A video has surfaced online showing that Hillsong leader Brian Houston knew about two openly homosexual men serving as choir members at least one year ago—and did not seem to have a problem with it—despite his recent claims that it was a “complete surprise” for him to learn that two men at Hillsong’s New York campus had become “engaged.”
Houston was interviewed on ABC’s “Nightline” in November 2014, and made the remarks when asked about how Hillsong would handle homosexual members.
“If a gay couple came to Hillsong, would you want them to change?” the reporter asked.
“The short answer is that I think all of us need to be changing. That’s what serving Jesus does—we’re changing,” Houston replied. “Apparently—someone told me—there’s two gay guys singing in the choir in New York.”
He said that Hillsong doesn’t inquire about member’s lifestyles before they join the choir.
“We’d never be the kind of church that when people join the choir, we ask them, ‘Are you heterosexual? Are you homosexual?'” Houston explained. “We’d be the kind of church that focuses on Jesus [and] believes in the power of the Holy Spirit to convict. I think it was Billy Graham who said, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict. It’s God’s job to judge. And it’s our job to love.”
“I think that’s a good way of looking at it,” he continued. “Let God be the judge. Let the Holy Spirit do the conviction. And we do the loving of people.”
Houston had claimed last week in a public statement that it was a “complete surprise” for him to learn that two men in the choir had become engaged, and that the revelation was “unexpected.”
As previously reported, Josh Canfield, a Broadway performer, told Playbill in January that he had become engaged to his boyfriend, Reed Kelly. He outlined that he is a choir director at Hillsong New York City and that he had admitted his homosexuality to his church.
“[I thought], ‘I need to be truthful with everyone,’” Canfield said. “I became truthful with my church. I’m a part of Hillsong NYC. I’m one of their choir directors. I also sing on their worship team.”
But he stated that after coming out to his congregation, “nothing changed.”
“They’ve been amazing as well,” Canfield explained. “Nothing has changed there now that I’m completely out and with Reed. He sings in the choir as well.”
Last week, a blog reported about the information afresh, lamenting that Hillsong New York City, led by Carl Lentz, “allow[s] an openly and unrepentantly gay couple to lead their choir.” The post went viral, generating concern from Christians nationwide.
Following the attention to the matter, Hillsong leader Brian Houston issued a statement about the situation, asserting that both men are no longer in the choir.
“I wish to correct reports that Hillsong church has ‘an openly gay couple directing a choir’ at our New York City campus,” Houston wrote. He said that Hillsong was “surprised” to hear about the men’s engagement, and that they haven’t been involved in ministry since the announcement.
“Several months ago when one of our choir directors made an unexpected public statement regarding his engagement to a man who sometimes sang in the choir, it was a complete surprise to us as well,” he said. “It is my understanding that they have not been involved in an active leadership or ministry role since.”
But on Friday, Canfield and Kelly likewise released a statement, contradicting Houston’s assertion and outlining that they have been serving at Hillsong NYC for years despite being known as being homosexuals. They said that the news reports of their ministry roles at the church had now suddenly “forced” the church to “disallow any gays from being in a position of leadership.”
“The drama that is unfolding at the moment all revolves around the fact that we have been heavily involved in our church, Hillsong NYC,” Canfield and Kelly wrote.
“Josh has been with Hillsong for eight years in a variety of ways: choir director, vocal director, and worship team. I’ve been there since the beginning of our relationship, over three years ago, and eventually began singing in the choir and opening my apartment as the gathering place for a connect group for Hillsong members in the Broadway and theatrical communities,” the men continued. “We have been open and forthright about our relationship from the get-go.”
But they said that once the report came out and there was backlash over the matter, it “has now forced our church to globally reaffirm their hard stance as a non-LGBT-affirming institution and disallow any gays from being in a position of leadership within the church.”