We wrote to you earlier that an audio recording between Hillsong founder Brian Houston and Church executives has leaked, revealing that disgraced Pastor Carl Lentz, who cheated on his wife with model Ranin Karim, had engaged in multiple sexual affairs and committed adultery with many women. Houston described them as “It was more than one affair, they were significant. And at least some bad moral behavior had gone back historically”. See more here.
Now that we had the chance to transcribe the audio, we’ve discovered that if Houston and the global board is to be believed, Hillsong NY was a dysfunctional mess with an overbearing and narcissistic pastor whose employees felt afraid to speak to and challenged, and ruled the church like his own arrogant little fiefdom. Here are a few things we learned from the transcript, which has been lightly edited for clarity.
On the affair and whether or not Lentz could be restored
So not to (downplay?) the seriousness of it, but if it was just about a moral failure, perhaps it would have been possible to work with Carl and Laura and work our way through it and have a period of restoration. And that might’ve been possible, but the nature of where my relationship with Carl was already up to, and then add the significant nature and the serial nature of the moral issues, just meant that I believed and our global board believed that the only way to go was to terminate Carl and really start with a fresh start in New York, and so that’s where I’m at.
I’m only going to say this once, but if you want to know why we would take such radical action, and so quickly, the leadership actually has been talking about not just ‘general narcissistic behavior, manipulating, mistreating people, I think sometimes, you know other hurtful things, the breaches of trust, the (unintelligible) lying, and constantly lying. And so basically broken trust.
Houston says that there was always a sense where Hillsong East Coast “to a degree was running their own race” and describes how many people and staff were raising issues and frustrated at not being heard and being mistreated by Lentz. They were upset that no matter how many times they brought up their concerns regarding their since-departed pastor or with a process, that nothing ever happened or changed.
Carl was an extremely and is an extremely hard man to confront, and anyone who may have tried to do that would know exactly what I’m talking about. And so it’s not as though people weren’t being heard. It’s just that it’s a situation where it’s almost impossible to get an issue raised …and so the messenger became the enemy.
Speaking of the dysfunction of the church and the uncertainty people are experiencing, particularly other staff members and high-level volunteers, the board said that they spoke to dozens of people even as Houston asks for grace for the team and from the team. He stresses that some things just need to wait- likely a month for the investigation to wrap up to talk to members and aggrieved staff before they can start implementing solutions and putting into practice the resultant recommendations.
Was there financial impropriety involved?
We have no current evidence of anything inappropriate with finances, but it is part of our investigation. So if something does come up we will address it, and if there’s anything that the investigations shows had some criminal nature, then we will report it accordingly.
There was a lot of concern about finances, and this took up a big chunk of time. They emphasize that Hillsong has robust financial safeguards in place and that the global board is audited every year. They reiterate that Lentz did not have access to Hillsong bank account: “It wasn’t like they just had free access to the offerings. We guard and protect the integrity of people’s giving.”
On Lentz treating people badly
I despise seeing people being treated badly or misused, wherever that is and however that looks, and I had a meeting with all our lead pastors probably last year, where I was speaking very strongly about the way that we deal with people, and really challenging the idea of people being mistreated in any way. Carl didn’t come to that meeting, unfortunately. Every other lead pastor in the world was there and so..yeah… It’s not Hillsong’s culture to speak roughly to people or treat them harshly…
Hillsong leader speaking about the culture of the NYC church
I can testify to, and many other people can as well, is that the heart that Brian and bobby have the pastoral heart, for the one, and wherever they are in the world they’re always inquiring about the one. Their care for the church is always top and foremost in their thinking. And that’s the experience we’ve always had growing up in this culture. Sadly, that wasn’t replicated through what’s happened in New York. And all we can do is hope to change that going forward.
Houston’s final reflections on Lentz
Everyone knows that not everything about Carl Lentz was bad. Carl is a passionate character. He’s supremely gifted, clearly. You know I think he genuinely, genuinely cares for lost people. You know his passion there was very contagious and I’m certain there’d be people that are part of this meeting where it was Carl Lentz that lead you to Jesus…so I don’t want anyone to think that we can’t see any good. There was a lot of good amongst all of that. It was just a situation that was becoming more and more untenable, and so that’s I guess the only other thing that I’d like to say.
Things never should have gotten this far. Lentz should have been disqualified YEARS ago.
We wrote back in 2016 how he appeared on the worship stage with other pastors, dancing alongside the naked cowboy. We mentioned in 2015 how they turned their Christmas productions into near-burlesque shows like their “Sleazy Silent Night.” We told you about telling Oprah in 2016 “you don’t have to be a Christian to have a relationship with God. We wrote in 2017 how Lentz and Bieber took turns taking shots in a bar and took off their clothes while doing so. And we told you in 2015 how they were having an open and unrepentant homosexual man leading worship.
We’ve been practicing discernment and polemics for years, and Lentz should have been removed on theological grounds ages ago. He should have been excommunicated and given the throat punch of disfellowship- doubled over in pain to be handed over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh and the hope of his restoration to the body.
He never should have been a pastor in the first place. And the fact that being a man-whore and cheating on his wife finally got him expelled, while he was allowed to play the theological whore and blaspheme against the Lord with impunity for half a decade, at least, says everything we need to know not only about Lentz, but about Brian Houston and the rest of the Hillsong church and organization.
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