As Australians are soon set to participate in a postal plebiscite on the issue of same-sex “marriage,” Hillsong leader Brian Houston has issued a statement outlining that he believes the Bible clearly states that God created marriage to be between a man and woman, but also said that Christians shouldn’t condemn homosexuals and “dismiss their desire to pursue happiness.”
“For Christians, the issue is also a matter of faith and biblical teaching, something that should never be mocked or downplayed by those with opposing views,” Houston wrote. “I believe God’s word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. The writings of the apostle Paul in Scripture on the subject of homosexuality are also clear, as I have mentioned in previous public statements.”
He said that Christians who stand for God’s design for marriage are sometimes mischaracterized as bigots, but opined that homosexuals are also not respected by Christians sometimes either.
“Throughout this entire debate, some on both sides of the argument have failed to understand and respect the views of others,” Houston stated. “Some of those advocating for change to the definition of marriage have confused faith convictions with bigotry however they must understand that Christian—and other religious—beliefs are extremely important to those who hold them and in fact are vital to a tolerant and free society.”
“Sadly, some also use Christianity to alienate and even condemn those who are gay and dismiss their desire to pursue happiness,” he continued. “As a Christian pastor, I will always teach and preach according to Scripture and my personal convictions, but I cannot make other people’s choices for them. God created humanity with a free will, and I care about all people, including those who believe differently to me.”
Houston urged Christians to vote in the upcoming plebiscite, and said that no matter the outcome, Hillsong can “quite comfortably continue to function” as long as laws are not passed in Australia that would force them to compromise.
As previously reported, in 2014, Houston declined to give a give a concrete answer as to whether or not those who lead his American congregations may officiate at same-sex “weddings” as he was questioned about the matter at a press conference. Houston’s son Joel co-pastors Hillsong New York, and his son Ben leads Hillsong Los Angeles.
“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 in part. “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?”
Carl Lentz, who leads Hillsong New York with Houston’s son, had drawn concern when he told CNN that same year, “Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent. 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.”
“We’d never be the kind of church that when people join the choir, we ask them, ‘Are you heterosexual? Are you homosexual?’” Houston also told ABC’s “Nightline” (video below). “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.’”
In 2015, as public controversy erupted after it became known that two openly homosexual men were a part of Hillsong New York’s choir—and that the two had become “engaged” to each other—the men advised that the matter had “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.” One of the men had served as a choir director.