials
    5. 1.5  Policies and training
    6. 1.6  The Administration Manual and the requirement to put complaints in writing
  2. 2  Hillsong Church (New South Wales), the Assemblies of God in Australia and
    Mr Frank Houston

    1. 2.1  Background
    2. 2.2  Sexual abuse of AHA
    3. 2.3  Response of the Assemblies of God in Australia
    4. 2.4  Pastor Brian Houston’s role
  3. 3  Northside Christian College and Northside Christian Centre, now Encompass Church (Victoria), Assemblies of God in Australia and Mr Kenneth Sandilands
    1. 3.1  Background
    2. 3.2  Structure and organisation
    3. 3.3  Appointment of Mr Sandilands
    4. 3.4  Sexual abuse of Ms Emma Fretton
    5. 3.5  Allegations against Mr Sandilands
    6. 3.6  Reporting allegations to relevant authorities
    7. 3.7  Criminal and civil proceedings
    8. 3.8  Departure of Pastor Denis Smith
    9. 3.9  Power of the Royal Commission to make findings against individuals
    10. 3.10  Current policies

4 Sunshine Coast Church (Queensland), the Australian Christian Churches and Mr Jonathan Baldwin

  1. 4.1  Introduction and background
  2. 4.2  Structure and organisation
  3. 4.3  Appointment of Mr Baldwin
  4. 4.4  Sexual abuse of ALA
  5. 4.5  Dr Ian Lehmann’s response

My comments:

I have included the Table of Contents references to Northside Christian Centre and Sunshine Coast Church, which are Australian Christian Churches pedophile cases.

The Northside Christian Centre case involves almost 60 children and is a  particularly bad pedophile abuse case by a teacher Kenneth Sandilands.

It went on for a decade unaddressed by an AoG school in Victoria and a large number of children were seriously sexually abused. Some of the children suicided.

Because my focus is on The Houstons and Hillsong I won’t publish here the details of this Report on these other two AoG/ ACC institutions.

The Australian Assemblies of God (AoG) was renamed and reincorporated the Australian Christian Churches in 2007 by Pastor Brian Houston. The Royal Commission accused Brian of doing this to try to avoid legal liability to his father Frank Houston’s victims.

The Report continued:

Report of Case Study No. 18

During the public hearing of Case Study 18, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse examined the responses of the Australian Christian Churches (a Pentecostal movement in Australia) and two affiliated churches to allegations of child sexual abuse.

The public hearing was held from 7 October 2014 to 17 October 2014 in Sydney. The scope and purpose of the hearing was:

  1. The response of the Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre (now Hillsong Church), and Assemblies of God in Australia (now Australian Christian Churches), to allegations of child sexual abuse made against William Francis ‘Frank’ Houston.
  2. The response of the Northside Christian College and the Northside Christian Centre (now Encompass Church) in Bundoora, Victoria and Assemblies of God in Australia (now Australian Christian Churches) to allegations of child sexual abuse made against former teacher Kenneth Sandilands.
  3. The response of Australian Christian Churches to allegations of child sexual abuse made against Jonathan Baldwin.
  4. The systems, policies, practices and procedures for the reporting of, and responding to, allegations of child sexual abuse of:
    1. Australian Christian Churches
    2. Hillsong Church
    3. Northside Christian College and Encompass Church.
  5. Any other related matters.

According to its followers, Pentecostalism is a denomination of Christianity that groups different Christian churches based on their common belief in the direct personal experience of the Holy Spirit. This is signified by ‘speaking in tongues’, prophecy and healing. A grouping of Pentecostal churches is called a ‘movement’.

Pentecostal churches voluntarily choose to affiliate and cooperate as a movement. The Australian Christian Churches is the largest Pentecostal movement in Australia. Each of the churches and related institutions in this case study are affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches, which was known before 2007 as the Assemblies of God in Australia.

A National Executive oversees the Australian Christian Churches at a national level, and each state has its own State Executive. The National and State executives are responsible primarily for issuing ‘credentials’ to ministers (also referred to as pastors) and churches. The National and State executives also provide policies for affiliated churches to adopt, including policies in respect of child protection. However, the Australian Christian Churches has limited oversight of its affiliated churches, which are considered ‘autonomous’.

The Australian Christian Churches recommends, but does not require:

  • its affiliated churches to adopt and adhere to child protection policies
  • its pastors to adhere to child protection policies
  • its pastors to attend training programs it offers on child protection policies.The Australian Christian Churches’ current Grievance Procedure for handling complaints against pastors for sexual misconduct gives priority to the protection of pastors over the safety of children.Hillsong Church (New South Wales), Assemblies of God in Australia and Mr Frank HoustonMr Frank Houston was the leader of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand during the 1960s and early 1970s. He came to Australia from New Zealand to preach in 1969 and 1970. On these two occasions, Mr Frank Houston stayed with AHA and his family. During these stays he sexually abused AHA, who was seven years old at the time.In 1977, Mr Frank Houston founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre. His son, Pastor Brian Houston, founded the Hills Christian Life Centre in 1983. Both churches were affiliated with the Assemblies of God in Australia and merged in 2000.
 In 2001, the two churches were renamed Hillsong Church. Hillsong Church remains affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches to the present day.

When allegations about Mr Frank Houston’s abuse of AHA emerged in 1999, Pastor Brian Houston was the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia. He confronted his father,  who confessed to the abuse. Pastor Brian Houston then called a Special Executive Meeting of the National Executive, which Pastor Brian Houston attended. Although Pastor Brian Houston relinquished the position of Chair at the meeting, he remained present while the National Executive discussed the allegations and decided on disciplinary action for Mr Frank Houston.

In handling AHA’s allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston and Mr Frank Houston’s admission, the New South Wales State Executive (and, separately, the National Executive) did not follow its Complaints Procedure set out in the Administration Manual. The New South Wales Executive failed to:

  • appoint a contact person for the complainant
  • interview the complainant to determine the precise nature of the allegations
  • have the State Executive or National Executive interview the alleged perpetrator
  • record any of the steps it took.In 2000, neither Hillsong Church nor its predecessors, Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre, reported the suspension and subsequent withdrawal of Mr Frank Houston’s credential as a minister to the New South Wales Commission for Children and Young People, as required by section 39(1) of the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW).
  • My comments: These are really significant parts of the Report and outline criminal offences, and therefore potential criminal charges, for the leaders of the Australian AoG/ ACC and Hillsong Church at the time Frank Houston was not reported to the Police and sheltered by them for five years.
  • They all could be charged with in due course.
  • These leaders who may be charged in due course include:
  • Pastor Brian Houston
  • George Aghajanian the Hillsong Business Manager
  • Pastor Bobbie Houston, the co-pastor of Hillsong International with her husband Brian
  • Pastor Keith Ainge the General Secretary of the Assemblies of God (AoG) at the time
  • Pastor John McMartin the long-time NSW AoG/ ACC President.
  • Pastor John Lewis
  • Pastor Wayne Alcorn
  • Pastor Ian Wood who sheltered Frank Houston at Hawkesbury AoG (known as Hawkesbury Christian Centre) from 2000 for a few years until Frank Houston’s health gibbon to fail. Ian Wood colluded with Brian Houston and the other AoG and Hillsong leaders in sheltering Frank Houston from the NSW Police.

The Report continued:

  • In 1999 and 2000, Pastor Brian Houston and the National Executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia did not refer the allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston to the police. In 1999 and 2000, Pastor Brian Houston had a conflict of interest in assuming responsibility for dealing with AHA’s allegations because he was both the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia and the son of Mr Frank Houston, the alleged perpetrator. In 1999, members of the National Executive who attended the Special Executive Meeting of the Assemblies of God in Australia did not follow the National Executive’s policy for handling allegations of child sexual abuse against pastors and failed to recognise and respond to Pastor Brian Houston’s conflict of interest.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

 

1 The Australian Christian Churches and the Pentecostal movement

1.1 Pentecostalism

According to its followers, Pentecostalism is a branch of Christianity, whose beliefs can include direct personal experience of the Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing.

The grouping of Pentecostal churches is called a ‘movement’. Pentecostal churches voluntarily choose to affiliate and cooperate as a movement.

The Australian Christian Churches is one such Pentecostal movement, to which all of the churches in this case study are affiliated.

There are other movements of Pentecostal churches in Australia, but the Australian Christian Churches is the largest.

1.2 Structure of the Australian Christian Churches

The Australian Christian Churches commenced in Australia in 1937 under the name ‘Assemblies of God in Australia’. In 2007, it changed its name to the Australian Christian Churches. It currently has over 1,070 affiliated churches and over 272,000 constituents.

The rules and structure of the Australian Christian Churches are set out in its central document the United Constitution, dated April 2013.

According to the United Constitution, the movement is led by a National President at the head of a National Executive, both elected every two years by the National Conference.5 The National Conference is the governing body of the movement.

Below the national level, each state and territory is governed by a state president with a State Executive. The State Executives are ultimately responsible to the National Executive. The National Conference delegates to the State Executives matters such as managing ordination applications and investigating complaints against credentialed ministers but can intervene at any time.

State Executives are divided into District Branches headed by district superintendents. The District Branch receives applications for ministerial credentials, as well as complaints, which are then communicated to the relevant State Executive.

To qualify for affiliation with the Australian Christian Churches, local churches must meet certain requirements set out in the United Constitution. If these requirements are met, the National Executive issues the local church with a Certificate of Fellowship. The certificate can, however, be withdrawn at any time at the discretion of the National Executive.

2.1 Background

Hillsong Church is an affiliate of the Australian Christian Churches and was established in 2001 following the merger of two local affiliated churches, Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre.

This case study examined the response of the Assemblies of God in Australia to allegations of child sexual abuse made against Mr Frank Houston during his two visits to Australia in 1969 and 1970. The case study also examined the response of Pastor Brian Houston (Mr Frank Houston’s son) who, at the time, was the Senior Pastor at Hills Christian Life Centre and the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.

Mr Frank Houston was ordained as a New Zealand Salvation Army officer in the 1940s. He left the Salvation Army after about 12 years to establish an Assemblies of God in Australia church in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, in 1959.

Mr Frank Houston later became the leader of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand. During this time, Mr Frank Houston occasionally came to Australia to preach.

In 1977, Mr Frank Houston moved to Australia and established the Sydney Christian Life Centre. He was the Senior Pastor, and the church was affiliated with the Assemblies of God in Australia from about 1978 or 1979.

In 1978, Mr Frank Houston’s son and daughter-in-law, pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston, moved to Australia on a one-year working visa. Initially, they attended the Sydney Christian Life Centre, with Pastor Brian Houston eventually becoming an Assistant Pastor.

In 1983, pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston founded the Hills Christian Life Centre, which was also affiliated with the Assemblies of God in Australia. Pastor Brian Houston’s popularity as the Church’s Senior Pastor grew dramatically, and Hills Christian Life Centre enjoyed success because of its ability to draw large numbers of congregants.

In 1997, Pastor Brian Houston became the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia. He held that position until 2009.

Pastor Brian Houston said that, over a number of years, his father spoke to him about taking over as Senior Pastor at Sydney Christian Life Centre. In May 1999, Mr Frank Houston suddenly retired from the position of Senior Pastor at Sydney Christian Life Centre and asked Pastor Brian Houston to take over his position. Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that he and his father would meet weekly for lunch. On those occasions we’d had conversations about whenever Frank, you know, was no longer Pastor, that he would like to see me take on that role. He also, I think, had passed that on to the board of Sydney Christian Life Centre, so the board had adopted that, that should anything ever happen to Frank, I would assume that role.

From May 1999, for a period of 18 months, Pastor Brian Houston was the Senior Pastor of both churches. In 2001, the two churches were renamed Hillsong Church.

2.2 Sexual abuse of AHA

AHA was seven years old in 1969 and, at that time, his family was heavily involved in the Assemblies of God in Australia movement in Sydney. AHA stated that his family were good friends with Mr Frank Houston and that Mr Frank Houston often visited Australia from New Zealand to preach.

In 1969 and 1970 Mr Frank Houston visited Sydney, sometimes accompanied by his family, and stayed in AHA’s home.

In January 1970, Mr Frank Houston stayed with AHA and his family for almost a week. AHA told the Royal Commission that during this stay Mr Frank Houston came into his room ‘nearly every night of the week’ while he was sleeping and touched him inappropriately. AHA said that the touching involved Mr Frank Houston lying on top of him, placing his hands on his genitals, masturbating him and inserting a finger into his anus.

AHA recalled that the abuse also occurred when he and his family went to different churches and places with Mr Frank Houston. AHA said that he sometimes went into an office alone with Mr Frank Houston, who felt between AHA’s legs. This inappropriate touching also occurred at an evangelical camp in Windsor, New South Wales.

AHA said that:

The abuse in my home and at the different church meetings continued over a period of years until I reached puberty. Pastor Frank wanted nothing to do with me after I reached puberty.

Effect on AHA

AHA said that the abuse inflicted on him by Mr Frank Houston destroyed his childhood. For years, he was ‘full of shame, fear and embarrassment’. AHA told the Royal Commission that he dropped out of school in year 10, has not had a good work history  and is currently on a disability pension at the age of 52.

AHA has anger issues and suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He also continues to have flashbacks of Mr Frank Houston in his bedroom and has difficulty in his physical and emotional relationships with his wife and children. AHA said his doctor has attributed his depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to the abuse he suffered as a child.

AHA said he felt very isolated when the abuse came to light and that the church community made him feel like he was the problem. He stated that he feels he has ‘received absolutely no support, counselling, apology or acknowledgement of the abuse’ from the church and ‘that the church’s response was completely inadequate’.

Disclosure of sexual abuse of AHA

In 1978, when AHA was 16, he told his mother that Mr Frank Houston had sexually abused him. Her response was that, if AHA revealed the abuse to others, he might turn them against the church and send them to hell. AHA ‘did not want to cause any trouble’, so he kept the abuse to himself and did not take it any further.

In mid-1998, some 20 years after the initial disclosure, AHA’s mother disclosed the abuse to Pastor Barbara Taylor. Pastor Taylor was the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Christian Family Church – a local church in Plumpton, New South Wales, also affiliated with the Assemblies of God in Australia.

AHA’s mother also separately disclosed the abuse to Mr Kevin Mudford, an evangelist, in a meeting held at Emmanuel Christian Family Church on 3 November 1998.

Pastor Taylor attempted several times over the next year to arrange a meeting between Mr Frank Houston and AHA, with the intention that Mr Frank Houston would apologise, but the meeting never happened.

Mr Frank Houston did call AHA several times in 1999 and made apologies to AHA. However, Pastor Taylor said that AHA did not consider the apologies to be genuine. Rather, AHA told Pastor Taylor that he thought Mr Frank Houston wanted to smooth the matter over by paying AHA compensation because:  [He] was very frightened with what he’d been doing to myself and to other children, and he didn’t want to die and go with this in front of God to answer for it. He was very fearful.

During this time, Mr Frank Houston arranged a payment of $2,000 for AHA.

AHA told the Royal Commission that, at the time, he felt his history of abuse ‘was a hideous secret and I just didn’t want to have it exposed’.

In 2000, AHA agreed to meet Mr Frank Houston at a McDonald’s restaurant in Thornleigh, Sydney. Mr Nabi Saleh, a friend of Mr Frank Houston and an elder of Hillsong Church, was also present at

this meeting. AHA stated that he was offered a dirty napkin to sign in exchange for $10,000. AHA said that he signed the dirty napkin and was told by Mr Frank Houston that a cheque would be sent to him. He also said that Mr Frank Houston told him to contact Pastor Brian Houston if there was any problem.

AHA said that he later contacted Pastor Brian Houston, as ‘I had not yet received any money from Pastor Frank’. Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that he ‘spoke to my family’ to ensure that the money would be transferred to AHA.

AHA told the Royal Commission that he received a cheque in the post for $10,000 after speaking with Pastor Brian Houston. There was no correspondence with the cheque.

2.3 Response of the Assemblies of God in Australia New South Wales State Executive member learns of the sexual abuse

On 4 November 1998, Pastor Taylor met with Mr Mudford and Pastor McMartin, who was at that time a member of the New South Wales State Executive, to discuss the allegations raised by AHA’s mother against Mr Frank Houston. Pastor Taylor said that at this meeting Pastor McMartin was told that there were allegations of child sexual abuse against a senior pastor. However, he was not told that AHA was the victim or that Mr Frank Houston was the perpetrator.

Pastor Taylor said that Pastor McMartin suggested taking the allegations to Pastor Brian Houston, who was the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia at the time. However, Pastor Taylor did not take the allegations to Pastor Brian Houston because ‘it was his father, he was loved by everybody and I only had one case I knew about to go on’.

On 19 May 1999, Pastor Taylor wrote to Pastor McMartin stating that AHA and Mr Frank Houston had been in contact, but that AHA put the matter on hold, as he was too upset. The letter did not name AHA or Mr Frank Houston. The letter went on to state that:

I wanted you to know that we didn’t just ‘sit’ on the matter but have tried unsuccessfully to bring this matter to some sort of conclusion …

No evidence was provided to the Royal Commission to show that Pastor McMartin replied to the letter. Pastor McMartin said he could not remember receiving the letter.

Pastor Taylor gave evidence that she next spoke with Pastor McMartin on 16 September 1999. She wrote a letter to Pastor McMartin on the same day, stating that the incident occurred ‘30 years ago whilst Mr Frank Houston was sharing his bedroom whilst here in ministry from New Zealand’. The letter named AHA and Mr Frank Houston. The letter also stated:

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

Thank you for making it clear to me that the Assemblies of God have a structure in place that can and will deal with such allegations. I will convey this to [AHA] and ask him if he wants to pursue the matter further for healing of both parties.

Pastor Taylor told the Royal Commission that, at this stage, it was her understanding that the Assemblies of God in Australia would respond. She thought the response would include disciplinary action against Mr Frank Houston and counselling for AHA.

Pastor McMartin said that he did not receive the letter but accepted that the meeting took place.128 However, he said only Mr Frank Houston’s name was provided.

When Pastor McMartin learned that the perpetrator was Mr Frank Houston, he said that he told Pastor Taylor to tell the victim that the complaints process could not begin until a written complaint was made in accordance with the Administration Manual.

Pastor McMartin also said that, as he had not received a written complaint, he did not attempt to continue the process under the Administration Manual even though he knew the allegations were of child sexual abuse – a criminal offence.

When Pastor McMartin was told that the victim was AHA, he said that he contacted a member of the National Executive, Pastor Alcorn, for advice. Pastor McMartin believed this conversation occurred at the end of October 1999 and said that Pastor Alcorn decided that the allegations would need to be raised with Pastor Brian Houston.

Pastor McMartin said that he and Pastor Alcorn spoke to Pastor Brian Houston about the allegations about two weeks later and that Pastor Brian Houston appeared to be in shock.

Pastor McMartin told the Royal Commission that, at this stage, it was his understanding that the National Executive would undertake its own investigations136 and that members of the New South Wales State Executive could not continue the process under the Administration Manual, as the complaint had not been put in writing.

National Executive learns of the sexual abuse

Pastor Brian Houston stated that he first learned about the allegation against his father in late October 1999, when the Business Manager of Hills Christian Life Centre, Mr George Aghajanian, told him about it. Earlier that day, Mr Mudford had told Mr Aghajanian that there was an allegation of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston.

Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that, at the time of being informed, he had no doubt that the allegation of child molestation against his father, if true, was criminal conduct.

Pastor Brian Houston decided to confront Mr Frank Houston, who was then overseas, when he returned. In the meantime, he said he spoke with AHA’s mother about the allegation, but not with AHA because he had been warned that AHA was in a ‘brittle condition’.

In mid-November 1999, Pastor Brian Houston confronted his father. Pastor Brian Houston gave evidence that Mr Frank Houston confessed to him that he had fondled AHA’s genitals on one occasion and that he had been in contact with AHA and paid him a sum of money. Pastor Brian Houston said he may have taken notes at the time, but he could not locate these notes for the public

On 28 November 1999, Pastor Brian Houston met with pastors Taylor and McMartin. Taylor’s notes of the meeting record that: Frank Houston had confessed to a lesser incident than the truthful one but it was further than I had been able to get Frank said it was a ‘one of’ [sic] incident (which I did not and do not believe)

Brian said he and his family were in shock and that his father would be stood down from preaching. They would do it wisely

I said that [AHA] should receive counselling organised and paid for by the AOG [Assemblies of God in Australia]”
I said there was a possibility that [AHA] would go to court. l had told [AHA] that I would not stand with him in court unless the Church refused to deal with the matter Brian said he had spoken to a barrister who had told him that if it goes to court his father would surely be incarcerated for the crime.

Pastor Houston from preaching. He gave evidence that Mr Frank Houston was ‘stood down instantly’ and that Mr Frank Houston ‘never, ever preached again anywhere after I confronted him in my office in mid to late November 1999’. However, Pastor Taylor’s records show that Mr Frank Houston continued to preach in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory on 4 and 5 December 1999.

When questioned about whether there was a formal document that exists for the suspension of Mr Frank Houston’s credential, Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that it ‘possibly’ does not exist. He said that, in 1999, ‘there possibly [was] a requirement’ for the suspension to be formalised into a written notice, but, in respect of recording Mr Frank Houston’s suspension in a written notice, he said he ‘failed to do so’.

Pastor Brian Houston and the Australian Christian Churches provided no written evidence recording the suspension of Mr Frank Houston’s credential to the Royal Commission.

Pastor McMartin told the Royal Commission that when he suspends the credential of a pastor his process includes informing the pastor of the suspension and confirming this in an email. The email is the written document that is kept in the New South Wales State Executive’s files. He said that the New South Wales State Executive then investigates, and any suspension of credentials requires the permission of the National President.

Brian Houston stated that, by the time this meeting took place, he had suspended Mr Frank Houston.

No other evidence was provided by the Australian Christian Churches to the Royal Commission as to the process for suspending the credentials of pastors or ministers within the movement.

Meeting of the National Executive

On 22 December 1999, Pastor Brian Houston called for a Special Executive Meeting of the Assemblies of God in Australia. National Vice-President Pastor John Lewis, Pastor Alcorn and six others attended the meeting, including Pastor Keith Ainge, National Secretary of the Assemblies of God in Australia at the time, who took the minutes.

Pastor Brian Houston opened the meeting as Chair and announced that the meeting was called to consider child sexual abuse allegations against his father. He told the executive members that his father had confessed to a single act of child sexual abuse 30 years ago and that the now adult victim did not want to make a formal complaint. He did not name AHA at this meeting.

Pastor Brian Houston gave evidence that it was suggested at the meeting that he step down as Chair because of his personal relationship with Mr Frank Houston and because of his emotional state. However, he remained in the room throughout the meeting. Pastor Ainge gave evidence that:

Brian Houston chaired the meeting as he normally would, but immediately mentioned that this was in relation to his father and it was inappropriate for him to be the chair, and he asked John Lewis to take the chair, which he did immediately.

The minutes of the meeting record the decisions of the National Executive that:

  • Mr Frank Houston’s credential be withdrawn ‘forthwith’
  • Mr Frank Houston would be placed under the supervision of the New South Wales Superintendent, Mr Ian Woods
  • Mr Frank Houston would refrain from public ministry for 12 months and would not receive his credential until the New South Wales Superintendent recommended restoration, which could occur only after two years
  • Pastor Brian Houston would convey these decisions to Mr Frank Houston
  • Pastor Brian Houston would meet with the complainant and explain the discipline and restoration process, offer counselling, and tell the complainant that his identity had been kept confidential
  • the Assemblies of God in Australia movement would not be notified of the disciplinary action, in line with the restoration policy [referred to as ‘Admission to a Program of Rehabilitation’ in the Administration Manual and discussed at chapter 1.6 of this report].160The minutes also record that Mr Frank Houston would be invited to enter the ‘Assemblies of God [in Australia] restoration program’.
 Pastor Ainge accepted that the invitation to enter program of rehabilitation was a breach of the Administration Manual.

However, Pastor Ainge said that Mr Frank Houston would have to apply and be approved for the rehabilitation program. Although Mr Frank Houston never made an application, Pastor Ainge said that ‘approval would never have been granted’ because the Administration Manual prohibited the rehabilitation of paedophiles.

The Complaints Procedure at the time required:

  • the National Executive to appoint an independent contact person to contact AHA
  • the State or National Executive members to interview AHA.
    It also required State or National Executive members be appointed to interview Mr Frank Houston. Pastor Ainge accepted that none of those things were done. No evidence was presented to the Royal Commission that they were done subsequently.Mr Frank Houston gave up preaching altogether and retired in late 2000. At a Special Meeting of Elders of the Church held on 29 November 2000, Mr Frank Houston’s retirement was recorded in the minutes as a resignation. Pastor Brian Houston said his father was ‘asked to leave Hillsong Church, technically’.The minutes of the Special Meeting of Elders record that Mr Frank Houston was also provided with a retirement package, which included financial support for him and his wife. It was also noted in the minutes that ‘a simple announcement concerning Frank’s retirement would be sufficient at this stage’ and that the announcement would be done while ‘[Frank and his wife Hazel] are on vacation in New Zealand during January’. Despite having knowledge that Mr Frank Houston admitted to sexually abusing AHA, the National Executive allowed Mr Frank Houston to publicly resign, without damage to his reputation or the reputation of Hillsong Church.We conclude that, in handling AHA’s allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston, the New South Wales State Executive and, separately, the National Executive did not follow its Complaints Procedure as set out in its Administration Manual by failing to:
  • appoint a contact person for the complainant
  • interview the complainant to determine the precise nature of the allegations
  • have the State Executive or National Executive interview the alleged perpetrator
  • record any of the steps it took.

On 7 August 2000, the CCYP sent a letter to the Business Manager at Hillsong City Church acknowledging Hillsong City Church’s registration for a Working with Children Check. The letter stated that ‘It is important to remember that any completed relevant disciplinary proceedings must be reported to the [CCYP]’.

The requirement applied to all disciplinary proceedings, including those completed in the five years before the commencement of the Act in 2000.

At the time the letter was sent, Pastor Brian Houston was the Senior Pastor of both Sydney Christian Life Centre and Hills Christian Life Centre. Although Mr Frank Houston had resigned from his role as Senior Pastor of Sydney Christian Life Centre, he was still employed by Sydney Christian Life Centre with ‘the idea that he was going to be an itinerant’.

Counsel for Hillsong Church stated that neither Hillsong Church nor its predecessors (Sydney Christian Life Centre or Hills Christian Life Centre) reported any disciplinary proceedings against Mr Frank Houston to the CCYP.

In evidence given to the Royal Commission, Mr Aghajanian, the Business Manager of Hillsong Church, accepted that no report was made to the CCYP because the matter was overlooked due to a lack of understanding at the time in the context of complying with the comprehensive legislative child protection regime that came into force in and around the year 2000.

 

My comments: The following part of this Report is very relevant in respect to Brian Houston’s criminal actions.

The Report continued:

2.4 Pastor Brian Houston’s role.

Pastor Brian Houston did not report to police.

Despite Pastor Brian Houston’s evidence that he had no doubt that his father’s conduct was criminal, he made no attempt to report his father to the police at the time the confession was made to him.

Pastor Brian Houston said that, while he ‘knew, for the five years my father was still alive, there was every possibility that he would be charged’, he did not report his father to the police because AHA was 35 or 36 years of age.

Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that, during a telephone conversation with AHA in the weeks immediately after he became aware of the abuse, AHA indicated that he did not want to go public about the abuse or approach the police.

Evidence was also given to the Royal Commission that, at the Special Executive Meeting on 22 December 1999, there was discussion as to whether the National Executive was required to compulsorily report Mr Frank Houston’s conduct to the police.

Pastor Ainge stated that the National Executive took legal advice about its obligations. He said that the advice was that the National Executive was not legally required to report the incident to the police, as the complainant was of age and did not want the matter reported.

No evidence was provided by Pastor Brian Houston, or members of the National Executive who gave evidence to the Royal Commission, to demonstrate that the matter was ever brought to the attention of the police.

We are satisfied that, in 1999 and 2000, Pastor Brian Houston and the National Executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia did not refer the allegations of child sexual abuse against Mr Frank Houston to the police.

Conflict of interest

At the time that AHA’s allegations were raised, Pastor Brian Houston was the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

Pastor Brian Houston was also the Senior Pastor of Sydney Christian Life Centre (a position previously held by Mr Frank Houston) and Senior Pastor of Hills Christian Life Centre.

Outside of his professional capacity, Pastor Brian Houston was also Mr Frank Houston’s son.

The evidence presented to the Royal Commission demonstrated that Pastor Brian Houston acted in all of these roles in responding to AHA’s allegations.

Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that, upon hearing the allegations against Mr Frank Houston, he was shocked because ‘Frank is my father’. Pastor Brian Houston was determined to confront his father. After hearing his father’s confession, he took steps to investigate the allegations on behalf of:

  • the Assemblies of God in Australia, to which he later presented confirmation of the confession
  • the Sydney Christian Life Centre.
    While acting in his capacity as Senior Pastor of the Sydney Christian Life Centre, Pastor Brian Houston later ended Mr Frank Houston’s preaching career.In conversations with Pastor Taylor, Pastor Brian Houston said that he was acting in his role as either the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia or as Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church. Pastor Brian Houston described these conversations as having ‘nothing to do with being my father’s son’ and relating only to his ‘professional roles’. However, Pastor Brian Houston made no distinction about whether he was acting in his role as Senior Pastor or National President.When Pastor Brian Houston called AHA, he said he did so ‘as much because the abuse suffered by [AHA] was committed by my father as I did because I was President of the Australian Assemblies of God in Australia’.Pastor Brian Houston spoke a number of times during the hearing about the emotional trauma his father’s offending caused him and his highly emotional state during that time. It was clear that he was personally affected by the events.Pastor Ainge told the Royal Commission that the allegations had come to Pastor Brian Houston in all three of his different capacities but ‘principally’ as National President.Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that he did not think he had a conflict of interest because he never attempted to defend his father from the allegations and he acted swiftly to suspend his credential.
 We do not accept the views expressed by Pastor Brian Houston. There are two aspects to a conflict of interest – an actual conflict of interest and a potential or perceived conflict of interest.

An actual conflict of interest arises when a person’s private interests improperly influence the performance of that person’s professional duties and responsibilities. It is based on the actual things done.

A potential or perceived conflict of interest arises when a person’s private interests could be perceived as improperly influencing the performance of that person’s professional duties and responsibilities, regardless of whether or not that has occurred.

Pastor Brian Houston was Mr Frank Houston’s son. Regardless of whether Pastor Brian Houston’s actions were proper or appropriate, there always remained a public perception of a potential conflict of interest because of the personal relationship.

Pastor Brian Houston’s own evidence supports this finding. Pastor Brian Houston told the Royal Commission that, when another victim of Mr Frank Houston came forward, his brother, Mr Graeme Houston, handled the matter. It was not being handled by Pastor Brian Houston because of the ‘obvious conflict’ as Senior Pastor at Hillsong Church and because he was wearing ‘two hats’.

We consider that a conflict of interest first arose when Pastor Brian Houston decided to respond to the allegations by confronting his father while simultaneously maintaining his roles as National President and Senior Pastor.

The conflict of interest became more apparent when Pastor Brian Houston called the Special Executive Meeting on 22 December 1999 in his capacity as National President. Pastor Brian Houston accepted that it was suggested he was to stand down as Chair of the meeting due to his conflict
in being Mr Frank Houston’s son. However, despite acknowledging the conflict, Pastor Brian Houston remained in the room throughout the meeting.

At the meeting, the National Executive agreed that Pastor Brian Houston would communicate their decisions to Mr Frank Houston and to AHA. It is unclear in what capacity Pastor Brian Houston was to undertake these tasks. This meant, however, that Pastor Brian Houston was the National Executive’s only line of communication to both the perpetrator and the victim.

The conflict of interest became even more apparent when Mr Frank Houston met with AHA at McDonalds and told AHA to contact Pastor Brian Houston if there were any problems. Pastor Brian Houston said that he facilitated the payment when later called by AHA. He said that he did not inform the Special Executive Meeting about the payment because the payment of money to [AHA] had nothing to do with the National Executive, because I was adamant that this was not about Hillsong; this was not about the Australian Assemblies of God in Australia. This payment was between Frank and [AHA].

The By-Laws of the Assemblies of God in Australia require that the National Executive make decisions which ‘in its opinion, are necessary and beneficial to further the aims of the Assemblies of God in Australia’. The National President leads the National Executive and the National Conference, and is charged with ‘oversight of the work of the movement’.

In acting as National President, Pastor Brian Houston undertook to act for and in the interests of the Assemblies of God in Australia. Pastor Brian Houston agreed with the proposition that, in this position, he was responsible ‘for protecting and ensuring the proper investigation and independent resolution of allegations of child sexual abuse’. The official duties of a person in such a position require that they do not place themselves in a situation where their duties may conflict with other interests in their personal or professional life.

The interests of the Assemblies of God in Australia include the implementation of the movement’s policies and procedures, and the proper disciplining of its ministers. Any strong personal relationship between a minister and an executive member in charge of their disciplinary process would have constituted a potential conflict of interest for that executive member.

The evidence given to the Royal Commission shows that the National Executive departed from the policies and procedures set out in the Administration Manual, which should have governed the discipline of Mr Frank Houston. The National Executive:

  • did not appoint an independent contact person to communicate the disciplinary process to AHA and Mr Frank Houston
  • did not conduct a full interview with AHA to fully record his allegations
  • allowed the interview with Mr Frank Houston to be conducted by Pastor Brian Houstonand not the New South Wales State Executive or at least two delegated individuals from the State and/or District Executives.The departure from the Administration Manual was accepted by pastors Ainge, McMartin and Brian Houston.197We are satisfied a conflict of interest existed because Pastor Brian Houston was both National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia and Mr Frank Houston’s son.Pastor Brian Houston gave evidence that his presence at the Special Executive Meeting was not intended to influence the National Executive to act contrary to the Administration Manual.198 Despite not intending to influence the decisions made at the Special Executive Meeting, there remained a perception of a potential conflict of interest because of Pastor Brian Houston’s personal relationship with Mr Frank Houston.
 In addition, Pastor Ainge stated that the National Executive felt ‘pressure’ arising from ‘the fact that Frank Houston was a well-known, respected and appreciated member of the Assemblies of God in Australia’ and that he was a founding member of the Sydney Christian Life Centre, a very popular church.

Although the Australian Christian Churches has a current conflict of interest policy, Pastor Alcorn told the Royal Commission that the primary focus of the policy relates to purely financial matters. He said that, given it is common for family members to be involved in the senior ministry of the Church, the policy ‘should certainly be reviewed’ to address familial conflicts of interest. The same views were expressed to the Royal Commission by Mr Aghajanian.

We conclude that in 1999 members of the National Executive who attended the Special Executive Meeting did not follow their own policy, the Administration Manual, for handling allegations against pastors and ministers, and failed to recognise and respond to Pastor Brian Houston’s conflict of interest.

My comments:

This Report means that the situation for Brian Houston, in respect to him getting charged by the NSW Police with criminal offences in relation to protecting his father Frank Houston, has now moved to the next stage.

The criminal offences as listed in the above Royal Commission Report are:

  1. Not reporting his pedophile father Frank Houston to the Police immediately he found out he was a pedophile in 1999. I believe Brian knew his father was a pedophile at least a decade before 1999 but no one has given me firm evidence yet. Members of the New Zealand Assemblies of God Executive in the 1970s to 1990s might know or have evidence that Brian was notified that his father was accused of pedophile offences in New Zealand.
  2. Sheltering his dad for five years from 1999 until November 2004 when Frank Houston died.

If I was Brian I’d start thinking about how its going to be in jail and I’d start praying that the NSW Government starts improving the run-down conditions in NSW Prisons.

In some prisons there are three prisoners to a cell. One prisoner to hold the victim down while the third prisoner does what he wishes with the victim.

Another concern is that most prisoners haven’t had the benefit of an education much beyond Primary School. For them the terms “Pedophile” and “Pedophile Protector” mean the same thing.

Protective custody is an option but as Robert Hughes of the television series “Hey Dad” has found out, the other inmates still find ways to throw urine and faeces through or over the top of the prison yard internal fences as pedophiles walk by on their way to the protected custody exercise yard.

 

Former "Hey Dad" star and convicted pedophile Rober Hughes who is currently inside and doing it hard.

Former “Hey Dad” star and convicted pedophile Robert Hughes, who is currently inside and doing it hard. Crying in the protective custody yard after being bombed with cups of urine and faeces by regular prisoners who despise “rock spiders”. Rock spider is the Western Australian originated slang for pedophile, which is used in Australian jails.

 

Robert Hughes 3

Robert Hughes in his "Hey Dad" days.

Robert Hughes in his “Hey Dad” days.

Robert Hughes 5

 

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