Hillsong: Pastor Brian Houston talks about the pink elephant in the room
Contrary to popular opinion, homosexuality or the ‘gay issue’ is not often mentioned from Hillsong pulpits; for or against. On Sunday 18 August 2013, Hillsong’s Senior Pastor, Brian Houston, preached a message that was broadcast to all Hillsong congregations around the world in over 100 services. What was significant about this sermon was that during the message, he publicly began a conversation about the Hillsong churches’ need to come to grips with the ‘gay issue’. You can read the relevant extract below.
Hillsong, like many Evangelical/Pentecostal churches, is coming to terms with the progressive LGBT changes in our western world. Whilst there have been right wing anti-gay preachers, particularly in the US, many church leaders in Australia hoped if they just closed their eyes or buried their head in the sand, eventually the issue would go away. I’ve often said that the problem is not so much homophobia but subjectaphobia; they would rather just not go into the volatile space of faith and sexuality. Possibly this is why Hillsong refused to comment on same sex marriage when approached recently by the mainstream media about it being an election issue. Other Christian groups were predictably quick to condemn Prime Minister Rudd’s promise to make marriage equality a reality in 100 days if re-elected. But now churches like Hillsong are facing the reality looming on the horizon, that in some countries, gay and lesbian couples may come into their churches who have a recognised, legal marriage. Some will be parents. They are no longer gay, lesbians or “homosexuals” they are believers, committed church members and families. What do they do about that?
Also, Hillsong has always been a church that has reached out to people outside the church. If churches continue to hold on to the outdated Christian belief that homosexuality is a sin then it makes them increasingly irrelevant to those who have gay and lesbian friends, family members and work colleagues. The previous Christian labels of unnatural, perverse, evil and even abominations not only do not fit, they are offensive to many straight Christians with gay friends and family.
The longer churches put this issue on the back burner the further behind the developing world and western society they become. Considering the progress made in scientific research, changes in the law, and that homosexuality has not been classified as a mental disorder since 1973; some churches are 40 years out of date on the issue of homosexuality. I would hope that they catch up and make it a priority. Here are 5 reasons why.
Facing the harm
For a long time many of us have known of the tremendous harm experienced by gays and lesbians in Christian churches. This is something I wrote about in detail to the National Executive of the Assemblies of God in 2005 when Brian Houston was the president (you can read that letter here). It is good to finally have this acknowledged publicly. Maybe the recent statements from Exodus of the damage their message had on individuals and Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas’s apologies have also encouraged this.
I am pleased that Pastor Brian Houston has acknowledged the weight of this personally and, as a church, but as I mentioned to him recently “I know only a handful of pastors who are actually aware just how deep and extensive the harm is. And the reason they know is that they opened their churches to gay and lesbian people and listened to their stories.”
When working with churches, leaders and denominations I let them know about the 10 separate issues they will face in order to become not just a welcoming but also accepting and affirming church. This is not a once off meeting or workshop it is a journey that will take several years to complete.
My hope and prayer is that this will be an ongoing conversation that takes ALL churches to a place where gay and lesbian people are treated with respect and equality. People of colour were once told to go to the back of the bus. Women were once told their place was in the home. A paradigm change has happened in the world re people of colour and also women’s equality that is now happening about sexual orientation. When mega-church pastor Delman Coates spoke to his his 8,000-member Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton he said he “apologized for participating in this conspiracy of silence,” and that “The people in the pew, are further along on this issue than those of us in the pulpit.”
Come on church…..catch up.
On Sunday 18 August 2013, a sermon, ‘Scandal of Grace’ preached by Pastor Brian Houston, was broadcast to all Hillsong Church campuses around the world. Below is the relevant extract.
“The one elephant in the room for churches around the world at the moment is the gay situation. What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do? You need to pray for church pastors and leaders around the world because whichever way you turn the scandal is there. You can turn one way and you can tell there would be a great scandal amongst the Christian Church. You can turn another way and you would just cut off so many people. There’s lots of hatred out there but in the middle of it all you know there are three things: the world of the times we live in; the weight we live with; and the word we live by.Think about that! The world has changed quickly. The world has changed and so I’m not saying that the church ever should be ruled by the way of the world but the reality is we are in a world which is changing fast. Here in Great Britain the laws have passed. The world is changing. We’ve got the world we live in to consider. We’ve got the weight we live with. You say what’s that? Well it’s the weight when a young person growing up in a church feels like they are confused in their sexuality. They feel like “maybe I’m gay” and they go to a youth leader and they are rejected. At that moment a great hatred comes in. At that moment some of them have gone so far with the rejection and gone to parents who didn’t understand and ended up committing suicide – That’s the weight we live with.
There’s the world we live in. There’s the weight we live with and there’s the word we live by. And they don’t all necessary align. With the word we live by, many people have various convictions. In the middle of it all know that Jesus when it comes to people would let nothing stop Him from breaking through a divide to help hurting, broken, everyday normal people like you and I.
Update: 1 July 2015 A one on one with Brian Houston. 1 July 2015 Eternity’s editor John Sandeman sits down with Brian Houston during Hillsong’s 2015 Conference
“For a start I think everyone deserves the right to be happy. And I wish people happiness. I don’t necessarily, personally, believe that gay marriage is God’s definition of marriage. But I believe that as a church we can exist in that world.”
Update: Oct. 16, 2014: Listen to Press Conference in New York, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014
“It’s an ongoing conversation” (Pastor Brian Houston)
June 6, 2014 Pastor Carl Lentz of the New York branch of the global Pentecostal Hillsong megachurch says Jesus never condemned gay people so he’s not going to either READ STORY HERE
@BrianCHouston Tweet 12:09 PM Apr 25th 2009
STOPPRESS: Hillsong r not preaching against gays. We r not stooges of the right nor teachers of excessive wealth. Just helping+loving people
Media Statement on Issues of Sexuality 2008
As a church we always endeavour to treat people compassionately whatever they may be facing in life. We are a Christian Church and as such believe the Bible provides us with clear teaching on sexuality and sexual expression – heterosexual and homosexual. But I do not believe this is about rules and regulations as much as God wanting what is best for each of us. The heart of God is toward people, and I believe that is also the heart of our church.
God has created each of us as sexual beings, and I do not believe it is His will for it to be complicated. However, I recognise that people face very real issues in regards to sexuality. I have seen this both in my wider family, our church and society more generally.
This is a global challenge that most of the world’s churches are grappling with, and we, like them, are trying to balance theology with compassion.
We do not profess to have all the answers, nor has the church worldwide always got it right, but we will continue to try and connect people to Jesus because we know that hope and answers for every situation and circumstance can be found in Him.
Pastor Brian Houston
Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church
August 1, 2005 Australian Broadcast Corp., Australian Story/August 1, 2005 Pastor Brian Houston
“I think that the homosexual question and sexuality generally is one of the most challenging questions there is for the church in the 21st century. And it’s one where I feel conflict myself, as a believer in the Bible and specifically the New Testament, I think that marriage is God’s idea, and I think it’s for a man and a woman. But I also represent a God that’s merciful and gracious and kind, and having to connect those two things I think is one of the great challenges for me as a church leader.”
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Dear Pastor Houston, my name is Peter Bartholemew and I have recently started to re attend Hillsong church young st Waterloo after many years of being separated. I gave my life to Jesus back at the old CLC Life Centre back in 1980, a very long time ago. My faith, love and hunger for everything Jesus remained strong despite my desperation from the church and my brothers and sisters in Christ.
For 16 years I was in a same sex relationship with another man, which was seen as a sin before God and something that I personally had great moral issues coming to terms with. My partner Paul passed away in 2007 having given his life to Jesus. I have started to re attend church regularly and I am currently seeing a Hillsong councilor on a regular basis and trying to work through my grief/ loss issues and making exceptional headway.
I am however still having issues with the whole "gay" thing and need desperately to know and understand how I can reconcile this with my belief and faith. I now live in abstinence and have done since Paul's death in 2007. There are many advocates out there who argue both for and against….. I'm not interested in opinion rather, how Jesus looks at me and if as some would say, be condemned by him for living in a same sex relationship. For over 20 years now this one issue has caused the most turmoil in my life…. I would really welcome and appreciate both your opinion and that of the Church that would enable me to come to terms with this issue.
Thank you Ps Brian
Jesus is Love. He made you in his likeness. You are love. God never preached about social issues only about love and kindness and grace. Love God, Love yourself, and Love your neighbor is his highest commandment to ALL of his Children. Embrace yourself for who you are and with Gods Love..
-Jesus did talk about social issues. one example was healing (or miracles/work) on the Sabbath (Saturday).
-love your neibor is the second part or the second biggest command: Matthew 22:37-39
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
An open letter to Pastor Brian Houston,
Thank you for your recent words addressing the divide between the evangelical church and the gay community.
I attended Hillsong when I was working/living in Sydney a few years back and loved every moment of my time there (the fellowship, music, programming, Hillsong Conference, etc.). I felt a true connection with Jesus Christ and watched my relationship with him grow. At the same time I was saddened because I felt the need to hold myself back. I am openly gay but didn't dare share that with any other members of Hillsong for fear of being judged or even being asked to leave.
I love Jesus Christ with all my heart and he is my personal saviour. I also believe that he made me perfect and that he gifted me with my homosexuality.
I dream of the day where young men and woman can grow up in the church and not have to be defined by their sexuality. I dream of the evangelical church truly following Jesus Christ and unconditionally loving ALL people.
I hope in my lifetime young people don't have to grow up in the church fearing that their loving families and church communities will turn them away for being exactly who they were created to be.
Thank you for starting such an important conversation. Together we can rebuild the broken church and change our world.
Lots of love.
Here is a copy of the letter we wrote to Pastor Brian….
As Believers who attend a church where we sing Hillsong worship songs every Sunday, and parents whose 4 teenagers were raised singing Hillsong worship all through their adolescents, we are very aware of your influence all over the world, and we are thankful.
We are also parents of a gay son…a son who prayed, begged God, and did everything he was told by Christian leaders to make his same-sex desires go away…only to find that nothing changed. After spending all his teenage years pleading with God to change him, while he sought the Lord with all of his heart, our son became depressed, disillusioned and angry – both at himself and at God. In his despair, he turned to drugs, which ended up taking his life on June 16, 2009.
We were invited to share our story at the last Exodus International Conference in Irvine, Ca, this past June….if you’d like to hear our story, you can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ntauVWRUY
We want to thank you for acknowledging the pain that gay Christians – especially teenagers – face as they try to reconcile their faith and their sexuality. Thank you for listening, Pastor Brian. Thank you for paying attention to this crisis.
Since we have shared our story, we’ve received thousands of emails and messages from LGBTQ “children” and parents of LGBTQ children…all desperately afraid that they have to choose between their faith and their sexuality, or in the latter case, their faith and loving their child. Most often, it is their faith that is left behind, because they do not believe God can love them – or their child. Something is very, very wrong.
Bless you for your August 18th sermon, Pastor Brian. We are praying that your courage will influence other pastors around the world to approach this issue with faith rather than fear…and to trust that truly NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
Thanking God for you,
Rob and Linda Robertson
Did he reply?
Late last year I did something similar to Pastor Houston in my (small) local mainstream denomination church: as a straight, married, Bible-believing mother and grandmother, I got up in front of about 60 (mostly elderly) people in the morning congregation, and about 22 in the evening congregation, and told them that I and a friend (also from the congregation) were starting a 6 session study using Andrew Marin's excellent book "Love is an Orientation" – so we could learn to love LGBT people better.
I had a turning point in my life about 10 years ago when my daughter, then in Gr 8, was in a drama group at her Christian high school with an (apparently) gay boy in Gr 9. Although they'd been to primary school together and usually got on well, he was picking arguments with her and giving her a hard time. She came home and told me that he'd said to her this was because "Christians hate gay people". She said – "Mum, I don't know what to say to him. I don't hate him! But I don't know how I can answer…". I thought – oh…no… we Christians do this "be known by your love" really badly when it comes to gay people. If a 14 year old kid, going to a Christian school, thinks that Christians hate him…what is that going to do to him? He needs Jesus! But he will never find Him while he thinks that.
I was scared, and very confused. I've spent the last 10 years on a tentative journey to learn to love LGBT people better.
The people in my church were surprisingly supportive when I made my unexpected announcement, and spontaneously applauded. Even one 80 year old man who was by his own admission, anti-gay and anti-gay marriage, came up to me and agreed there had to be a better way than the what we've done in the past. He wanted to read Andrew Marin's book! (He since has, and we've had several productive discussions about loving people and gotten to know each other in the process.) I wasn't speechless, but I was praising God. Jesus DOES make people want to love better!
We worked through the "Love is An Orientation" study with about 4-6 people. One lady openly admitted to me that she was only coming to keep an eye on us – to check that we weren't going off the rails. Yet she came to greatly appreciate the group; we all did – most especially the opportunity to openly discuss difficult subjects without fear of judgement or taboo. I will hopefully run a similar group this year.
I have the possibility of influencing/reaching/encouraging/improving things for a handful of people in my local Christian community.
Hillsong has the possibility of influencing thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, worldwide.
Praise God for the good already done by Brian Houston's comments.
With prayer for all that is before us: may His Spirit guide us!
And as a friend of mine says, "If I get it wrong, I'd rather get it wrong by loving too much, than judging too much".
Love covers over a multitude of sins.
Blessings in Christ,
Janet von Berky.
PS: The story has a happy middle. The student I mentioned was well and truly loved by the staff and students (including the Christian students) of that Christian school, by my daughter, myself and the rest of the family. 10 years later, although not yet a Christian, that former student definitely knows that Christians don't hate LGBT people, and God-willing, will one day come to know Jesus' love on a personal level.
I attended Queen St AOG in the '70s under Neville Johnson's ministry, and I took Bobby to church. We both lived in Papatoetoe, and in those days my name was Terry Jones. You may remember me; I remember you.
You raised the question of what would Jesus do with the gay issue, and how should the church respond. Thank you for bringing it up for discussion, as no doubt you will receive lots of hate mail just for doing that. But this is an issue that I have had to deal with my whole life.
I have always known that I was gay, and I got saved at AOG in 1974. But 7 years later I left the church – and God – angry, bitter, depressed, and suicidal. I prayed for years for the Lord to "change me", had had demons cast out of me, had fasted and prayed for the change I was told would come – but nothing changed. I eventually had to leave the church for my own sanity, but the mistake I made was that I also left the Lord. I became anti-Christian and anti-God, to the point that had I died back then I believe I would've gone to hell.
In 2007 I came back to Him, but I had one condition: He had to accept me as a gay man, because I wasn't going back to the misery, the doubts, the fears, the condemnation – that mill-stone of guilt around my neck – again. And He did. And promptly re-baptised me in the Holy Spirit with a fresh outpouring of tongues. Yes – He dealt with me on promiscuity, but He made a clear distinction between being promiscuous, and being gay. The former wasn't acceptable, but the latter He hasn't questioned.
I currently do not enjoy a church fellowship, because although being gay isn't a problem for the Lord, it is for His people. When they find out I'm gay, that is all they see, and they tell me I need to "repent", that "God can change you" etc, and the cycle begins all over again. They don't see me as someone that the Lord is dealing with and working through, or someone they should have fellowship with. And it still hurts, even after all these years.
I would have to say that the most hurtful – and hateful – people I have ever encountered in my life have been Christians. To this day I am still wary of them, and this should not be. While they preach love, they practise hate. Is this what the Lord would do? Anne Lamott said: "you know you've created God in your own image – when He hates the same people you do". The unsaved get scriptures like John 3:16; gay people get the half dozen "clobber passages" from the Bible. Why do we get God's judgment and wrath – and condemned to hell, while they get His love and acceptance – and welcomed into the kingdom of God?
I know people who have gone through ex-gay ministries. None has been changed, and all have horror stories. A few have been bi-sexual, and have laid aside their gay inclinations in favour of accepted heterosexual norms, but gay people don't have that luxury.
Once again I thank you for raising the issue by asking "what would Jesus do?" Perhaps a follow up question might be: if God chose not to change a gay person's orientation after they accepted Him as Lord and Saviour of their lives, would His people be comfortable with that? And if not, why not?
Until attitudes to LGBT people change in mainstream denominations, people like me shall continue to have no church fellowship nor spiritual guidance, and gay people will go to hell – not because they're gay, but because they've never heard of His love for them, and the sacrifice He made for them on the Cross (John 3:16). And without a church fellowship and spiritual guidance, how will we ever grow and conform to His image?
Thank you for taking this courageous step of raising the topic for discussion! Thank you for reading my testimony – I trust there has been something in here that has been useful to you. And I wish you and Bobby well for the future, and pray that the Lord continues to bless your ministry.
no ray, God does have a problem, you are deceived and lying to yourself. God loves you dearly but He will NOT bless your life as it stands if you engage in homosexual practice. yes, you can have homosexual feelings, which God can help overcome but He will NOT bless any homosexual activity
Steve….I think Ray has a better understanding of his life and his orientation than you or anyone else does.
Hi Pastor Brian,
I just want to say I appreciate your bringing up the topic of gay people in the church.
I am a Christian lesbian and have gotten very used to feeling rejected by the church on the whole so what you said was a breath of fresh air.
Thank you so much and keep up the good work 🙂 You are in my prayers.
Sapphire (not my real name of course).
My name's Christine Weston. I heard about your recent sermon which, among other things, spoke to the Christianity/sexuality issue.
I'd like to say thanks for doing this. It would've taken a lot of courage to speak about it, especially as the majority of Charismatic/Pentecostal pastors either condemn homosexuality or bury their heads in the sand about it. Thanks for suggesting there is another way through all of this.
I grew up attending a charismatic Baptist church which idolised churches like Hillsong, and we sang your songs too. Back in the old days, when Geoff Bullock was worship leader. Recently I counted at least 7 people who I now know were wrestling with their faith and sexuality, and who have declared themselves in the ensuing years.
One of the men was publicly outed in front of the church and formally expelled. From what I understand, he later committed suicide. I don't know too much of the struggle for the others, except that one couple left the church (and one her marriage) after they fell in love with each other, and another married very early to try and sort things out. That marriage produced 2 children, and ultimately broke down. These people are in long-term same-sex relationships.
One, if not two, of the others attended "ex-gay" conversion therapies, which did not work for either. They are both now comfortable in their own skin.
As an adult, I attended an AOG, which condemned homosexuality. One of my dear friends there had chosen to give up the "gay lifestyle" after becoming a Christian, believing God would heal him. He also attended an "ex-gay" therapy group at another church which provided no help. Moreover, he was badly hurt by it. He is now in a loving relationship with another man, but still very badly wounded & hurt from his experiences whilst in the church.
I've seen many people hurt by the misinformation and ignorance of these churches. I am a straight person who is grateful to have the friendship of these remarkable people.
Brian, I hope that your message provides an openness in your church to begin talking positively about gay Christians. That people may be willing to hear about the alternate interpretations of the "homosexual" Scriptures. That, ultimately, people will find Hillsong to be a place of healing, love and acceptance.
God be your peace,
I know I love God with all my heart and has been a Christian since I was a kid. I'm in my mid 20s and struggling with homosexuality (gay). I didn't choose this but this is what I feel.. Being afraid of being neglected and rejected, I'm still hiding it. Thank you, Pastor Brian, for accepting the fact that even we, gay people, can be still serious about Christ and following Him. It is hard, I feel lonely at times, it's just hard. But then again, Christ is our strength. Please include me in your prayers. God bless!
Hi Anonymous you need not feel alone. Do you know about Freedom2b. People just like you.http://www.freedom2b.org/forums/our-community-g2/telling-our-stories-f13/
another anonymous person revealing their ignorance. If you feel you are so right then you don't have to hide your identity…..deleting .
Having challenges as a christian does not mean God does not mind. How many pastors here, Holy Spirit filled battle with pride for example? Does it mean pride is godly? Was it not because of pride Lucifer was cast out of the very presence of Holy God? Pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase God is not ok with sin, even if His children battle with it, There is a Solution, don't say it's ok since God does not remove it.
LEARN TO MEDITATE ON THE WORD OF GOD. Homosexuality is a SIN. But God provided tools to get rid of that. Common, if you prayed to God & it's still there, it simply means maybe only 'praying to God ' is not the right tool for that. Change your tool! See yourself the way God sees you, Holy, ( whithout sin) CONFESS YOU ARE FREE FROM HOMOSEXUALITY EVERY DAY, even if it get worst, KEEP CONFESSING IT, CONFESS, THINK& ACCEPT that YOU HAVE DOMINION OVER SIN & u will surely have Vicyory. I strongly recommand the teachings of Pastor Joseph PRINCE especially the message 'Win every Battle through Right Believing' . U can find it on youtube.
We love hearing this ' God does not condemn you' and it's true …just for Now that you are still on earth and living in time. Did you know God designed time especially for man SO HE CAN CHANGE? After, the earth, there is eternity whether with Him or in the Lake of fire, where will nor removed nor added ANYTHING to your life . SO HE IS PROVIDING A SOLUTION AS YOU ARE READING THIS ARTICLE.
Be strong & courageous, homosexuality is an affliction from the devil. You don't believe me ? I noticed something very interesting while wacthing the TV Channel of a n anointed man of God ( find it on youtube too): Prophet TB Joshua. So many times in his church, when a demon is being cast out, if the demon is being cast out from a woman, he would speak through her a say for example " I am her husband" ( humanly speaking, the woman says the sentence) then, they would call the husband of the demonised woman and ask him who the woman is to him. He would say, that it's his wife.Then the men of God would tell him to directly address his wife and to tell her. When he says to his wife " You are my wife" The demon through the woman would respond " I' m not his wife, CAN A MAN MARRY A MAN? I' am the spiritual husband of this lady… " Or he would say " Can a woman marry two husbands? " When the case is about a demonised man, the demon would say things like " Can a man marry two women?
This means demons themselves know the principles of God, that Homosexualitty & polygamy should not be, but they are the ones making it happen to separate men from God, like they already are!! PLEASE LET'S RESIT SIN even if it's not easy DON'T ACCEPT it GOD IS FAITHFUL
Why are comments like this always from the same person "Anonymous"
Inappropriate, disrespectful comments are always removed. Especially if a person is not willing to identify who is behind them.
Inappropriate, disrespectful comments are always removed. Especially if a person is not willing to identify who is behind them.
If only people will know how great to live in God's presence in your life. I will always be thankful and humble to know how great my GOD is.