SYDNEY - The Australian founder and global head of Pentecostal megachurch Hillsong announced Sunday he will step down while he faces trial over charges he covered up his father's child sexual abuse.
Pastor Brian Houston said Hillsong's lawyers had advised him to hand over leadership of the church during his criminal trial.
Houston was charged in August 2021 with concealing information from police about alleged child abuse by his father, Frank, who was also a pastor and died in 2004.
Frank Houston had been accused of sexually abusing a young boy while a preacher at the Assemblies of God Church in the 1970s.
A royal commission in 2015 found the younger Houston was told about the allegations in 1999 but failed to report them to authorities, sparking the investigation by police.
"These allegations came as a shock to me, and it is my intention to vigorously defend them," Houston said in a statement issued by Hillsong.
Founded by Houston and his wife, Bobbie, in Sydney in the 1980s, Hillsong has grown into a global megachurch which claims an average weekly attendance of 150,000 people.
The church is known for its concert-style services that feature pop music and high-profile special guests, including Justin Bieber and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Houston's criminal trial is expected to take up most of 2022 with pastors Phil and Lucinda Dooley stepping in to lead the church.
© Agence France-Presse
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