In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, Hillsong head honcho Brian Houston opened up about the termination of disgraced pastor Carl Lentz and the subsequent implosion of Hillsong churches in North America, saying that he has had concerns for years about the celebrity pastor, describing him as a “unique character” and a “narcissist.”
During the interview, Savannah Gutherie pressed him on whether or not Hillsong Global Senior Leadership was turning a blind eye to his activities, so long as he brought in people. She asked what he made of the fact that his congregants and other staff members described Lentz as “aloof” and “removed” from the actual ministry, where he would arrive at the church in a chauffeured car, wait in the green room, preach the sermon, and then leave with his entourage.
Look – Carl was Carl. He’s a unique character. There’s a lot of things I miss about Carl. But having said that, there were leadership issues that I believe included lying, included what I would call narcissistic behavior.
I’d have to admit I’ve had concerns and many conversations over the years with Carl. 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.
Asked when he first noticed Lentz exhibiting this behavior, Houston replied that for years he’s had “concerns” and “many conversations” with him, and yet still continued letting him lead. In retrospect, Houston is reflective:
I think there’s a lot of things I should’ve known earlier, and hopefully, moving forward, we’ll make sure we have far better systems in place and better accountability…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.
Guthrie shifted to what he made of all the scandals Hillsong has been enduring recently, of the pastor who was sexting, to senior pastors resigning in shame after their financial impropriety was unveiled, to even allegations that volunteers are being overworked and bullied:
[This season in the church] has been difficult, clearly, because of a lot of disappointment in some of the things that have emerged. Some obviously are false. Other things are real…
In my mind, if one person is treated badly, that’s one too many. If it’s true that people have been treated badly or that people have been bullied, I am 100 percent committed to moving that out of our church.
Finally, as the interview closes out, Houston is asked what he thinks Jesus would have felt like sitting in Hillsong church, with the lights and the music and the “pretty people.”
Honest answer? I think he would have liked it. Because the focus is on glorifying him.
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