Pastor Brian Houston's father, Frank Houston who founded Sydney Christian Life Centre, from which Houston jr founded Hills Christian Life Centre, which became the Hillsong of today was a self-confessed child sex offender. (so whenever Hillsong tries to distance themselves from him, it's in church name only)
The bravery of one of his victims, known only as AHA, lead to the appearance of Hillsong's representatives at Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a world first initiative from outgoing Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
This issue requires a section of this site devoted to that alone. But until that is up the key points are:
* Brian Houston has misled his congregation and lied about his father's actions, and his own and Hillsong's responses since first having to address it in 2001. He lied under oath at the Royal Commission that Frank was removed from ministry and never allowed to access children again.
* Senior prosecutors referred the failure of Brian Houston and Hillsong to report the matter to authorities, as well as his conflict of interest in handling his father's case, to the police. That was 2014. No action has been taken.
* The highest profile case that Hillsong has encountered was covered up, lied about, and only forced out under duress and because of this court case. This is all documented in minutes from their own meetings.
There is no evidence to suggest the culture, or the handling of cases, or the application of policy to reality, if policy exists at Hillsong, has changed.
Leaving young people and children in the care of Hillsong remains an incredibly dangerous course of action, because if this is how the most profile case was handled, we can only imagine how less powerful people, which is everybody else, has been treated should they report abuse.
The victims have not gone away. They are still waiting for police, and they haven't forgotten.
It's unlikely that the Royal Commission will be the end of this for Hillsong.
Soon after People in Glass Houses was released, I was contacted anonymously by a small group of frightened and traumatised women. They had been in a rehab facility which originated in the US and had been introduced to Australia through Darlene and Mark Zschech. In all of my time working with those who escaped Hillsong and its offshoot organisations, and in working as a social worker with people who've suffered trauma, I have personally never seen people as terrified and traumatised by treatment as these women were. And after having spent 9-12 months being told they were possessed by demons by the volunteers who worked with them, that result is unsurprising.
The program, which had started to help 'girls in trouble' , that is, pregnant, had expanded to offer services for women with eating disorders, psychological issues, and other trauma related conditions. They were promised professionals. They were given bible college students and exorcisms. For most participants, their symptoms worsened.
They very bravely gave their stories to the Sydney Morning Herald's Ruth Pollard, who conducted a thorough investigation, and by the end of 2009, Mercy Ministries had closed in Australia.
It rebranded in the US and is now known as Mercy Multiplied. However that's the only thing that has changed, and in a recent Slate report, the damage is still as extensive.
Here's my take on how Mercy Ministries was used by Hillsong to make more money. The human cost is irrelevant, and lives that were lost to suicide or overdose due to the abuse at the organisation are never counted.