United Kingdom

Hillsong member who was molested by a church leader slams founder Brian Houston's 'foolish' tweet

A 'foolish' tweet by the founder of Hillsong has been slammed by a sexual assault survivor, who was molested by a worship leader at the Australian-based megachurch.

American-born Anna Crenshaw, 23, shared her painful story in an article earlier this week criticising the evangelist organisation's response to her ordeal.

Shortly after, Brian Houston, 67, the multi-millionaire church leader took to social media calling the story 'factually wrong' and revealing that she was also sexually abused as a child at her father's congregation.

American-born Anna Crenshaw, 23, (pictured) shared her painful story in an article earlier this week criticising the Hillsong Church's response to her ordeal

'A number of things in the article are factually wrong, but abuse is NEVER OK,' he said.

'My understanding is Anna was originally abused in her father's church in Pennsylvania. That makes it sadder. Whether abuse happens in Pennsylvania or Australia, it's tragic.'

Ms Crenshaw said Mr Houston was trying to use her past trauma in an attempt to deflect from taking accountability of his own church.

Hillsong has been plagued by controversy in recent months and were forced to close their Dallas operations in the US after a financial scandal.

'This is an incredibly victimising and heartbreaking response to receive from someone I held as my dear pastor for so many years,' Ms Crenshaw said.

Facing public backlash from social media users who accused Mr Houston of victim blaming, he quickly deleted the tweet and offered an apology.

'In a comment on this article yesterday, I foolishly included information that was wrong for me to share. To (rightfully) be more respectful of privacy, I deleted my comment.

'I apologise for any pain I have caused. I know better and will do better,' he wrote.

Brian Houston (pictured with wife Bobbie) took to social media calling the story 'factually wrong' before offering an apology

Ms Crenshaw told the Christian Post that Jason Mays, a married Hillsong staff administrator, assaulted her at some point before 2018 when she was studying at the Hillsong College in Sydney.

Mays, the son of the church's head of human resources John Mays, pleaded guilty to 'assault with an act of indecency' in 2019.

In a statement Ms Crenshaw made to Margaret Aghajanian, Hillsong Church's head of pastoral care oversight, she said a friend of Mays encouraged her not to report the alleged incident.

'Jason grabbed me, putting his hand between my legs and his head on my stomach and began kissing my stomach. I felt his arms and hands wrapped around my legs making contact with my inner thigh, butt and crotch,' she wrote in the 2018 statement.

'I felt like I could not say anything about the Jason incident because his friend had said not to, insisting that he was a good guy and this was not a normal behaviour for him.'

Ms Crenshaw told the outlet that the treatment she received from Hillsong after coming forward with her allegations of abuse ruined her relationship with the church. 

In a statement Ms Crenshaw (pictured) made to Margaret Aghajanian, Hillsong Church's head of pastoral care oversight, she said a friend of Mays encouraged her not to report the alleged incident

Mays was sentenced to two years probation and mandatory counselling by the courts.

The church slapped him with a 12-months ban from the ministry, but in the beginning of 2020 he was welcomed back with an administrative role and even appears on stage at gospel events as a volunteer singer.

'I'm not interested in supporting an organisation that's willing to treat abuse the way I've seen them treat abuse. What happened with my relationship with Hillsong is once I did report to church, that's when things started going downhill,' she said.

'That's when I saw how they dealt with abuse, and it's something I'm not willing to overlook in my relationship with the church.'

Daily Mail Australia have contact Mr Houston and the Hillsong Church for comment. 

Australian Prime Minister John Howard speaks at the Hillsong Church Make It Count 2007 in Sydney, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007

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