Amidst the recent scandals involving Brian Houston and Hillsong it is easy to forget that Houston's rancid leadership and heresy infected all the way down to the local satellite churches he presided over. People are often confused when they see a local Hillsong because they believe that local pastor is in charge but Houston retained control over his empire. You have separate stories that deserve their tales to be told like the New Jersey Hillsong pastor who shared text pictures of his engorged genitalia with female congregants, but none compare to the crown jewel of the stateside Hillsong empire - NYC. Pastor Carl Lentz was the public face of Hillsong. He was the media darling appearing multiple times on shows like Oprah, where he seemingly could never get a doctrinal point out correctly. Lentz once famously quipped that we are not defined by what we do but rather by who Jesus is to you. This form of sloppy agape preaching was apparently followed by Lentz to the letter but the problem was Jesus was just a talking point to him and eventually his carnal kingdom collapsed around him specifically because of what he did. We all heard about the affair with the Brooklyn based model, Ranin Karim. What we may not have known is she was just a microcosm of years of sexual misconduct and extreme manipulation of Hillsong staff. So says the recently released report Hillsong commissioned from the New York City law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP. Their report entitled, "Internal Investigation Report Regarding Carl Lentz and Other Matters," concluded that Lentz ran Hillsong NYC "with a degree of manipulation so ruthless multiple staff and volunteers allege that he caused them to suffer mental illness." It should be noted that the law firm admits this report is largely based on personal testimony due to the limited amount of documentary evidence, which is not at all surprising. Likewise, it is not surprising that Lentz and his wife refute most of what is being alleged but I take that as a grain of salt coming from a man who admits he is a "very good liar." When asked to verify, Hillsong admitted to commissioning the investigation after Lentz was removed.
The report goes into detail the mishandling of the spiritual well-being of congregants, particularly one who would end up dying from an eating disorder. Additionally, reports of multiple occasions of consensual and non-consensual sexual interaction between leadership and churchgoers. We can become so calloused to things like this but do not let this be lost on you. At the time these abuses were occurring Hillsong NYC was the most popular church in America. It was Justin Bieber's church. The report goes into details about how Hillsong Australia exercised no oversight and Lentz was answerable to no one. The former COO and Executive Pastor of NYC recounted complaining to the mother church regarding Lentz's behavior only to be told Lentz was just like a young Brian Houston and to carry on until he changed. This behavior also included the circulation of penis photos to staff and volunteers and when people complained, they faced retaliation. Despite the call for the release of this report for transparency, Hillsong closed ranks and tried to bury it to protect the brand, claiming in a devious and controlling manner, "Any unauthorized release of this type of information acts as a deterrent for individuals who wish to participate with any organization's desire to uncover and address truth as the basis for change." So according to global leadership, people wishing the public release of the report would prevent people from participating in correcting the faults found in the report, right.
This hubris is overshadowed by the sheer volume of abuses carried out by the Lentz empire. Some discussed getting high and exchanging sexual favors at the church. Lentz' former driver told of waiting for hours outside NYC nightclubs for Lentz and being berated by him for breathing too loud. He asserts he was released from employment when he dared to ask to pray for Lentz during one ride. One worship pastor recalls being summoned to Lentz' home at 1 AM to set up a drum kit for his son's birthday the following day. Another worker claims to suffer from a panic disorder after working for Lentz and yet another claimed to have needed to enter rehab. Lentz of course denies or cannot recall all of the incidents alleged. Staff also complained about always needing to send two cars to pick him up from the airport. One car for him and a separate car to pick up his luggage. This charge Lentz admits to but refers to it as "completely Hillsong standard.," which is an absurd statement in and of itself.
Then we come to the sexual misconduct allegations against Lentz, including massages, three extramarital affairs, and exposing himself to his housekeeper. The former pastor refused to discuss if the frequent massages were sexual in nature but his own wife admitted to being suspicious, especially when they switched to nighttime massages. It should be noted that reviewed text messages revealed masseuses explaining the cost of not only massage but of sexual acts as well. So, let's all be adults here and realize that there is little ambiguity about these charges. The charges of exposing himself to his housekeeper are a "he said-she said" but where there is this much smoke? Lentz responded to these allegations by smearing his former employee as "not being trustworthy." Right. So, SHE is not trustworthy. Got it. Further corroborating that Lentz might target his own personal staff is the story involving Leona Kimes, who served as the Lentz's nanny for seven years. For two of those years Rimes and Lentz were involved sexually. Pastor Lentz admits to "subliminally encouraging" a relationship with the married Mrs. Kimes. This resulted in multiple sexual interludes. How many over two years? He described it as more than 20 but less than 100 times, which Lentz himself describes as "manipulated intimacy." Did Carl carry out these deeds at some seedy hotel? No. Right there on the living room couch in the home he made with his wife and three kids. When his wife caught them in the act they both pretended she did not see what she knows she saw. When his wife demanded to her husband that they part ways with Rimes, Lentz manipulated her into letting her stay. When Rimes wanted to leave their employ, Lentz allegedly belittled her by saying she couldn't get another job and that she did not even have a college degree. What did Jesus mean to you again?
But it gets worse. Lentz ensured that Rimes never had the same day off as her husband. So much that Josh Rimes came to discuss with Lentz that his wife was spending too much time at the Lentz home. The report concludes that Lentz manipulated Josh by playing into his insecurities and told Josh if he couldn't cut it, maybe he should leave New York. Lentz stated that he loved Josh and found him easy to lead. That in his role as pastor, his responsibility was to pastor Josh about his marriage. You know, the one he was secretly wrecking behind Josh Grimes' back. As a sad an interesting side note to this story, Josh and Leona Rimes currently pastor the Boston Hillsong. Hmm, wonder how they got that gig?
The article linked above concludes with the known tale involving Ranin Karim, the Brooklyn model. Just another sordid affair in what appears to be a long history of sordid affairs. Remember this is just what the Law Firm could get on the record. Who knows how deep and dark the reality of Hillsong NYC truly goes? Consider how many lies and manipulations had to occur to bury all of these stories for this many years while Carl Lentz appeared on every talk show espousing "love and conversations" and daring to pretend he was speaking for Jesus. Consider the manipulative Brian Houston trying to cover up the very report that could provide transparency. Hillsong is and has always been a plague upon the church. How many sheep were lied to and manipulated at Hillsong? How many were abused psychologically, spiritually and physically? All the while we were buying their CD's, registering for their conferences, and attending their concerts. Who we choose to stand with is what we choose to stand for. Do not let people manipulate you spiritually beloved. There is nothing salvageable at Hillsong. It was built upon lies and cover up of the child sexual abuse of Brian Houston's father. Carl Lentz is just the end result of decades of brand over truth. Celebrity over community. Money over the gospel. Pray for the lost there. Pray that they may now come out from darkness Brian Houston and his minions such as Carl Lentz have had them under. Freedom from deception awaits. Freedom from false teaching. Freedom from Hillsong United.
Reverend Anthony Wade - April 13, 2022