Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston announced on Sunday he was “completely” stepping down from church leadership as he prepares to defend himself against a concealing child sex abuse charge.
Houston, 67, was charged last August after being accused of knowing his preacher father, Frank Houston, allegedly abused a boy in the 1970’s, but did not come forward with the information to police and instead allowed him to retire quietly.
“These allegations came as a shock to me, and it is my intention to vigorously defend them,” Houston said in a statement on the Hillsong website.
During a board meeting in December, Houston was advised by Hillsong’s external legal counsel that it would be best to step aside during court proceedings, according to the statement.
“I have said, including in a prior statement, that I intend to fight the charge and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight,” he said.
Houston and his wife, Bobbie, founded Hillsong Church in Australia in 1983. For nearly four decades the church has grown to have locations in 30 countries with celebrity attendees, but not without controversy.
Former Hillsong Church pastor Carl Lentz was fired in Nov. 2021 after Houston said he displayed leadership issues and narcissistic behavior in an exclusive interview with “Today.” Lentz had relationships with celebrities including Justin Bieber, who once lived at his home.
“I have reflected many, many times, and I’m acknowledging that mistakes have been made and that there are things where we need to get far better, much better. I’m not shrinking back from that,” Houston said during the interview.
Houston has been based in the U.S. in recent months and he and his wife plan to remain “fully engaged in church life.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston steps down to fight concealing child sex abuse charge