The Australian founder of the global Hillsong Church will plead not guilty to charges of concealing child sexual abuse.
Brian Houston, 67, was charged in August by Australian police after a two-year investigation.
The megachurch’s pastor was in the United States at the time, but he has since returned to Sydney to face his trial.
It relates to alleged sexual abuse by his late father, Frank Houston, in the 1970s.
Brian Houston’s attorney stated during a preliminary court hearing on Tuesday that her client denies the allegations. Mr. Houston did not show up for the hearing.
He has previously stated his innocence, saying the charges came as a “surprise.”
“I welcome the opportunity to clear the air,” he said in an August statement.
Mr. Houston is close to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has referred to him as a spiritual “mentor” in the past.
The investigation was launched by New South Wales Police following a landmark national inquiry into child sexual abuse.
Frank Houston abused a boy in the 1970s, according to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which ran from 2013 to 2017.
Frank Houston died in 2004 at the age of 82.
Police claim that Brian Houston was aware of his father’s abuse as early as 1999 and “failed to bring that information to the attention of NSW Police without reasonable excuse.”
He is scheduled to appear in court again on November 23rd.
Mr Houston resigned from his church’s board of directors last month, but he remains a “Global Senior Pastor.”
Hillsong, which was founded in 1984, has grown into a global megachurch that has drawn celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, and Bono.
The church is known for its brand of modern evangelism, which includes pop song-style hymns and services held in concert arenas popular with teenagers.
It claims to have churches in 30 countries and a weekly congregation of more than 150,000 people.
In 2019, Mr Morrison appeared on stage with Brian Houston to deliver a prayer.
Later that year, he also invited Mr Houston to a state dinner with then US President Donald Trump in Washington, but this was vetoed by the White House because the pastor was under criminal investigation.