NEW YORK CITY — The senior pastor of the global Hillsong Church declined to give a concrete answer as to whether or not those who lead his American congregations may officiate at same-sex “weddings” as he was speaking at a recent press conference that included questions about homosexuality, finances and his late father’s alleged sexual abuse of a minor.
“You brought up the subject of same-sex marriage, and I wasn’t sure what you were saying,” reporter Michael Paulson of the New York Times asked Brian Houston of Hillsong Australia at the media event in New York City. “You’re now operating in New York and California where same sex marriage is legal. Can your pastors preside at same-sex marriages? ”
Houston’s son Joel co-pastors Hillsong New York, and his son Ben leads Hillsong Los Angeles.
“It can be challenging for churches to stay relevant because many mainstream churches upheld what they would believe is the long established view of what the Bible says about homosexuality,” he replied. “But the world has changed around and about them.”
“[T]o me, the world we live in, whether we like it or not, is changing around and about us. Homosexual marriage is legal in [New York City] and will be probably in most Western world countries within a short time,” the 60-year-old minister continued. “So the world’s changing and we want to stay relevant as a church. So that’s a vexing thing. You think, ‘How do we not become a pariah?'”
Houston, whose congregation has international offshoots in the United Kingdom, Russia, France, South Africa and Germany, said that he didn’t want young people to feel ostracized if they have attractions to those of the same sex.
“[Youth], sadly, often times grow up to hate the Church because they feel that the Church rejected them,” he stated.
The Hillsong leader, who speaks to an estimated 30,000 congregants a week, said that he struggles with juggling the changing world and the presence of homosexual youth in the Church with what the Scriptures declare about the matter.
“[I]t would be much easier if you could feel like all of those three just easily lined up. But they don’t necessarily,” Houston said. “And that’s what Carl [Lentz] always says for us—it’s a conversation.”
He explained that he could therefore not give a “yes or no” answer in response to Paulson’s question.
“For us, it’s easy to reduce what you think about homosexuality to just a public statement. And that would keep a lot of people happy,” Houston stated. “But we feel at this point it is an ongoing conversation, that the real issues in people’s lives are too important for us to just reduce it down to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer in a media outlet. So we’re on the journey with it, aren’t we?”
The aforementioned Carl Lentz, who leads Hillsong New York City with Houston’s son, Joel, also made headlines earlier this year when some expressed concern that he likewise would not provide his position on the issue of homosexuality.
“Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent,” Lentz told CNN. “And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won’t find it because he never did.”
“It’s not our place to tell anyone how they should live,” his wife, Laura, added. “That’s their journey.”