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Hillsong pastors say they warned Brian Houston about Carl Lentz's immoral behavior, were ignored

carl lentz
Carl Lentz speaks at Hillsong Church NYC in this photo dated January 2020. |

Former Hillsong pastors Zhenya and Vera Kasevich allege that Hillsong founder Brian Houston was made aware of Carl Lentz’s immoral behavior, yet refused to address his actions due to the church's culture of "secrecy."

Months after Lentz, the former pastor of Hillsong NYC, was fired, a leaked audio call between Houston and the Hillsong leadership made its rounds online. In the audio clip, Houston said up until that point, he had never heard of any “moral" issues during Lentz's tenure as pastor. 

The new Discovery Plus docuseries, “Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed,” however, tells a different story. The Kasevichs, who previously led a Hillsong church in Kyiv, Ukraine, claimed they warned Houston about some of Lentz’s immoral behavior from the start. 

"The audio from Brian did not just pop up,” Vera Kasevich said in the documentary. “If you want people to know something, you find a way how to bring this narrative and how to groom people.”

In the leaked audio clip, Houston, who at the time was Hillsong's global senior pastor, said, “I can honestly say, before God, the first time I ever heard any moral complaint against Carl was when Tolu contacted me.” 

Lentz was fired from Hillsong after Tolu Badders, executive pastor at Hillsong East Coast, found text messages on the pastor's computer between him and his mistress. In a statement sent to The Christian Post by Hillsong at the time, Houston revealed that Lentz’s termination was due to “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.”

Lentz owned up to the affair in an Instagram post after his firing from Hillsong. The church then launched an investigation after additional details of his affair with a Muslim designer were made public. 

Vera Kasevich said Houston should not have been surprised about Lentz and suggested the leaked audio was his own doing to control the media narrative.

"Brian probably wanted people to know that he did not know. But he knew because I told him so personally,” she maintained. 

Zhenya Kasevich recalled how the couple saw red flags with Hillsong as early as 2010.

"We were senior pastors of Hillsong Church in Kyiv for 17 years. We left Hillsong in 2014,” he revealed. “New York started about 2010 [and] we saw some things even back then.”

Zhenya and Vera Kasevich
Zhenya and Vera Kasevich on their Youtube channel, Apr 24, 2020 |

Lentz led all Hillsong campuses across the East Coast and was often pegged as a celebrity pastor in mainstream media. His friends and congregants included A-list stars such as Justin and Hailey Bieber, Kevin Durant, Selena Gomez, Kylie Jenner and others. 

"I saw some inappropriate behavior and I saw some even immoral behavior,” Vera Kasevich said of Lentz in the documentary.

The former Hillsong Kyiv leader later clarified that she trusted many of the people around Lentz during her time at Hillsong. She said a source told her that they witnessed Lentz behaving in an “unpastorly manner, including smoking and drinking.”

Zhenya Kasevich explained that his wife was “brave enough to go to the General Manager in Sydney and say, 'This is what we hear[d]. We need [to] deal with it because this is going to get ugly for all of us.'”

Yet, Vera Kasevich shared that "no one” paid attention, and they “were shut down.” 

"There were double standards in this situation, and it was like this with Carl for sure,” she said.

Producers of the series spoke with two former volunteers of the popular church who brought multiple reports of sexual impropriety against Lentz to Hillsong leadership in 2017. The sources alleged that they were accused of fabricating the accusations and were dismissed from their positions in the church. 

According to the docuseries, Houston claimed church leadership looked into the allegations against Lentz and found no evidence to substantiate those claims.

"Church leadership needs to take responsibility for their decisions and for their mistakes,” Vera Kasev declared. “Covering up and dealing in secrecy — it's a pattern for Hillsong Church, and that's why we've got so many scandals.”

The Discovery Plus three-episode docuseries contends how the Australia-based global Evangelical church network has toed the “fine line between cult and culture.”

“With more than 150,000 global members, Hillsong has recently been entangled in scandal. ‘Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed’ will profile numerous ex-members of the church who have come forward to share harrowing allegations of the trauma, abuse, financial and labor exploitation that created a culture of chaos within the church,” the synopsis of the project reads. 

Houston, who co-founded Hillsong in 1983, resigned last week after it was revealed that two women made serious complaints of misconduct against him in the last 10 years. His resignation also followed a series of misconduct scandals involving other Hillsong Church leaders in the U.S. and Australia.

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: jeannie.law@christianpost.com She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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