Brian Houston, global senior pastor of the international Hillsong Church, announced Thursday (Nov. 12) that an independent investigator will review the “inner workings” of Hillsong’s New York City branch after the firing of its lead pastor, Carl Lentz, last week.
Houston said in a tweet, adding:
“We need a solid foundation for a fresh start and new beginning,” “The best is yet to come.”
On Nov. 4, Houston emailed staff and members of Hillsong East Coast about Lentz’s termination.
The following day, Lentz, who founded the New York Hillsong location in 2010 with Houston’s son Joel, admitted in an Instagram post that he’d been unfaithful to his wife.
Lentz’s confession was accompanied by a photo of Lentz with his wife and three children. He wrote:
“I now begin a journey of rebuilding trust with my wife, Laura and my children and taking real time to work on and heal my own life and seek out the help that I need,”
Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, founded the original Hillsong Church in 1983 in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia.
It now has locations in 28 countries and, pre-pandemic, saw an average 150,000 attenders each week, according to its website.
The various global churches all report to Houston and a board of all-male elders.
Relatively unknown before taking the helm of Hillsong NYC, Carl Lentz became a media darling for his hipster clothes, tattooed arms and celebrity congregants, including Justin Bieber and his wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber, as well as the Jenner sisters. Lentz was one of a number of pastors GQ Magazine has described as “hypepriests” who lead churches frequented by celebrities.
In answer to Lentz’s Instagram post, Esther Houston, Joel Houston’s wife, implied that, despite his admission, Lentz’s behavior was “ongoing.” She commented:
“Amazing to see all the support being poured out for this despicable ongoing behavior,” . “Listen. I’m not gonna play this game. I fully denounce this and will make no excuses for it. You’ve been dealt a good hand, and you played it wrong.”
The British tabloid The Sun has reported that Lentz posed as a sports agent when he met a 34-year-old designer, who identified herself only as Ranin, in a Brooklyn, New York, park. Ranin told The Sun she had been having an affair with the pastor for the past five months.
Ranin said Lentz told her that when he first saw her, “God told him to tell me that I need to know my worth and there’s something special about me … whatever whatever.”
According to Ranin, the two broke up two weeks ago. She said Lentz’s wife discovered their text messages on his computer at the Hillsong offices, with several of his co-workers there.
Carl Lentz met his wife, Laura, a family friend of the Houstons’, in Australia when he attended Hillsong’s training program, Hillsong College.
It is unclear whether she will remain in her position at Hillsong NYC, though some reports have said that she has also been let go.
In a brief appearance at Hillsong NYC’s Sunday streaming service, Brian Houston expressed gratitude for the team of leaders at the Manhattan church and said they were not only supportive of the decisions made, “but were part of the process.”
Houston also noted that during transitions,
“It’s always a time where there’s speculation, rumor and gossip when change is made, and especially when radical change is made.”
Houston added further, assuring the church, that:
“There’s great days ahead,” . “We will continue to stay in touch when it comes to the long-term leadership of Hillsong East Coast.”
Boz Tchividjian, a former prosecutor and founder of GRACE, an organization that works with churches to investigate abuse, quoted on Twitter an unnamed source from a Sun article who alleged that
“‘There have been many sexual transgressions at Hillsong NYC. We tried to address them in 2017 and we were told that we were spreading gossip.’”
“This is a common & effective method leaders use to shame victims into silence in order to protect offenders & institutional reputations.”
Neither Hillsong NYC nor Hillsong Global immediately responded to requests for comment.
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