Hillsong's First Black Pastor Leaves Church, Saying His Congregants Don't 'Trust' Leadership After Scandals

Sam Collier’s departure comes after Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston stepped down amid complaints made against him by two women

Sam Collier
Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

The first Black pastor of Hillsong Church announced he is cutting ties with the institution mere days after Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Sam Collier, who launched a Hillsong Christian nondenominational chapter in Atlanta last June, announced his exit from the megachurch in an Instagram post on Friday.

"It is with great sadness that I inform you of my departure from Hillsong," he wrote. "I have appreciated the Hillsong family and want to thank the Houstons for the love they have shown [my wife] Toni and me."

"My greatest reason for stepping down as Pastor of Hillsong Atlanta is probably not a secret to any of you," he continued. "With all of the documentaries, scandals, articles, accusations and the church's subsequent management of these attacks it's become too difficult to lead and grow a young Church in this environment."

He concluded the message by sharing his belief that Hillsong Church would "get through this get through this storm and come out better than they were before."

Collier said he was beginning his Hillsong journey in Atlanta as the scandals involving Houston and disgraced pastor Carl Lentz were bringing negative attention to the church.

"When me and my wife got announced as the first African American couple in the Hillsong world, a week after that, Hillsong New York happened in terms of the call in scandal, and so for about a year and a half it was just non-stop media," he told CBS station WGCL.

Collier added that it was a "sad" and "emotional moment" when Hillsong announced on March 18 that Houston, 68, was accused of behaving inappropriately towards two women in two separate incidents.

The Atlanta pastor — who gave his final Hillsong sermon on Sunday — made the decision to leave Hillsong after his congregants expressed concern, he told WGCL: "We had so many congregants saying I don't know if I can trust this place."

Hillsong did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.

Now Collier is planning to create Story Church, with the first meeting set for Easter Sunday.

"We realize, you know, that it might be better to replant a new place that people can believe in and trust in," he told WGCL.

Collier's resignation post came a week after the church's board announced in a letter that they had "sadly been dealing with two complaints made against [Houston] over the last 10 years."

"The first issue was approximately a decade ago and involved inappropriate text messages from Pastor Brian to a member of staff, which subsequently resulted in the staff member resigning," the board added.

"At the time, Pastor Brian was under the influence of sleeping tablets, upon which he had developed a dependence. He immediately apologised to the person. We also worked closely with Pastor Brian to ensure he received professional help to eliminate his dependency on this medication, and this was achieved successfully," the board continued.

"The second issue involved a complaint received in 2019. Following an in-depth investigation, it was found that Pastor Brian became disoriented after a session at the Hillsong Conference, following the consumption of anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol. This resulted in him knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant," the board's statement read.

An investigation found that "important elements of the complaint were sustained and the conduct was of serious concern," they added. "Ultimately, the board found that Brian had breached the Hillsong Pastor's Code of Conduct."

In an announcement posted online Wednesday, Hillsong's global board said "Houston has resigned as Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church and the board has accepted his resignation."

Houston — who did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment — had already stepped down from all church responsibilities due to charges in Australia that he intentionally concealed his late father Frank Houston's child sex offenses.

In a statement to the Associated Press in August, Houston said the "charges have come as a shock to me."

"I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight," he added.

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