Hillsong founder Brian Houston has revealed he and his wife Bobbie are stepping away from their leading roles to make way for a new generation of leaders.
Mr Houston, who turns 67 this week, told attendees at Hillsong’s Vision Sunday service he had been “doing a lot of soul-searching and praying” about the future of the megachurch.
The announcement follows a spate of international lawsuits and revelations of New York Pastor Carl Lentz’s affair.
Ms Houston also found herself under fire for “fat-shaming” slurs.
It has been 38 years since the couple started their Australian empire in Baulkham Hills, in Sydney’s leafy northwest.
“For Bobbie and I, moving forward and I guess globally we’ve grown so rapidly and it’s been really a time when what has become clear is we need to put a whole lot more structure into what we’re doing globally,” Mr Houston said.
“It’s at the point where it’s virtually impossible … unsustainable for us to lead everything we are leading right now.”
Mr Houston is looking for ways to share the load, particularly with “younger leaders”.
But he made it clear he and Ms Houston were “definitely not retiring”.
“We’ll still be here preaching and part of the team,” he said.
“We’ve grown so fast around the world and need to put structures in place to carry that.
“I would like to really put in place younger leaders. Younger leaders here in Australia and younger leaders around the globe.
“I want to look at ways that we can share that load and over these next couple of years heading up to that church being 40 here.”
After his comments last Sunday made headlines, Mr Houston addressed them in another service on Tuesday night.
“This morning in the USA, I noticed that I’m pretty well retiring and Gary Clarke’s becoming the senior pastor!” he laughed.
In a question-and-answer with George Aghajanian, general Manager and a director of Hillsong Church, Mr Houston attempted to explain some of the recent controversy surrounding his church.
Mr Houston asked Aghajanian: “Is Gary going to be the next senior pastor?” Aghajanian laughed and replied: “I don’t believe so.”
“Well, I’ve just read it this morning,” Houston replied. Aghajanian laughed again: “Well, if it’s in the press, it must be real.”
In November last year the Hillsong pastor who baptised pop star Justin Bieber was sacked.
The action to fire New York pastor Carl Lentz followed the recent discovery of “moral failures”, Mr Houston wrote in an email to Hillsong East Coast church members.
Hillsong was founded in Australia in 1983 but in recent years has branched into the United States and Britain.
Mr Houston said there had been an increasing amount of “misinformation” spread about the church.
“Since our upset in New York in October last year, some of you would know that the media attacks we’ve had have been more intense than any time in our history,” he said.
“Here in Australia we’ve pretty well had interesting relationships with the media for 20 years and so our church is very seasoned in it. But I’ve never seen anything quite like this – just the amount of misinformation.”