Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston has announced that an investigation will be launched into its New York church given the recently exposed actions of Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz, who was fired for having an affair, among other issues.
"We are launching an independent investigation into the inner workings of Hillsong NYC/ East Coast. We need a solid foundation for a fresh start and new beginning. The best is yet to come," Houston tweeted Thursday.
His words come after it was revealed last week that Lentz had been terminated due to a "moral failing" and "leadership issues." Lentz, a Virginia native, subsequently admitted on Instagram that he had cheated on his wife, Laura.
“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 wrote in an email to congregants.
“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 had charge over Hillsong campuses up and down the U.S. east coast and was known for his connections to prominent celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kylie Jenner, and Selena Gomez, among others.
A 34-year-old designer, identified as Ranin, claimed to be the woman whom Lentz had the affair with. Ranin, who is a Muslim and an Egyptian of Palestinian descent, claimed their relationship lasted over five months before they broke up last week. She said Lentz had approached her earlier this year at Domino Park in Brooklyn and that she was unaware he was a well-known pastor, noting that she had "no knowledge of the Christian world." She also said that he did not tell her he was married until later in the relationship.
“I wasn’t there for just sex, we both found comfort and a deep, special connection with each other," she said. "I am very hurt because we both feel the same way about each other."
Boz Tchividjian, an attorney and the executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), tweeted Wednesday that his organization had previously attempted to raise the alarm about illicit actions at the popular New York church to no avail.
“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," he said.
The Christian Post reached out to GRACE for further comment but did not receive a response by press time.
Houston founded Hillsong along with his wife, Bobbie, in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in 1983. Known especially for their worship songs, the now-international ministry has locations in major cities on five continents.