Pastor Brian Houston, whose name is synonymous with the Hillsong megachurch, has stepped aside from virtually all his directorships in Hillsong entities in a major corporate overhaul before he is due to face criminal charges of concealment early next month.
Crikey has established that Houston’s name has been removed from 18 of 19 Hillsong entities which are registered as charities with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC).
ASIC records show Houston resigned as a director of Hillsong Church Ltd, one of the original entities, from August 17, 12 days after being charged by NSW Police with concealing information on the crime of child sex abuse committed by his father, Frank Houston, in the early 1970s.
The McClellan royal commission heard that Houston had become aware in 1999 of the crime and had failed to pass on the information to police at the time. Houston has consistently asserted that he was respecting the victim’s wishes.
A friend and mentor to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Houston has been a fixture on the boards of Hillsong entities — in some cases for more than two decades. Over that period Hillsong has grown exponentially from its base in Sydney’s north-west to become a global phenomenon.
As registered charities the entities are exempt from an array of taxes.
Hillsong has made no public announcement of Houston’s move or the reason for it.
As Crikey reported, it is possible Houston would be ineligible to be a company director should he be convicted of the crime of concealment, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ jail.
Houston’s case is listed for hearing in a magistrate’s court in Sydney on October 5. Houston has said he will return from the United States to appear in court and will vigorously defend the charge.
Hillsong has also been under siege from the media in the US and the UK. And this weekend Australia’s 60 Minutes is set to air allegations of sexual harassment and assault from two young women.