Business Insider released a long-form article detailing accusations of racism, exploitation, and discrimination at Hillsong NYC and Hillsong Boston. Some of it is new and interesting, with much of the drama being self-inflicted due to their lack of clarity on homosexuality, with the article detailing how lesbians and bisexuals felt like second class citizens with little room for advancement within the church.
While the official church position of Hillsong is that homosexuality is a sin, Carl Lentz and the church have been bullish on that topic, making statements that would lend anyone to believe they don’t find it sinful and are ashamed of the church’s view of it. This is why Lentz could never give a straight answer on whether or not it is wicked, choosing instead to hem and haw and refuse to answer.
While the whole article is worth the read, there is one section we wanted to highlight: the green room that these celebrity megachurch pastors use. While regular pastors who actually know their sheep spend time before the service and after the service talking with congregants and spending time with them, for men like Lentz and others, they are inaccessible to the congregation, a consequence of being so large. They write:
The concept of ‘honoring’ was prevalent when it came to Hillsong’s top pastors. Several people told Insider that pastors, particularly Carl Lentz, were catered to like celebrities, with volunteers and staff members expected to answer to their every beck and call.
When Hillsong’s New York City branch launched, the hierarchy was promptly enforced, Janice Lagata, a former member who worked closely with Lentz, said.
‘They immediately started setting up this culture of like, particularly not wanting everybody to have access to the pastors,’ said Lagata, who was the church’s stage manager and ghostwriter for seven years.
‘Only certain people could talk to them. There was always, always that separation.’
The green room, where Lentz and his ‘entourage’ would convene before and after services, was strictly off-limits to anyone else unless he granted them permission, Lagata said.
‘Only celebrities got access, and it was sort of like a VIP situation,’ Lagata said. ‘There were maybe 10 to 15 people who had access to that room.’
During services at concert halls, insiders say Lentz only ever entered through the VIP backdoor used by his celebrity pals, including Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Sources viewed some of Lentz’s demands as excessive.
‘ He had to have his coffee hot,’ Lagata said, describing Lentz as ‘spoiled, pampered, and coddled.’
‘People would be running errands all day, back and forth to Starbucks to make sure he had his fresh coffee,’ she said.
Lagata said volunteers known as ‘green-room girls’ were tasked with keeping Lentz’s demands met. Four current and former Hillsong members said that while the pastor’s green room was stocked with snacks and hot meals, there were few provisions provided for volunteers who worked all day on Sundays.
David Labuguen, a production volunteer and platform musician at Hillsong NYC, who identifies as a person of color, said he once wasn’t even given a bottle of water while performing for Hillsong at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey.
‘We are there to serve the pastors,’ Perez, who worked in the green room at Hillsong College, said. ‘So they don’t have to lift a finger if they don’t want to.’
The fact that this went on for years, and was deemed acceptable by other Hillsong pastors, elders, deacons, and congregation members demonstrates the thoroughly corrupted culture that exists from the top to the bottom.
Though we’re not sure this is what head honcho Brian Houston meant when he described the Church as having a “culture of dysfunction,” given how prevalent and pervasive this is, we can only hope the results of the investigation designed to root out and investigate “cultural issues” call them to the carpet. But with Houston being in the same position with his own green rooms, for some reason we highly doubt it.
For more, see this video by Steven Kozar: