Frank Houston

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Frank Houston
8th General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand
In office
December 1965 – June 1977
Preceded byR R Read
Succeeded byJim Williams
Senior Pastor, Sydney Christian Life Centre
In office
June 1977 – 10 May 1999
Preceded bynew title
Succeeded byBrian and Bobbie Houston
Personal details
Born(1922-04-22)22 April 1922
Whanganui, New Zealand
Died8 November 2004(2004-11-08) (aged 82)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
SpouseHazel Scott
ChildrenBrian Houston and four others

William Francis "Frank" Houston (22 April 1922 – 8 November 2004) was a Pentecostal Christian pastor in the Assemblies of God in New Zealand and Australia. Frank Houston founded Sydney Christian Life Centre, which would eventually come under the leadership of his son Pastor Brian Houston before merging into Hillsong Church. In the last years of his life, Frank Houston faced multiple allegations of child sexual abuse.

Biography[edit]

Houston was born in Whanganui, New Zealand, on 22 April 1922.[1] He commenced ministry training as a Salvation Army officer shortly after turning 18. He married Hazel and they had five children, including Brian. The couple transferred their allegiance to the Baptist church, and later to the Assemblies of God in New Zealand. Houston initially attended the Ellerslie Assembly in 1960, but later transferred to the Lower Hutt Assemblies of God, and served as the superintendent of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand from 1965 to 1971.[citation needed]

In 1977, Houston moved to Sydney, Australia, and founded the Sydney Christian Life Centre in "Sherbrooke Hall" in Double Bay, which was not affiliated with any denomination in its first decade, but then became an Assemblies of God church. With further growth it moved to Darlinghurst, and then warehouse premises in the inner Sydney suburb of Waterloo, which housed a 600-seat auditorium, a Bible and Creative Arts College, and many other ministry arms.[citation needed] Houston was known by those close to him in the church as "the Bishop",[2] not as an official title but as a humorous reference to mainstream churches. He was also involved in over twenty Christian Life Centres being opened throughout New South Wales and overseas. Houston served as pastor at his church for more than two decades, and in senior positions within the Assemblies of God in Australia.[citation needed]

In 1999, after consultation amongst senior pastoral staff of the church, and the staff of Hills Christian Life Centre, a daughter church pastored by his son Brian, the churches were merged to become the Hillsong Church.[citation needed]

Sexual crimes against children[edit]

During Houston's tenure as lead of Assemblies of God in New Zealand from 1965 to 1977, he abused many young boys in New Zealand and Australia.[3][4][5] He routinely sexually abused one victim in Sydney from the ages of 7 to 12.[6][7][8] In 1999, the boy's mother reported the abuse to the church. At the time, Houston's son, Brian, was the National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia organisation.[5] Upon hearing the report of the sexual abuse, Brian Houston immediately dismissed his father, forcing him to quietly resign from the Sydney Christian Life Centre with a pension.[3][9][10][7][11] By November 2000, internal church investigations had discovered several additional cases of child abuse.[8]: 11:24  Although Brian Houston and the Assemblies of God executive council were legally obligated to report the crimes, they did not do so.[4][8]: 6:30  Frank Houston made a payment of A$10,000 to his victim.[9]

In August 2007, further allegations emerged that Houston had sexually abused a trainee pastor during counselling sessions in the early 1980s.[12]

On 8 October 2014 Brian Houston admitted to a Sydney hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that his father was guilty of other cases of sexual abuse against children.[13] Brian Houston further expressed regret at not having reported his father to the police when he learned of the abuse in 1999, but noted that other senior members of the church had also known and also did nothing. One of the reasons why they chose not to go to the police was because one of the victims requested they not report it.[14] The Royal Commission censured Brian Houston for his failure to report the sexual abuse allegations against his father and for his failure to avoid a clear conflict of interest, investigating his own father while serving as National President of the Assemblies of God in Australia.[9]

In 2015, the royal commission examined allegations that accused Brian Houston of concealing his father's crimes and censured him for failing to report his father to the police.[9][8]: 12:30 

In November 2018, 60 Minutes aired a segment revisiting the sexual abuse scandal, because newly revealed documentation allegedly reveals that Brian Houston was deeply involved in a cover-up and that Houston's abusive behaviour was worse than initially thought.[8] Brian Houston allegedly used his position within the Assemblies of God in Australia organisation to conceal his father's serial child sexual abuse.[8] The matter was referred to the New South Wales Police Force, which confirmed that Brian Houston was under criminal investigation for failing to report a serious crime.[5][8]: 14:01  Following the 60 Minutes story, Hillsong released a statement in response to the allegations.[6]

On 5 August 2021, NSW Police issued a warrant for Brian Houston to attend the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on 5 October, alleging that he concealed child sexual abuse by his late father, Frank. Brian Houston was in the United States at the time of being charged.[15]

At the October 5 2021 mention, Brian Houston's lawyer said her client intended to plead not guilty.[16] Prosecution also stated, "Whereas in 1970 Frank Houston committed a serious indictable offence, namely indecent assault of a male, Brian Houston between 15 September 1999 and 9 November 2004 at Baulkham Hills and elsewhere in the state of NSW, believing that Frank Houston committed that offence and knowing that he had information that might be of material assistance in securing the prosecution of Frank Houston for that offence, without reasonable excuse, failed to bring that information to the attention of NSW Police".[17]

A new court date was set for January 2022.[citation needed]

Death[edit]

Houston died in Sydney on 8 November 2004, aged 82 years. Mourners at his funeral included politicians Louise Markus (a member of Hillsong Church) and Alan Cadman, and Andrew Scipione, the Deputy Commissioner of Police. Houston's wife, Hazel, had died six months earlier.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Houston, Hazel (1989). Being Frank: The Frank Houston Story. London: Marshall Pickering. p. 24
  2. ^ Nalliah, Danny; Powell, Philip (13 July 2007). "Pentecostal Disgrace - Catch the Fire Honouring the Late Frank Houston". Christian Witness Ministries. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b Davidson, Helen (8 October 2014). "Hillsong leader's father 'still preached after suspension for sex abuse'". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b Davidson, Helen (7 October 2014). "Hillsong founder 'told man his father sexually abused it was victim's fault'". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Zhou, Naaman (19 November 2018). "Sexual abuse victim pursues Hillsong's Brian Houston over crimes of his father". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b Hayes, Liz (19 November 2018). "60 Minutes: Victim of Hillsong Church founder's pedophile father says childhood was destroyed by sexual abuse". Nine News. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b Box, Dan (9 October 2014). "Father of Hillsong founder given 'retirement package' after child abuse". The Australian. News Corp Australia. Frank Houston's resignation letter to the City Hillsong Church in November 2000 makes no mention of the allegations. "I hereby wish to tender my resignation ... as I feel it is time for (his wife) Hazel and I to enter retirement", says the letter.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Victim of Hillsong Church founder's father says childhood was destroyed by sexual abuse. 60 Minutes Australia. 19 November 2018. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Browne, Rachel (23 November 2015). "Royal Commission sex abuse inquiry censures Hillsong head Brian Houston". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Interview with Brian Houston". Australian Story. ABC Online. 1 August 2005. Archived from the original on 3 August 2005. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  11. ^ a b Gibbs, Stephen (13 November 2004). "Hillsong farewells a lost sheep pioneer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 June 2006.
  12. ^ Marr, David (3 August 2007). "Hillsong - the church with no answers". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 March 2007.
  13. ^ Fife-Yeomans, Janet (7 October 2014). "Hillsong church leader slams paedophile father William Francis 'Frank' Houston as 'repulsive' at child sex abuse royal commission". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  14. ^ McClellan, Ben (12 October 2014). "Hillsong leader Brian Houston breaks silence on paedophile father: 'It was wrong not to report him'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  15. ^ Hunter, Fergus; Smith, Alexandra; Chung, Laura (5 August 2021). "Hillsong pastor Brian Houston charged for allegedly concealing child sexual abuse by his father". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Lawyer: Hillsong founder to deny concealing abuse in court". ABC News. 5 October 2021. Retrieved 2 February 2022.
  17. ^ Ferri, Lauren (27 January 2022). "New development in Hillsong founder Brian Houston's court case". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 15 August 2022.

Further reading[edit]

Assemblies of God titles
Preceded by
R Read
General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand
1967–1977
Succeeded by
New title Senior Pastor, Sydney Christian Life Centre
1977–1999
Succeeded by