Paedophile Christian evangelist Frank Houston's victim 'not surprised' by church response

ACC state secretary Chris Smith invited church leaders to make a "love offering" to retiring NSW president John McMartin for his "amazing 26 years on our state executive team" in an email on October 4, 2018, before the ACC state conference at Port Macquarie.

Mr McMartin was the first Assemblies of God state executive member told of the child sex allegations in 1998, where Frank Houston was not named and was one of at least 12 state and national AOG members, including Houston's son Brian, involved with responding to the allegations from late 1999. The Assemblies of God became Australian Christian Churches in 2007.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found Mr McMartin did not attempt to start the church's formal complaints process in September 1999 after Frank Houston was named, despite knowing child sexual abuse was a criminal offence because he did not have a written complaint from Brett Sengstock.

In July 2018 Australian Christian Churches and Assemblies of God New Zealand advised Mr Sengstock, of Swansea, it would seek legal costs against him if he did not discontinue his compensation case against them.

In their lengthy affidavit on June 28, 2018, the two church groups, with more than 1000 affiliated churches in Australia, denied liability for Frank Houston's child sex offences while Mr Houston, then a senior New Zealand Assemblies of God member, visited Australia and stayed with the Sengstock family in 1969 and 1970.

They advised that Frank Houston was not credentialed with the Australian Assemblies of God until 1978, that he was preaching in Australia at the invitation of another Christian church group, and said it was "unlikely" Assemblies of God "had any involvement" with churches and camps where Frank Houston preached.

In his claim, Mr Sengstock said the church investigation of Frank Houston from 1998 was conducted in a manner that caused him additional injury. The royal commission was told Frank Houston retired on a church pension without being reported to police, and without church leaders advising ministers child sex allegations against him were substantiated.

Mr Sengstock received no appropriate support or written advice of the church's response to his allegations. The royal commission found Brian Houston paid Mr Sengstock $10,000 without notifying the church national executive.

In his statement of claim, Mr Sengstock said sexual abuse from the age of seven caused him "significant psychological harm" which "makes him a vulnerable person".

In its response in June 2018, the two church groups asked him for "particulars of each fact, matter or circumstance" which made him a vulnerable person.

The church groups also questioned his claim that Frank Houston visited from New Zealand in the early 1970s to further the "religious purpose" of Assemblies of God, and during those visits sexually abused him. Frank Houston moved to Australia to establish his own Assemblies of God-affiliated church in 1977.

Mr Sengstock said he was not surprised that Australian Christian Churches would reject his claim for compensation on "the technicality that nobody 'owned' Frank Houston when he raped me", and weeks later collect a cash "love offering" for a retiring senior pastor.

"They look after their own. They don't mind putting money in their own pockets but they took the club to me," Mr Sengstock said.

"They've always called these collections 'love offerings'. It covers over that nasty word 'cash' and replaces it with 'love' and all of a sudden it becomes holy."

Last week Maitland Christian Church pastor Bob Cotton re-issued an email he sent to all affiliated Australian Christian Churches in September 2018 seeking financial support for Mr Sengstock after he discontinued his legal case.

"It has come to my attention that Brett is suffering stage four lymphoma and, as an invalid pensioner, is struggling financially because of the additional strain on his limited finances caused by his ongoing medical expenses. In short, he is dying and is broke," Mr Cotton wrote.

"I am aware that in recent times Brett sought compensation from the Australian Christian Churches for the crimes he suffered at the hands of one of our most highly respected pastors. I understand that we, as a movement, vigorously defended ourselves against his claim.

"Now we have a situation where a survivor, sexually abused by one of our own, is suffering a terminal illness and is in financial hardship."

Mr Sengstock should have been shown compassion and mercy from the church, Mr Cotton said.

Australian Christian Churches and Hillsong were contacted for comment.


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