Hillsong Church founder steps down to prepare defence against Australian charges
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston said on Sunday he is stepping down from all ministry responsibilities to prepare to "vigorously defend" against Australian police charges that he concealed sex abuse of a young man in the 1970s.
In August, the 67-year-old Houston was charged with concealing child sex abuse by his late father, Frank Houston, an allegation he strenuously denied.
"These allegations came as a shock to me, and it is my intention to vigorously defend them," Houston said in a statement on Hillsong's website.
Houston said that as the result of the situation with his father and the impact it had on him emotionally, Hillsong's board felt it was in the church' best interest for him step down.
"So, I have agreed to step aside from all ministry responsibilities until the end of the year," Houston said, adding that the court processes are likely to take up most of 2022. "I intend to fight the charge and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight."
The police said last year that Houston knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police.
Hillsong's website says Houston founded the church with his wife, Bobbie, in Australia in 1983, in the western suburbs of Sydney. Now it has churches in 30 countries with a global weekly attendance of 150,000.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly. Editing by Gerry Doyle)