ATLANTA — The pastor of the Hillsong megachurch's Atlanta branch said Wednesday he would be stepping down as the larger megachurch deals with its founder's misconduct allegations.
Sam Collier wrote on Facebook that he was announcing his departure with "great sadness" as it had become "too difficult to lead and grow a young church in this environment" of "scandals, articles, accusations and the church's subsequent management of these attacks."
Hillsong founder Brian Houston resigned amid misconduct allegations by two women this week.
According to a statement, the church's board found Houston had "breached the Hillsong Pastor’s Code of Conduct." The church cited "inappropriate text messages from Pastor Brian to a member of staff" about a decade ago, in one instance, and in 2019 "knocking on the door of a hotel room that was not his, entering this room and spending time with the female occupant" in the second instance.
The church said Houston was under the influence of sleeping tablets, "upon which he had developed a dependence" in the first instance, and "the consumption of anti-anxiety medication beyond the prescribed dose, mixed with alcohol" in the second.
Collier, the Atlanta branch pastor, said in his Facebook post, "I truly love the Hillsong family and believe they will get through this storm and come out better than they were before."
"I have no shame in admitting I cried like a baby moments after I informed the Hillsong global pastor of my departure," Collier wrote.
Hillsong Atlanta launched last June, with Collier the first Black pastor in the megachurch's global network.
The church originated in Australia and grew worldwide, with branches in more than 30 countries, several of them in the U.S. It is known for its evangelical brand of concert-like atmospheres of huge worship services.
More typically associated with Christian rock music, the services in Atlanta have been distinguished from the rest of the Hillsong network by incorporating hip hop and gospel music.