Hillsong celebrity pastor Carl Lentz fired: All about his “moral failings”
If you’re a churchgoer, particularly if you’re Evangelical, chances are you’ve heard of Hillsong. Known in the church scene for its ministries & worship music, Hillsong also has its share of celebrity pastors who minister A-listers like Justin Bieber and the Kardashians.
One Hillsong minister was Carl Lentz, who was known for being Justin Bieber’s pastor and starting a celebrity-heavy ministry in New York called Hillsong NYC. However, he came under fire this week when he lost his job at the megachurch chain. Hillsong’s founder, Brian Houston, released a statement expressing Hillsong’s decision, assuring the public it wasn’t done lightly.
“Today Hillsong Church East Coast advised our congregation that we have terminated the employment of Pastor Carl Lentz. This action was not taken lightly and was done in the best interests of everyone, including Pastor Carl.”
Apparently, Carl Lentz had problems staying faithful. Lentz married his wife, Laura, in 2003 and they have three children together. However, he was caught having an affair. As a minister, he was held accountable for breaking the (sixth or seventh depending on your denomination) commandment “thou shall not commit adultery” and fired.
What is Hillsong?
Hillsong is a conglomerate of evangelical megachurches that has its own record label, celebrity pastors, and worship programs. Hillsong United & Hillsong Worship release praise songs which are performed at churches across the world.
Hillsong is part of the Australian Assemblies of God, a large, international Pentecostal church. Although Hillsong caters to a diverse group of churches, they carry mainstream Pentecostal beliefs, including opposing embryonic stem cell research & abortion and promoting teaching creationism & intelligent design in schools.
Hillsong’s beliefs have come under fire from Christian thinkers and celebrity activists. Baptist minister Tim Costello criticized their belief in the prosperity gospel, the belief linking faith in Jesus to wealth. However, Hillsong founder & senior pastor Brian Houston rejects the claim he teaches prosperity gospel (though some would argue his books You Need More Money and There Is More lean towards it).
Hillsong has also come under fire for excluding queer congregation members from leadership positions. Actress Ellen Page called out Chris Pratt for associating with Hillsong, claiming they covertly deny leadership positions to members who aren’t straight or cisgender. Indeed, Houston confirmed this in a statement about rumors of an “openly gay couple” leading a Hillsong choir group in 2015.
“Hillsong’s position on homosexuality and gay marriage has not changed and is consistent with Scripture. As I have stated previously, I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject . . . It is my understanding that they (a choir director who came out and his partner) have not been involved in an active leadership or ministry role since.”
Chris Pratt isn’t the only celebrity connected to Hillsong. LA Lakers’ Tyson Chandler, Kylie & Kendall Jenner, and Vanessa Hudgens all claim membership. “They really focus on you having your own personal relationship with Jesus, which is wonderful,” Hudgens told The New York Times.
More famously, Justin Bieber got his act together after converting to Christianity and joining Hillsong. He met Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz in 2008 when he was fourteen. The Daily Mail reported Beiber & Lentz formed a close friendship, and Lentz mentored Bieber through his singing career.
Carl Lentz was actually responsible for attracting a lot of celebs to Hillsong’s flock. In 2010, he moved to New York City, where he co-founded Hillsong’s NYC chapter and amassed several celebrity members, including Vanessa Hudgens and several basketball players.
Hillsong declined to elaborate on what they meant by moral failings, as did Carl Lentz’s people when reached for comment. However, Carl Lentz came clean in an Instagram post, revealing he cheated on his wife. “I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that. This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions,” he wrote his followers.
Carl Lentz told his followers Hillsong’s leadership held him responsible for his actions by firing him. Meanwhile, Lentz is seeking help to rebuild the relationship with his wife, Laura. “I am deeply sorry for breaking the trust of many people who we have loved serving and understand that this news can be very hard and confusing for people to hear and process,” he said.
Carl Lentz didn’t elaborate on the details of the affair. His wife, Laura, hasn’t spoken out about it at all. The Daily Mail reported her last Instagram post was October 28th, a picture of the Rhythms of Life Planner & Journal, captioned “2020 has been quite the year . . . i am looking forward to adding this Planner to my daily routine!”