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Hillsong announces investigation of NYC church after firing of celebrity pastor Carl Lentz

Carl Lentz was fired from Hillsong Church this month because of "moral failures," said Brian Houston, the founding pastor.
Image: Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz
Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz at the Hillsong Conference at Allphones Arena in Sydney in 2015.Toby Zerna / Newspix via Getty Images

Hillsong is investigating its New York City church after pastor Carl Lentz, a onetime spiritual adviser to Justin Bieber, was let go this month for what the megachurch called "moral failures."

Brian Houston, the founder of Hillsong, made the announcement in a statement Thursday on Twitter.

"We are launching an independent investigation into the inner workings of Hillsong NYC/East Coast," Houston said. "We need a solid foundation for a fresh start and new beginning. The best is yet to come."

A spokesperson for Hillsong said in an email that the decision to investigate the New York City location came after it heard from "a number of people about their experiences and concerns."

"It is important that we establish the truth and then do everything we can to ensure our church is both a safe place and one that seeks to glorify God in all that we say and do," the organization said in a statement.

Hillsong said a New York-based legal firm, which it did not identify, was conducting "an in-depth review" of the church.

The organization said that following the findings of the investigation, it would "take whatever actions are deemed necessary to right the wrongs and see Hillsong East Coast move forward in a way that enables many more people to find hope in Jesus."

It is unclear whether the investigation centers on Lentz, who did not immediately return a request for comment.

At the time of Lentz's firing, Houston said in an online 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, 41, started serving the first Hillsong East Coast church, Hillsong NYC, a decade ago with Houston's son, Religion News Service reported.

Houston did not specify what led to his departure, but Lentz revealed in an Instagram post that he had been 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," Lentz wrote, pictured with his wife and children. "When that does not happen, a change needs to be made and has been made in this case to ensure that standard is upheld."

"I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that," he said.

In his post, Lentz said he was working on rebuilding the trust of his wife and children and asked for forgiveness from his followers.

"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," he said.

Hillsong has drawn a small crowd of celebrities, including Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Vanessa Hudgens and Hailey and Justin Bieber — the latter of whom Lentz baptized in NBA player Tyson Chandler's bathtub.

The Sydney-based megachurch was founded in 1983 and has expanded to more than 20 countries. In addition to New York, Hillsong has multiple branches across the United States, including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey and Texas.

CORRECTION (Nov. 16, 2020, 6:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated when Hillsong fired Carl Lentz. He was fired Nov. 4, not last week.