Hillsong founding pastor Brian Houston sent out an email to church staff and members of Hillsong East Coast on Wednesday afternoon, announcing the termination of Hillsong NYC’s lead pastor, Carl Lentz.
In a statement, which was sent to The Christian Post by Hillsong, Houston revealed that Lentz’s termination was due to “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.”
Members of the Hillsong NY staff revealed to CP that they were currently “processing” the news.
“I know this will come as a shock to you, but please know that this action was not taken lightly and was done in the best interests of everyone, including Pastor Carl,” Houston, whose church has locations worldwide, wrote in the email.
“Please understand that it would not be appropriate for us to go into detail about the events that led to this decision. However you can be assured that this decision was made in order to honor God and pastorally care for you, our East Coast family, Pastor Carl and his family.”
Lentz, who was responsible for all Hillsong campuses on the east cost, was often pegged a celebrity pastor in mainstream media because a number of his friends and congregants included A-list stars such as Justin and Hailey Bieber, Kevin Durant, Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner and others.
Lentz is also credited for baptizing Justin Bieber in the bathtub of former New York Knicks player, Tyson Chandler.
Hillsong church was founded by Houston and his wife, Bobbie, in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in 1983. It has now grown from a single church to an international ministry that extends to cities on five continents, including London, Paris, Sao Paulo, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro and Phoenix.
In the United States, Hillsong is recognized for its thriving congregations in New York, which up until Wednesday, was led by Lentz, and Los Angeles. Combined, the ministry reaches over 100,000 people weekly.
Lentz served alongside Houston’s son, Joel, who served as a worship leader of Hillsong NYC during its foundational years, starting in 2010. The edgy pastor and the Hillsong name drew thousands of people to the church, which was held at Irving Plaza in Manhattan at the time and was a church by day and club by night.
Lentz’s rise to fame came after he became the lead pastor of Hillsong NYC due to his fashion choices, tattoo-covered arms and celebrity congregants.
In a past interview with the New York Post, the Virginia native admitted that previously he was “doing my own thing, being my own god” before he moved to Los Angeles to attend seminary. Following his time on the west coast, he moved to Australia to partake in Hillsong’s training program at its college, where he met his wife, Laura.
The couple eventually moved back to the states to launch Hillsong’s first U.S. location. A decade later, his season with Hillsong has officially ended.
In his statement, Houston expressed gratitude for the impact Lentz has had through his years of ministry.
"We thank Pastors Carl and Laura for the way they have served faithfully and sacrificially since the start of Hillsong NYC and for contributing so significantly to the countless lives that have been transformed for Jesus Christ through this ministry," Houston stated. "They have a heart for people and we are confident that after a time of rest and restoration, God will use Carl in another way outside of Hillsong church. In terminating his tenure, we in no way want to diminish the good work he did here."
“While I have no doubt in my heart that this is the right course of action, I must mention Bobbie’s and my personal sadness, as we have known Laura her entire life and Carl for well over 20 years,” he added.
Hillsong said it will not be making further public comments on this matter. Lentz has not been active on social media since September.
Hillsong East Coast services will "proceed as usual."