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
Personal details
Born22 April 1922
Whanganui, New Zealand
Died8 November 2004
Sydney, Australia
Spouse(s)Hazel Scott
ChildrenBrian Houston and four others

William Francis "Frank" Houston (born 22 April 1922, Whanganui, New Zealand[1] – died 8 November 2004, Sydney, Australia), 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.[2] In the last years of his life, Frank Houston faced multiple allegations of child sexual abuse.[3][4][5]

Biography[edit]

Houston commenced ministry training as a Salvation Army officer shortly after turning 18. He married Hazel and they had five children. 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.

In 1977 Houston moved to Sydney, 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. Houston was known by those close to him in the church as "the Bishop",[6] 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.

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.

Sexual crimes against children[edit]

During Houston's tenure as lead of Assemblies of God in New Zealand from 1965 to 1977, he allegedly abused as many as nine young boys in New Zealand and Australia.[3][7][4] One victim in Sydney was routinely subjected to sexual abuse from the age of seven to 12.[8][9][10] In 1999, his mother reported the abuse to the church. At the time, Frank's son Brian Houston was the National President of the denomination Assemblies of God in Australia.[4] Upon hearing the report of the sexual abuse, Brian Houston immediately dismissed his father, forcing Frank Houston to quietly resign from the Sydney Christian Life Center with a pension.[3][5][11][9][2] By November 2000, internal church investigations had discovered several additional cases of child abuse.[10]:11:24 Although Brian Houston and the Assemblies of God executive council were legally obligated to report the crimes, they did not do so.[7][10]:6:30 Frank Houston made a payment of AU$10,000 to his victim.[5]

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.[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.[5]

Publication[edit]

Houston is the subject of the biography Being Frank (1989), authored by his wife Hazel.[15]

Death[edit]

Houston died at the aged 82 on 8 November 2004. Mourners at his funeral included the then federal MP for Greenway, Louise Markus, a member of Hillsong church, the federal MP for Mitchell, Alan Cadman and the Deputy Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione. Houston's wife, Hazel, had died 6 months earlier.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hazel Houston, Being Frank: The Frank Houston Story. London: Marshall Pickering, 1989, p24
  2. ^ a b c Stephen Gibbs (13 November 2004). "Hillsong farewells a lost sheep pioneer". Sydney Morning Herald. John Fairfax Holdings. Retrieved 21 June 2006.
  3. ^ a b c Davidson, Helen (8 October 2014). "Hillsong leader's father 'still preached after suspension for sex abuse'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Zhou, Naaman (19 November 2018). "Sexual abuse victim pursues Hillsong's Brian Houston over crimes of his father". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Danny Nalliah / Philip Powell (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.
  7. ^ a b Davidson, Helen (7 October 2014). "Hillsong founder 'told man his father sexually abused it was victim's fault'". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ a b c Victim of Hillsong Church founder's father says childhood was destroyed by sexual abuse. 60 Minutes Australia. 19 November 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Interview with Brian Houston". Australian Story. ABC Online. 1 August 2005. Archived from the original on 3 August 2005. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  12. ^ Marr, David (3 August 2007). "Hillsong - the church with no answers". 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. ^ Houston, Hazel (1989). Being Frank (1 ed.). Marshall Pickering. ISBN 9780551018860. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
Preceded by
R Read
General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand
1967–1977
Succeeded by
Jim Williams