Justin Bieber’s former pastor, Carl Lentz, 41, has been fired from his position at the NYC branch of Hillsong Church, which was founded in Australia.
The church’s Sydney-based founding pastor Brian Houston announced that they had “terminated the employment of Pastor Carl Lentz” in a statement on Wednesday.
Houston cited “breaches of trust” and “moral failures” as reasons for firing Lentz who is credited with launching the Christian megachurch stateside a decade ago.
Known as a “styled-up pastor to the stars,” according to a GQ profile, Lentz attracted an A-list congregation including Justin and, later, his wife Hailey Bieber, Justin’s ex Selena Gomez and Kendall Jenner.
Lentz’s infidelity bombshell
Lentz has since spoken out on the news in a lengthy Instagram post in which he admits to being ‘unfaithful’ to his wife, Laura, with whom he shares three children.
“Our time at HillsongNYC has come to an end,” he wrote. “This is a hard ending to what has been the most amazing, impacting and special chapter of our lives.”
He went on to say that over the years he ‘did not do an adequate job’ of protecting his spirit and ‘reaching out’ for help.
“I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that.
“This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions. I now begin a journey of rebuilding trust with my wife, Laura and my children and taking real time to work on and heal my own life and seek out the help that I need.
“I am deeply sorry for breaking the trust of many people who we have loved serving and understand that this news can be very hard and confusing for people to hear and process.”
Read the full statement on Lentz’s firing:
The full statement by Houston on Lentz’s firing reads;
“This action was not taken lightly and was done in the best interests of everyone, including Pastor Carl.
“We thank Pastors Carl and Laura for the way they have served faithfully and sacrificially since the start of Hillsong NYC and for contributing so significantly to the countless lives that have been transformed for Jesus Christ through this ministry.
“They have a heart for people and we are confident that after a time of rest and restoration, God will use Carl in another way outside of Hillsong church. In terminating his tenure, we in no way want to diminish the good work he did here.
“This action has been taken following ongoing discussions in relation to leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures,” the statement continued. “It would not be appropriate for us to go into detail about the events that led to this decision. Our focus at this time is to honor God and pastorally care for our East Coast church community as well as the Lentz family.”
Houston concluded by noting that Hillsong would not be making further public comments on this matter.
Justin and Lentz’s relationship
After Lentz and Houston’s son, Joel, began Hillsong NYC in 2010, Justin became the congregation’s most famous face and has previously credited Lentz with helping turn his life around.
In 2014 amid a string of negative headlines, Justin moved in with Lentz during what he called his personal low point. The singer explained to Vogue last year that he abused Xanax and was “being super-promiscuous” before detoxing at the pastor’s home in New Jersey. There, Justin refocused on his religious faith and said he has not ingested a drug since. Lentz even baptized Justin in NBA star Tyson Chandler’s bathtub.
“This boy is 21. He’s in a horribly toxic world,” Lentz told GQ in 2015. “He is trying to do his best to figure this out. He has never been anybody but who he has professed to be, which is a work in progress.”
Lentz reportedly helped counsel Justin and Gomez during their on-again, off-again relationship. According to People, the pastor guided them in 2017 so they wouldn’t “repeat the same patterns as before.” The singers ultimately ended their relationship and Justin proposed to Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin) months later. Around the same time, TMZ reported there was a “major falling out” between Justin and Lentz.
Hailey has been a prominent member of the Hillsong community, speaking glowingly about the church during a conversation with Miley Cyrus.
“I’ve found a church community that works for me where I feel supported and loved and accepted,” the model shared earlier this year.
What is Hillsong Church?
Hillsong was founded in Sydney in 1983 and is self-described as “a contemporary Christian church.” According to its website, Hillsong has churches in 28 countries around the world and has an average global attendance of 150,000 weekly. Its mission statement is “to reach and influence the world by building a large Christ-centered, Bible-based church, changing mindsets and empowering people to lead and impact in every sphere of life.”
Lentz helped make Hillsong NYC the “cool church” due to the slew of stars photographed in and out of the center over the years.
“People say we cater to celebrities,” Lentz told GQ. “And I say, yes, we do. Celebrities deserve a relationship with God. Celebrities deserve a place to pray.”
Although Justin has been the star most closely associated with Lentz and Hillsong, many celebrities have reportedly attended services, including Kylie Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Vanessa Hudgens, Bono and Chris Pratt. It’s unclear who, if any, are still regulars.
Jurassic Park star Chris Pratt recently copped backlash from the LGBTQIA+ community over Hillsong’s lack of support for gay rights.
In 2019, Ellen Page called out Pratt for promoting Hillsong which she described as “infamously anti-LGBTQ.” (In 2015, Brian Houston wrote a blog post about how he believes in “traditional Christian thought on gay lifestyles and gay marriage.”)
In a rebuttal, Pratt said, “nothing could be further from the truth.” He also pointed to how his church community helped him through his divorce from Anna Faris; “It is what I have seen [Hillsong] do for others on countless occasions regardless of sexual orientation, race or gender,” he said.
In 2017, Post Malone lamented to Rolling Stone about how friend Justin Bieber turned “super-religious” and “real culty,” claiming the pop star donated $10 million to Hillsong.
“It’s nice to support something you believe in, I guess,” the rapper said. “But people are spending so much money, and God doesn’t care that your church has a f***ing gold roof.”
Lentz blasted the claims to the magazine: “I put no stock in comments made by people who know absolutely nothing about the subject they are speaking on.”
Both Lentz and a source close to Bieber denied the singer handed over $10 million.
Additional reporting by Taryn Ryder.
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