On Tuesday, the counsel for Hillsong Church founder and Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston denied allegations that he concealed his late father's sexual assault of a young boy in the 1970s.
The Christian Post reports that Brian Houston's father, Frank, was the Assemblies of God's New Zealand leader until 1971. Frank passed away in 2004. The Australian Assemblies of God has been led by the megachurch pastor who subsequently founded the evangelical church network Hillsong in 1983 until 2009.
After a two-year investigation, the New South Wales Police accused Pastor Brian with neglecting to disclose his father's abuse. He was officially charged in August. Authorities allege that he was aware of Frank's sexual abuse of a young boy but neglected to alert the authorities about it.
An Australian court stated in The Sydney Morning Herald that Brian was found not guilty after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. The trial for his case resumes on November 23.
It's been alleged in court papers that Brian was aware of his father's sexual assault in 1970 as early as September 1999.
The megachurch pastor "failed to bring that information to the attention of NSW Police," the court papers claim.
"Believing that Frank Houston committed that offence and knowing that he had information that might be of material assistance in securing the prosecution of Frank Houston for that offence," it said.
Brian "vehemently" proclaimed his innocence and promised to contest the accusations in an August statement.
"I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight," he said.
Several young boys in New Zealand and Australia were reportedly molested by former Assemblies of God leader Frank when he was serving as a pastor in those nations. When Brian heard of the allegations against his father, he allegedly promptly pushed him to retire from the Sydney Christian Life Centre with a pension.
At the Royal Commission Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2014, a 59-year-old complainant said that when he was a child, Brian accused him of "tempting" his father. At that point in time, however, Brian informed the commission that the allegation was untrue.
In the midst of his legal fight, Brian resigned from his positions on many Hillsong Church boards in September, although he remained the megachurch's worldwide senior pastor.
Hillsong Church said in a statement last month that it was "disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged and asked that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right."
The Hillsong leader's arrest follows months of reporting by various media outlets in which former members of the church accused officials of disregarding abuse claims.
Boz Tchividjian, grandson and attorney of Billy Graham, and Pastor Ed Crenshaw of Victory Church in Pennsylvania, claimed Hillsong's culture was entrenched in "self-protection."
"They've developed a habit of self-protection. And, I think, when it comes to dealing with somebody like my daughter who had an accusation against the son of Hillsong's top HR guy, and she reports it to the wife of Hillsong's chairman of the board ... that they tend to slip into self-protection mode. And I think they are still in that," said Crenshaw.
Crenshaw has a daughter who claims to have been sexually assaulted by a leader at Hillsong. Instead of taking the appropriate steps to discipline the erring leader, however, she said she was dismissed and the leader was not placed under discipline.
"Even with their comments about HR changes and how they dropped the ball ... they have failed victims, even going back to the victims of Frank Houston," Pastor Crenshaw said.
A Hillsong Church spokesman called the alleged cultural link between Frank Houston and the church "unfounded."