Brian Houston speaks out: ‘Humbled but not disgraced’

Brian Houston at James River Assembly, August 2022

Hillsong’s founding pastor Brian Houston has spoken of loss, blame, hurt and “getting back up again” in a short video live on Facebook and Instagram.

“Hi there. I pray that you are doing well and that you can see God working for you in every circumstance.

“Bobbie and I have certainly been tested in that this year. And tested too in exhortations like 1 Thessalonians 5:13 which says ‘In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’

“I actually thought it was time, months since my abrupt resignation from Hillsong Church, to bring some clarification from our perspective to the events surrounding my resignation, after the current narrative.

“I am speaking especially to the congregation of Hillsong Church. Who we love so much. I am not going to talk too much about the experiences over the past 12 months with the current leadership, with the church board or with the now-defunct leadership of Hillsong. That may be a conversation for another time.

“But this conversation is bringing perspective to the stories surrounding my resignation, Bobbie’s termination and I guess our experiences.

“So I guess I will start with my resignation. On March the 21st, 2022, in unison with Bobbie I made the hardest decision of my life. and that was to offer my resignation to the Hillsong Church Board, after pioneering the church in 1983, and giving 39 years of service.

“I guess a big part of me hoped the board knowing the pressure I was under would reject my offer and continue to fight for me but that was not to be.

“We certainly did not want to just abandon the Hillsong congregation. As some have suggested. We adore the people of Hillsong Church. And to be honest, we miss you terribly. I’ve often said the real goal at Hillsong Church, it’s not the music, the lights and all those external things, the true goal is the people.

“We’ve been through utter grief this year as we come to grips with all that has happened and the overwhelming sense of loss. So much and so many we have loved and given our whole life to has been ripped away from us. We would have loved the opportunity to have said a proper goodbye to the Hillsong congregation. But sadly, to date, that opportunity has not been afforded to us.

“I want to be clear. The media and others incorrectly say I resigned because I breached the Hillsong code of conduct. 

“But that’s just not true. I didn’t resign because of my mistakes. I resigned because of the announcements and statements that have been made, which Bobby and I felt made my position untenable. And I spelled out my reasons for my resignation and my resignation letter to the Hillsong Church Board.

“Here are some excerpts that I’ll read from my letter to the board. And please know, I didn’t see the board’s statement on March 18th until after it was made public. It was sent to Hillsong’s global database. So in direct quotes from my resignation letter, I said, ‘The board’s statement to the church has made my position untenable. The board gave enough detail to allow people’s imaginations to run wild and draw their own conclusions. The statement did nothing to add my perspective.’

“So understand I’m reading my resignation letter, just portions of it. So further on, I said, ‘The statements that have been made have left me with no choice but to end our time as pastors and leaders of Hillsong Church.’ 

“And then in another part of my resignation letter, I said, ‘Thank you for the opportunity. It has been an honour, and I can truthfully say, Hillsong Church is our life’s work. I have no intention of retiring, and in the future, we’ll still be in ministry, whatever that looks like and wherever that is. My hope is that I could have an active role as founding pastor of our church.’

“That’s what I wrote to the board, and that’s the resignation that the board were quick to accept. Sadly, in the statements and announcements made, [by the Board] there was enough detail, for ultimate shame and humiliation of me, but enough ambiguity to leave people to make their own conclusions about what did or didn’t happen.

“Frankly, in many cases, those conclusions are wrong.

“In my heart-felt apology to the people of Hillsong Church and to the church at large, I spoke about alcohol as having not proven itself to be my friend. But sadly, that has built a narrative out there that I’m an alcoholic and of stories about my ‘alcoholism’ that are the result of gossip and whispering and innuendo. 

“The narrative that I’m an alcoholic is false. In fact, I’ve been told by an expert therapist that I do not display the behaviours that are typical of an alcoholic. My apology was about the specific incidents of which the board are aware. Incidents which were, unbecoming for a minister of the Gospel.

“So before we go any further, let me make something sincerely clear. I am deeply sorry for the people I’ve hurt.

“And then prescription medication: It was in the early 2000s, with my constant global travel and the stress I was under, I became dependent on sleeping tablets, which I’ve spoken about openly many times, including in my book Live Love Lead. But let me be clear, the last time I took a single sleeping tablet was over ten years ago. And even though I’ve continued to travel widely, I haven’t taken even one sleeping tablet for a decade. It’s not an ongoing problem.

“And the notorious night in 2019, where I mixed a double dose of anti-anxiety tablets with alcohol was a one-off occasion. It happened once. It hadn’t happened before and it hasn’t happened since. So I don’t have an ongoing problem with anti-anxiety tablets or any other prescription medication. And I respectfully ask you to please not label me that way or blindly accept that narrative.

“So in January, I announced to the church that I was stepping aside for 12 months. So our departure from Hillsong was actually a progression. When over 12 months ago, I was charged with a crime that I’m yet to defend and that I will fight, I was told I would need to step down as chairman of the board, which I did. Then later I was told I could no longer be on the board. So I stepped aside, and that was followed a couple of months later when I was told I needed to step back from all ministry for 12 months until my court case had been settled. 

“And then eventually I believe I was squeezed out altogether. Please know I, I know some people don’t understand why I’m preaching. After I read a prepared statement to the church on January the 31st, which was approved by the board and indicated that I would step aside for 12 months and now within that 12-month period, I’m travelling and speaking again. But it wasn’t my choice to step aside from preaching and leading. It was a requirement of my employers. And of course, sadly, I’m no longer an employee of Hillsong Church. And from December the fifth, 2021, the last time I preached at Hillsong Church, it was nine months of not standing on a platform or speaking publicly at all. But at the end of August, I started speaking of various cities every week in the USA, which has been a rich tonic for my soul. 

“We’re so grateful for the openness and embrace we’ve received from so many within the body of Christ all over the globe. Bobbie and I have made no firm decisions on what our future may look like, but I’m believing for an extremely fruitful next decade. We’re holding on to scripture I’ve used multiple times to encourage others. ‘Being confident of this very thing, He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.’ Philippians chapter one, verse six.

“I think the hardest part to understand for Bobbie and I, and the most difficult part has been the loss of relationships. It’s been quite heartbreaking for us both, is some people have just disappeared out of our lives. But then I must say we’re also thankful to God for the many who have proven themselves to be the brothers who were born for adversity or the friends that stick closer than a brother that the Bible speaks about. 

And we’re grateful for the immense support we’ve received from pastors and from the body of Christ, as I said, all over the world. Well, Bobbie is a beautiful woman and a woman of immense integrity. And of course, she’s done absolutely nothing wrong. But a marcher was leading what was her 110th global Color Conferences over 26 years. She’s hosted 110 conferences with hundreds of thousands, perhaps even into [the] millions of people range. And as she spoke and led online at the year’s conference with tens of thousands of delegates and with so many people around her. To then find herself ostracised just three short weeks later. And the lack of support that she’s received since then has been devastating for her.

“Well, let me talk a bit about the future. Bobbie and I before my resignation were praying about the future at Hillsong Church and when would be a good time to transition into more of a founding pastor role on August the 14th, 2023. 

“It would be 40 years since we founded our church and we were depositing into Peter and Laura Toganivalu, Peter and Laura Togs in terms of potentially overseeing Hillsong Australia in the future. Our plans and what, to be honest, I believe was God’s will was not necessarily something that we had shared with Peter and Laura [inaudible] but they’d be maturing so beautifully and clearly gifted and talented, and I think they’re anointed.

“And Bobbie also dreamed of Laura continuing the mission of Color Conferences and the Color sisterhood, as she clearly carries Bobby’s DNA. But of course, outside of a miracle, I guess that’s not likely to happen now. Color was Bobby’s vision. It was her revelation, it was her initiative and it carried her DNA. So finally, we are so grateful for our three adult children and their families who have remained resolute during this season. 

“Even though to a point, they’ve all also been profoundly impacted by the events of 2022. As I guess happens in seasons like this, there’s so much false narrative, gossip, speculation, and all sorts of rumours out there. Not just about me actually, but even to a point, judgmental attitudes toward a family.

“I believe Bobbie and I are the same people. We have always been loving Jesus, loving people, and in the midst of the storm committed to getting back to loving life every time, naturally speaking, every time in my life I have tripped up and I’m clumsy. So there’s been quite a few times I’ve entered dust myself off and get back up again. And that’s how I always want to live my life. If I get knocked down, I’m committed to getting up again. And you remember the fundamental scripture in Romans 3 23 for all have said, and four, all of us are fallen falls short of the glory of God. 

“You and I are fallen, but because of Jesus, that’s not the label you wear. And I refuse to carry those labels any more than anyone else. I’m flawed. I’ve been humbled, but I’m not living fallen and I’m not living disgraced. I’m living as a child of God with my head held high chosen, called, graced, and with a God-given future and hope.

“So, thank you to all those around the world who have shown Bobby and I, nothing but love and grace and thank you to our family for your love and your unconditional support. So many people have opinions about what I should or shouldn’t be doing in this season. That’s human nature. But I want you to know we are submitted to two mature and seasoned spiritual leaders who have been a blessing to us in this season, and it’s their council and their advice that I’m following. So God bless you much love. And if someone once said, The best is yet to come.


  1. Hello, John, I’m in the UK and follow your column.
    I wonder if you can answer this question: can a female Anglican deacon from the UK be given permission to conduct a wedding (for her son) in an Anglican church in Sydney? Thanks.

    • There are two hoops to jump through. To marry someone in Australia, clergy and other celebrants need to be registered with the Federal Government. Secondly in Sydney, the diocesan site says “Only ordained Anglican ministers will be registered with the Australian Government as Marriage Celebrants. Clergy need to hold a licence from the Archbishop before they will be registered. Clergy are registered when they are ordained, when they first come to the diocese to do parish ministry or upon request through the Diocesan Registry.”http://www.sydneyanglicanregistry.com.au/index.php/p2/for_clergy.html

      Looking through the Commonwealth list of celebrants shows that women deacons have been licensed in Sydney https://marriage.ag.gov.au/statecelebrants/state

      Those are two significant hoops. There are two difficult areas in particular . Section 29 of the Marriage Act requires ministers of religion to be “ordinarily resident in Australia” in order to register as a marriage celebrant. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2018C00441

      I would have thought that the diocese might be a bit flexible even though their rules on paper are tough, but their hands may be tied by the marriage act.

      Oddly enough, it seems that the residential requirement only applies to marriage celebrants who are ministers of “recognised denominations”. There is another category “Religious Marriage Celebrants” for smaller religious groups, so you might be able to navigate that path. But that takes you out of Anglicanism, although you might still be able to come to an arrangement with a local Anglican to use a church.

      Sorry to be complicated!

  2. Thanks for your detailed reply – I imagined it would be complex because a marriage is also a legal contract involving the State. Helpful to have this information.

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