Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Talks Disgraced Ex-Pastor Carl Lentz & The Church's MANY Controversies!05/19/2021
The founder of Hillsong Church wants you to know a few bad apples don’t spoil the barrel!
Brian Houston appeared on the TODAY show Wednesday to talk about the litany of scandals that have bruised the popular megachurch — specifically, pastor Carl Lentz’s affair and subsequent firing.
But before he got to that, the Hillsong founder spoke about the apparent double standards the church had for regular congregates as opposed to celebrity devotees like Justin Bieber, Vanessa Hudgens, and Chris Pratt. He told Savannah Guthrie:
“I do think that we did allow a culture to develop where it was one rule for celebrities and a different rule for other people… there’s another side to it.”
Houston went on to note that Biebs’ affiliation with the church helped the once-embattled pop star make a “radical change” for the better, sharing:
“One person who’s obviously been well reported is Justin Bieber. If you think back several years now, when he was wrecking hotel rooms and basically on the edge of getting deported to Canada. And look at Justin Bieber today. Anyone who’s being fair could see a radical change, and so not everything about it is bad.”
However, the 67-year-old insisted he didn’t intentionally set out to attract famous members like JB, adding:
“I find it annoying that people thought that it was important to me and my wife, Bobbie, to attract famous people to church.”
Moreover, the pastor made it clear he wasn’t more lenient with Lentz — who was fired as lead pastor of the church’s NYC location last year after admitting he cheated on his wife of 17 years — because of his relationship with the Sorry singer, to whom Lentz was a spiritual adviser.
Yet interestingly, Houston said he had “concerns and many conversations over the years with Carl” after noticing Lentz had been exhibiting “leadership issues” that he believes included “lying” and “narcissistic behavior.”
So why wasn’t any action taken sooner than November, when Houston fired Lentz for “moral failures” and “breaches of trust”? According to the church head, he didn’t know just how big of a moral failure Carl was. He said:
“I think there’s a lot of things I should’ve known earlier, and hopefully, moving forward, we’ll make sure we have far better systems in place and better accountability.”
And while some have suggested Carl’s behavior was a reflection of Houston and the culture he created when he founded Hillsong in 1983 in Australia, the founder said the disgraced pastor made his own bed. He mused:
“On one level, if people say Carl was like me, I’d see it as a compliment because (he’s an) incredibly gifted guy, but on another level, I don’t think Carl really is anything like me. I am ultimately responsible. I am ultimately accountable.”
Of course, Lentz isn’t the only problematic Hillsong pastor to get caught in the public eye. A senior Hillsong staffer in New Jersey resigned in April after showing off his bulge on social media. The same month, its Dallas branch closed after the location’s lead pastors were accused of exploiting congregants for free labor and using tithe money to fund their luxury lifestyles.
Houston basically chalked these scandals up to the church’s growing pains, telling viewers:
“(This season in the church) has been difficult, clearly, because of a lot of disappointment in some of the things that have emerged. Some obviously are false. Other things are real… In my mind, if one person is treated badly, that’s one too many. If it’s true that people have been treated badly or that people have been bullied, I am 100% committed to moving that out of our church… I have reflected many, many times, and I’m acknowledging that mistakes have been made and that there are things where we need to get far better, much better. I’m not shrinking back from that.”
He isn’t planning on getting rid of all the church’s toxicity, though — particularly its beliefs on homosexuality being a sin.
While addressing Hillsong’s alleged mistreatment of LGBTQIA+ people — which include reports of gay members saying they felt suicidal due to difficult experiences in the church — Houston said he wants to do better, but didn’t promise too much. He said:
“I want us to get better a the way we communicate and embrace and work with people who are gay. I don’t have any personal bias at all against gay or lesbian people. But unfortunately, as a pastor, you don’t represent what you think. You represent what the Bible says. And so at this point, we’re still a conservative one on the subject of active gay relationship, et cetera… But it’s a journey. Everyone’s welcome. Many, many people who are gay come to Hillsong Church.”
And maybe, one day, Hillsong might accept their lifestyles. But it sounds like the church has got their own problems to worry about for now.
What do U think about this? Ch-ch-check out Houston’s full interview (below) and sound off in the comments.
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