Published On: Wed, May 19th, 2021

Founder of Hillsong Church says he had concerns about disgraced former pastor Carl Lentz for years

The founder of Hillsong Church said he had concerns for years about Carl Lentz, the pastor who was fired from the megachurch last year due in part to “moral failures.”

“Carl was Carl; he’s a unique character. There’s a lot of things I miss about Carl,” Brian Houston, the founder and senior pastor of Hillsong Church, said in an exclusive interview with the “TODAY” show that aired Wednesday.

“Having said that, there were leadership issues that I believe included lying, included what I would call narcissistic behavior,” Houston added.

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

Lentz was the lead pastor of Hillsong’s New York branch, a magnet for millennial and megastar Christians. He became a pastor at the church after launching its first U.S. location with Houston’s son Joel in 2010, according to Religion News Service.

About a decade into Lentz’s tenure with the church, Houston announced his firing, saying in a statement that the decision was made “following ongoing discussions in relation to leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.”

Lentz addressed his termination in an Instagram post, saying he was unfaithful in his marriage.

“When you accept the calling of being a pastor, you must live in such a way that it honors the mandate. That it honors the church, and that it honors God. When that does not happen, a change needs to be made and has been made in this case to ensure that standard is upheld,” he captioned a family photo that included his wife and three children.

Hillsong, which describes itself as a “contemporary Christian church,” was founded in 1983 in Sydney, Australia, and has grown to include locations in more than 20 countries. Its locations in the U.S. have included New York, New Jersey, California, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, Texas, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The church is known for attracting a number of celebrity worshippers including Justin Bieber, his wife Hailey, Chris Pratt and his wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, Kourtney Kardashian and Kylie and Kendall Jenner.

Asked in his interview with “TODAY” about Hillsong East’s perceived practice of appealing to celebrity parishioners, like Bieber, Houston said “there’s another side” to it.

“He was wrecking hotel rooms and basically on the edge of getting deported to Canada,” Houston told “TODAY,” saying the pop star was living an “out of control life” with drug abuse.

“And look at Justin Bieber today, anyone who’s being fair could see a radical change,” Houston said. “And so not everything about it is bad.”

Pressed further on whether celebrities got better treatment, Houston said “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.”

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