Citing the denomination’s rapid growth and a desire to make way for younger leadership and a more effective organizational structure, Hillsong Church Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston announced Sunday that he and his wife, Bobbie, have decided to bring on more support at the top.
Gary and Cathy Clarke, lead pastors of Hillsong Church London, who are also responsible for much of the denomination’s growth in Europe, will take on a more active role in assisting with the global management of the church over the next two years.
"This will allow Pastor Brian, in particular, more time to focus on mentorship, leadership development and his other pastoral responsibilities," the church said in a statement to The Christian Post.
Houston explained during the church’s annual Vision Sunday service at the Hills Convention Centre in Sydney, Australia, “I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching and praying and thinking about the future and the way ahead, what life looks like for a church moving forward. For Bobbie and I, moving forward and I guess globally we’ve grown so rapidly and it’s been really a time when what has become clear is we need to put a whole lot more structure into what we’re doing globally.”
Houston, who founded the church with his wife 38 years ago, said the denomination — which has pastoral staff in 24 nations, representing some 123 campuses and locations — is “virtually impossible, unsustainable” for them to manage the work alone.
“It’s really at a point where it’s virtually impossible, unsustainable for us to be able to lead everything that we’re leading right now and so I want to look at ways that we can share that load and over these next couple of years heading up to that church being 40 here,” Houston said. “I would like to really put in place younger leaders. Younger leaders here in Australia and younger leaders around the globe.”
Houston clarified that he and his wife “aren’t going anywhere” or “retiring” but they want to do more things in the next season of their life.
“We’re heading towards our 70s. I’m 67 this week and in our 70s there’s a whole lot of things … in our hearts in terms of what we would like to be doing, what we want to be doing and so that’s kind of how I see the future looking so I’m not putting any time on this or anything like that. We’re definitely not retiring,” he said. “We’ll be around but I do think it’s the right season to just look at a whole new season.”
Houston’s announcement comes after a series of sex and financial scandals erupted in the U.S. arm of the church in recent months. The Australia-based church has also been facing scandals locally as well.
Around the time church received complaints about inappropriate sexual relations between staff and volunteers at Hillsong NYC, which led to the dismissal of lead pastor, Carl Lentz, the embattled Australia-based denomination was also in the throes of investigating the sexual assault of a Philadelphia pastor’s daughter at its headquarters.
Anna Crenshaw, who is the daughter of Victory Church Senior Pastor Ed Crenshaw, revealed that Jason Mays, a Hillsong staff administrator, volunteer singer and the son of the church’s head of human resources, sexually assaulted her at a social gathering while she attended Hillsong College in Australia. It took a serious fight from Anna and her father to hold Mays, who is listed as creative director and head of sync at Hillsong Music, accountable.
Pastor Crenshaw told The Christian Post that Hillsong Church only reported the attack on his daughter to the police after he got involved five months after Anna's report to church official Margaret Aghajainian. "This is significant because in Australia it was a mandatory reporting situation but they sat on it until it was obvious we weren't going to drop it," he said.
“I don’t expect Hillsong would have been able to keep anything bad from happening. That could happen in any organization. But what I would expect of Hillsong is proper care and follow-up. And that’s what was missing,” he told CP.
Correction: Thursday, February 18, 2021:
The original story incorrectly stated that Brian Houston was transitioning out of his role as global senior pastor. The church clarified to The Christian Post that Houston will remain in his role while moving Gary and Cathy Clarke to a more supporting role at the global church.