Hillsong founder Brian Houston says megachurch is ‘losing its soul’ after making his wife redundant | Hillsong Church



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Hillsong founder Brian Houston has accused the megachurch of “losing her soul” and says his wife was fired by the church board “without her own choice”.

Houston last month resigned from the megachurch he founded in Sydney two decades ago after an internal investigation found he had engaged in inappropriate conduct of “serious concern” with two women.

Late on Friday, Houston shared a screenshot to Instagram that appears to show a text message his wife, Bobbie, received from Hillsong’s management notifying her of the change in her employment.

“Dear Bobbie, I just wanted to text you to let you know that I will be emailing you shortly regarding your employment. Let me know if you’d like to talk about it or have any questions,” the text read.

A text from a second person says, “I don’t even have words to express how cold and insensitive this has all become.”

The Hillsong website lists Bobbie Houston as the movement’s co-global senior pastor.

Brian Houston posted the screenshot of the text exchange with a caption attacking the church.

“After 39 years of exemplary service and extraordinary fidelity and fruitfulness, this is the communication Bobbie received from the Hillsong Church board for being fired (effective immediately) without her choice,” wrote Brian Houston.

“This just 3 weeks after she organized her 26th year of Color Conferences. (A total of 118 conferences around the world.) She has served God relentlessly and served people as she stood side by side with me for four decades leading Hillsong Church, faithfully through good and hard times.

“And we’re supposed to act like this is all okay. It’s not! Our beautiful church is losing its soul.”

Photo: Instagram

Hillsong’s Color Conference is the megachurch’s annual women’s conference.

Hillsong responds

A Hillsong spokesperson referred Guardian Australia to an email sent by the church board to all Hillsong attendees on Saturday afternoon, in which leaders claimed that resignation had been discussed with Bobbie Houston on March 28 — seven days after her husband stepped down — when the board met with both Houstons for “discussions about the separation of their major roles and responsibilities”.

The board also said Brian Houston sent an email after the meeting expressing “a strong desire to continue ministering with Bobbie in the coming years.”

In its email to churchgoers on Saturday, the board said: “Yesterday, a follow-up email was sent to Bobbie by a member of the Australian board outlining the resignation plan that was part of our discussions at the previous meeting.

“Before the email was sent, the board member texted her to offer the option of a phone call after receiving the email. The wish was to show genuine concern and open the possibility for further discussion.

“Brian responded by making his feelings public on social media. This has been interpreted and reported that the Hillsong sign has “made its role obsolete by text,” which is incorrect.”

The Hillsong Board went on to say: “This is a very heartbreaking situation for all of us at Hillsong Church who are so honored to have served alongside Brian and Bobbie”, and that “we are saddened by Brian’s public response and hope he and Bobbie will understand the heart behind the decisions.”

The Houstons founded Hillsong in 1983 in Sydney’s western suburbs, with churches now in 30 countries and an average worldwide attendance of 150,000 per week, according to the website.

Houston’s resignation in March followed an apology from the church days earlier over charges of inappropriate behavior towards two women.

The Church’s global board said in a statement that Houston had violated Hillsong’s code of conduct in two incidents in the past decade.

“Unfortunately, in the past 10 years, we’ve had to deal with two complaints filed against Pastor Brian,” the Church’s global board said.

The board said the first incident happened “about a decade ago” in which “inappropriate text messages” were sent from Houston to a staff member, “causing the employee to resign.”

“At the time, Reverend Brian was under the influence of sleeping pills, on which he had become dependent,” the statement said. The board said it “worked with Pastor Brian to ensure that he received professional help to eliminate his dependence on this drug, and this was successfully accomplished”.

The second investigation involved a complaint received by the Church in 2019 about behavior that Hillsong attributed to medication and alcohol.

“After an in-depth investigation, it was found that Pastor Brian became disoriented after a session at the Hillsong conference, after consuming an anti-anxiety medication above the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol,” the global board statement said. “This resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that did not belong to him, entering this room and spending time with the female resident.”

An investigation launched by the global board of directors found that Houston had violated Hillsong Pastor’s code of conduct.

After that investigation, Houston stepped down from the Hillsong leadership.

Guardian Australia contacted Brian Houston and Bobbie Houston for comment.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

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