Hillsong Founder Reflects on Carl Lentz Controversy and Says There's Been "Disappointment" in the Church

Hillsong Church Founder Brian Houston is speaking out about the firing of pastor Carl Lentz and other controversies surrounding the global megachurch.

By Corinne Heller May 19, 2021 5:26 PMTags
Watch: Pastor Carl Lentz Admits to Infidelity After Hillsong Church Firing

Hillsong Church co-founder Brian Houston is speaking out further about the controversy and firing of former pastor Carl Lentz, one of the global megachurch's pastors famous for his celebrity following.

The disgraced figure was terminated in November from Hillsong East Coast, the group's New York-based branch. At the time, Houston said in a statement that Lentz's firing followed "leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures." Lentz himself later wrote on Instagram that he had been unfaithful in his marriage to wife Laura, mother of their three children, adding, "This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions."

On NBC's Today show on Wednesday, May 19, Houston spoke to Savannah Guthrie about the alleged actions that led to Lentz's firing. "Carl is Carl. He's a unique character. There's a lot of things I miss about Carl," he said. "But having said that, there were leadership issues that I believe included lying, including what I would call narcissistic behavior."

Houston continued. "I'd have to admit I've had concerns and many conversations over the years with Carl. I think there's a lot of things I should have known earlier and hopefully, moving forward, we'll make sure we have far better systems in place and better accountability."

Influencers Biggest Scandals

Lentz has not commented on Houston's remarks.

The Hillsong co-founder also said on the program that this past season in the church "has been difficult, clearly, because of a lot of disappointment in some of the things that have emerged." Aside from Lentz's firing, the group has recently faced more controversies. 

In April, a senior staffer in New Jersey resigned after sending an inappropriate Instagram message, according to a church spokesperson. Also that month, the megachurch announced that it was closing its Dallas branch following the resignation of its lead pastor, who quit after being suspended amid a review into what the group said were "several complaints" about his alleged "failure to uphold the standards of Hillsong leadership."

In addition, a 2018 letter to the New York church's leadership has also surfaced, alleging abusive behavior by church leaders, the Today show reported.

Neither Houston nor Lentz have gone into detail about the cheating allegations that led to the pastor's firing. Soon after he posted his remarks, a 34-year-old jewelry designer told Vanity Fair that she and Lentz had an affair while he was married and that she wishes she "never met him." Lentz did not comment on her remarks.

Then in December, Page Six reported that in a leaked audio recording of a meeting of church executives and top donors held the previous month, Houston alleged that Lentz had "more than one affair" and that a "staff member found a very compromising chain of text messages on Carl's laptop." E! News has not obtained the recording. Lentz and Hillsong have not commented on the report. 

Citing sources close to the pastor, multiple outlets later reported that Lentz had sought treatment at an outpatient facility that focuses on treating depression, anxiety and "pastoral burnout." He has not commented publicly about his mental health.


Earlier this month, on her and Lentz's 18th wedding anniversary, Laura shared a reflective post on Instagram. "I have looked at these palm trees everyday for the past few months & there are many symbolic meanings to these amazing trees. a few that have resonated with me during this season of my life: they are strong, can weather the biggest storms, they always grow upwards. freedom, righteousness, reward, resurrection just to name a few..."

She continued, "I will not forget who abandoned us, but i choose to keep my heart free of bitterness & remain thankful for those that have stayed & loved us. i don't want to judge others nor do i want to be judged... one thing a friend told me during this time is, "i would rather be accused of being too gracious toward someone, over being accused of judging someone too harshly"... i want to be known as a woman who sees the good in people & truly loves people unconditionally...
#youcanonlychangeyou #lovewins #growupwards."

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)