Urgent church meeting on Frank Houston’s paedophilia kept secret, court told

Pentecostal church movement executives agreed to keep the details of an urgent meeting discussing Frank Houston’s paedophilia a secret, a New South Wales court has been told.

Keith Ainge, a former Assemblies of God in Australia (AOG) secretary, said the meeting at the Sydney Qantas Club in late December 1999 came about urgently at the request of Frank’s son Brian Houston, then the national AOG president.

Brian Houston, 68, has pleaded not guilty in Sydney’s Downing Centre local court to a charge of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, relating to his father.

The charge stems from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

AOG executives arrived at the December 1999 meeting not knowing what it was about, Ainge told the court on Friday.

Houston then explained.

“His father had admitted that he had behaved inappropriately, and so he immediately suspended his credential, which was his prerogative as the national president,” Ainge said.

Ainge told the court Houston then recused himself from chairing the rest of the meeting.

“He was in the room, but he didn’t participate in decision making,” Ainge said.

It was agreed the minutes of the meeting would be kept confidential in a special file, a decision Ainge said was made by AOG vice-president John Lewis due to the matter’s sensitivity.

“He didn’t particularly want all these details to be available to just anyone,” Ainge said.

It was also noted legal advice had been sought, which Ainge said he was confident was done by Houston, though he did not know when.

“Every religious denomination now would have fast dial to legal advice … but 23 years ago it was not something that was done automatically,” he said.

Houston was also the one who had told the meeting the child abuse survivor Brett Sengstock did not want the matter reported, Ainge told the court.

Those present did not believe it otherwise required reporting, Ainge said.

Houston’s lawyer, Phillip Boulten SC, has argued the Hillsong founder had a reasonable excuse not to report the matter to authorities after his father confessed in late 1999, believing Sengstock did not want it reported.

Sengstock has told the court Frank Houston began abusing him in January 1970, but has denied ever telling Houston that he did not want the matter reported.

The hearing continues.

In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or Bravehearts on 1800 272 831, and adult survivors can contact Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380

source: theguardian.com