On Saturday evening May 26th, 2007 Daniel Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministriespublicly honoured the late Frank Houston, who had been found guilty by his own denomination of serious sexual misconduct while in a senior position of ministry.
In an unprecedented sentence, Frank had been banned from all AoG platforms in both Australia and New Zealand, such was the seriousness of his misconduct. Yet Mr Nalliah “honoured” him in this ceremony in Melbourne. The following words were used in the final advertisement for the event:
Those to be honoured and thanked as part of the National Day of Thanksgiving are as follows: Our Senior “Fathers and Mothers” in the Faith! — the late Frank Houston, Kevin Conner, Fred Nile, Barry Chant, Richard Holland, George Forbes and many others.
Graeme and wife Caroline Houston and Beverley, two of Frank Houston’s children, represented their late father and mother Hazel. Brian Houston, senior pastor of The Hillsong (Sydney) mega-church and current president of AoG-Australia, who is fully aware of the charges and resulting action in which he participated, sent a message which included thanking Mr Nalliah for honouring his father.
The ceremony in Melbourne concluded with foot-washing where the biblical precedent was reversed. Those attending were invited to wash the feet of those honoured. In the foot-washing example of Christ we are instructed: “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Biblically it is impossible to establish any justification for “foot-washing” in our time. We do not generally walk long dusty paths in sandals. Our Lord provided an example of service in an illustration that was acceptable and understood in that time, but not in our country and our time. However even the principle was missed by Danny Nalliah. The “greater” should serve the “lesser” not visa versa.
Mr Nalliah went ahead with his honouring ceremony despite many attempts to dissuade him, which included sending to him the information which follows and which was compiled by Mark Mullins from his own research into the matter.
Danny Nalliah certainly deserves our respect and gratitude for his bold and courageous stand during the proceedings brought against Daniel Scot and the Catch the Fire Ministries under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 over a seminar on Islam, several years ago. Their contributions helped to demonstrate the folly of passing a similar law in the UK and elsewhere which led, in Britain, to a much weakened Bill being passed by parliament which was eventually shelved as unworkable by the government. The irony is that if only Daniel Nalliah had applied the standards of rigour and fairness he expected but did not receive from Judge Higgins in the Catch the Fire case, to the evidence available to him about the late Frank Houston’s sexual immorality, he could never have concluded that Houston was worthy of honour.
At the “honour” meeting, which was conducted on Australia’s National Day of Thanksgiving, Mr Nalliah spoke of his debt of gratitude to Frank Houston who was instrumental in his conversion in Sri Lanka when he was 12 years old. One can understand why he would not wish to think ill of a man who introduced him to the Kingdom of God and allegedly prophesied over him.
However, our Lord Himself warned us of those many that will say to Him on that day: “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? And in Your name have cast out devils? And in Your name done many wonderful works?… And then I will declare to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:22-23). It is possible to preach the gospel and even perform miracles and be in sin heading for hell.
Sadly the Rev Hon Fred Nile MP, a Christian with a long record of standing for righteousness, attended the meeting despite being warned about Frank Houston’s past. Following our contact Mr Nile sent us this note:
19/6/07 — Dear Philip: I responded to Ps Danny Nalliah's invitation to be a guest speaker on 26th May because I respect his courage and wished to stand with him. In no way was I involved in the selection of Ps Frank Houston's name. I requested his name be removed from the program on 26th May but Ps Nalliah felt he could not do that as he believes Ps Houston had previously blessed his ministry. —signed Rev Fred Nile.
THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS COMPILED AND PROVIDED BY MARK MULLINS (an elder at a classical AoG assembly in London and a practising barrister):
Frank Houston, on the face of it, had a distinguished career within AoG Australasia, becoming general superintendent of AoG New Zealand, and senior pastor of Christian Life Centre in Sydney which was to become Hillsong. Yet through many years of his ministry Frank Houston was concealing a dark secret. That secret came to light in 2000 when he was sacked for “serious moral failure” following an investigation conducted by the then AoG’s national executive vice-president, John Lewis. The chronology is important because it has been suggested there has only ever been one victim of Mr Houston’s sexual immorality.
Peter Fowler came forward next to claim that, as a result of discovering that Mr Houston had been sacked for serious moral failure, he felt that he should bring forward his allegations of sexual abuse that he had been concealing since 1972. This is what he wrote in an email to Philip Powell on 9th December 2002:
However, earlier this year (2002) I felt an overwhelming need to achieve some form of healing and closure to this terrible situation. After an internet search revealed your published investigation of Houston and his past actions, I became aware that he had been removed from the ministry for “serious moral failure” in both Australia and New Zealand. I sensed that I was clearly not the only victim of this man’s abuse and that I needed to come forward and reveal what had happened to me. From the moment I first contacted you I felt that you treated my allegations with a sense of respect and sympathy, which I greatly appreciate.
Peter Fowler claimed to have been sexually abused by Frank Houston when he was 16 years old. He came to a confidential settlement with AoG New Zealand after his claims had been fully investigated by Kem Price who, according to information on the CWM website, took over responsibility for examining his case in December 2002 and held a first meeting with Peter Fowler in March 2003. This is what Peter Fowler wrote to Philip on 13th July 2003:
Dear PhilipI am very pleased to be able to report that I have reached a settlement with AOGNZ and the Lower Hutt AOG. The terms of the settlement are confidential to the parties and the only public comment I can make is the following statement: “Peter Fowler and the Assemblies of God in NZ and the Assembly of God Lower Hutt Church have confidentially in a Christian spirit resolved all differences between them relating to the alleged abuse of Peter Fowler by Frank Houston”. You will note that no settlement has been reached with Frank Houston or his representatives and I am still free to pursue proceedings against Houston. So far, Houston and his representatives have continued to refuse to meet or engage in any dialogue with me.
Thank you so much for your assistance in helping me to reach this point. Had it not been for your initial support and understanding I may not have been able to achieve any form of settlement, closure or healing. I remain deeply grateful and I wish you well in all your future endeavours. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance to you and any other victims who may contact you.With best wishes, Peter Fowler
It is significant that neither Frank Houston nor his representatives were willing to engage in any dialogue with Peter Fowler about what took place in 1972. Peter Fowler was told this was because Frank Houston was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s. In order to begin the process of genuine repentance this would be a pre-requisite: to acknowledge the sin and seek forgiveness for the devastation that resulted. (Peter Fowler’s marriage broke up as a result of the emotional damage he suffered.)
In the 25th January 2003 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald magazine Good Week-End, journalist Greg Bearup wrote the following:
And then Brian’s father, former minister Frank Houston, confessed to being a paedophile. Finding out his father had abused a child back in New Zealand was, Houston tells me, “like the jets flying into the twin towers of my soul”. It was, understandably, one of the hardest issues he has ever had to deal with. “Basically I received a complaint, so I confronted my father and he admitted it.” Houston removed his father from all roles in the church, but did not contact police in New Zealand because the victim was old enough to do that himself. He said that he was candid with his congregation, although he has been criticised for not acting quickly enough. “I told our church what had happened [several months after he found out], but as soon as I found out I told the elders of this church and the Assemblies of God,” Houston says. “To my congregation, when I told them, I used words like predator and sexual abuse and so on — I did not try to hide it.” It is a matter that appears unlikely to go away, and Houston tells me that, since the initial allegation was made public, other alleged victims have come forward.
It is not clear whether Brian Houston was referring to Peter Fowler’s allegations, which had by then been subject to some sort of settlement between Fowler and AoG-NZ or to the earlier investigation carried out by John Lewis. What is clear is that he was referring to a number of victims. There is no doubt that these allegations must be treated separately since the 2000 investigation could not possibly have included Peter Fowler’s allegations, which only came to light later.
Regrettably the allegations against Frank Houston are more widespread. Recently on Anthony Venn-Brown’s website there appeared the text of a speech given by Peter Laughton on 13th February 2007 who was a former assistant pastor to Frank Houston at the Christian Life Centre in Sydney. He was a homosexual who allegedly became a Christian through attending CLC but has now tragically reverted to his homosexual lifestyle having left his wife and children. In that speech he claimed to have had counselling sessions with the senior pastor, which he described in the following terms:
My counselling sessions by the senior minster were nothing more than sexual abuse disguised in the form of the need of a father’s love and discipline. [what follows is too offensive to publish].
It is of course possible that Peter Laughton has jumped on a bandwagon and made up false allegations against Frank Houston who is no longer alive to answer, but it is hard to understand why he would do this. In the light of the two separate enquiries and the admission by Frank Houston of past sexual immorality one would have expected that these allegations would have been taken more seriously by Danny Nalliah and others.
What makes these allegations even more serious is that at least one of the incidents occurred when Frank Houston was general superintendent of New Zealand Assemblies of God – a position he held from 1965 to 1977. It represented a terrible abuse of his position of trust, which he then tried to conceal for the rest of his ministry. To lead a child of God into sin as Frank Houston has done carries with it a frightening warning from the Lord:
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him if a millstone were hung about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences; offences must come; but woe to that man by whom the offence comes! (Matthew 18:6-7).
Doesn’t Peter the apostle also warn about those, like Frank Houston, who have abused their position of authority to bring people into sin?
These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest; to whom the gloom of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through licentiousness, those who escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the slaves of corruption: for by whom a person is overcome, by him also is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them, and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning (2 Peter 2:17–20).
One of the most important qualifications for ministry is that a man be blameless. This could not be said of Frank Houston since 1972.
Mark L.R. Mullins, London
If Assemblies of God in Australia had been more open about the behaviour of Frank Houston and openly rebuked him by publicising the full extent of his sinful conduct as Paul enjoined us to do in 1 Timothy 5:20 (“Those that sin rebuke in the presence of all, that others also may fear.”) this outrage would have been avoided.
How such a man could be worthy of honour is beyond belief. Is it not like honouring the wicked Haman instead of righteous Mordecai in the book of Esther (chapter 6)?
And finally let us look to ourselves in this dreadful business:
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed in case he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).
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