What do Hailey Baldwin, Hailee Steinfeld, Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian and Vanessa Hudgens have in common – apart from their star power and big-bucks bank balances, of course?
It’s that they all like to spend their Sundays in church – Hillsong’s trendy New York chapter, to be exact.
So you can only wonder how the famous flock feels now that the church’s celebrity pastor, Carl Lentz, is being axed for “a recent revelation of moral failures”.
The 41-year-old has become known as the “rock-star pastor”, counselling celebrities on matters of faith when he’s not leading his come-as-you-are congregation.
Earlier this week a shocking email from Hillsong founder and senior pastor Brian Houston said the church was “very sad” to inform followers that Carl’s employment had been terminated.
“I know this will come as a shock to you, but please know that this action was not taken lightly and was done in the best interests of everyone, including Pastor Carl.“
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 message said of why the senior church leader was let go.
“However, you can be assured that this decision was made in order to honour God and pastorally care for you, our East Coast family, Pastor Carl and his family.” He added that he has “no doubt in my heart” that terminating Carl’s services was the “right course of action.
A day later Carl took to Instagram to reveal that the "moral failures" he was fired for included cheating on his wife of 17 years, Australian-born pastor Laura (42), with whom he shares kids Ava (16), Charlie (14), and Roman (11).
The religious leader wrote in a lengthy Instagram caption that his exit from the church was “a hard ending” to his and his family’s time there.
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Our time at HillsongNYC has come to an end. This is a hard ending to what has been the most amazing, impacting and special chapter of our lives. Leading this church has been an honor in every sense of the word and it is impossible to articulate how much we have loved and will always love the amazing people in this church. 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. When that does not happen, a change needs to be made and has been made in this case to ensure that standard is upheld. Laura and I and our amazing children have given all that we have to serve and build this church and over the years I did not do an adequate job of protecting my own spirit, refilling my own soul and reaching out for the readily available help that is available. When you lead out of an empty place, you make choices that have real and painful consequences. 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. I would have liked to say this with my voice, to you, in person because you are owed that. But that opportunity I will not have. So to those people, I pray you can forgive me and that over time I can live a life where trust is earned again. To our pastors Brian and Bobbie, thank you for allowing us to lead, allowing us to thrive and giving us room to have a voice that you have never stifled or tried to silence. Thank you for your grace and kindness especially in this season, as you have done so much to protect and love us through this. We, the Lentz family, don’t know what this next chapter will look like, but we will walk into it together very hopeful and grateful for the grace of God..
The Australian-based megachurch has nearly 1 100 locations all over the world but began gaining more traction after Carl’s involvement with celebrity attendees.
Most famously, Carl has been a trusted advisor to the Biebs, having baptised the Intentions singer in the bathtub of basketball player Tyson Chandler in 2014.
In fact, the two are so tight the Biebs even moved in with Carl's family in 2014 for an “informal detox” and spent several weeks “refocused on his religious faith”.
The 26-year-old musician also credited Carl for getting him through years of drug abuse.
"I found myself doing things that I was so ashamed of, being super-promiscuous and stuff, and I think I used Xanax because I was so ashamed,” Justin told Vogue last year.
"Drugs put a screen between me and what I was doing. It got pretty dark. I think there were times when my security was coming in late at night to check my pulse and see if I was still breathing.”
Justin added that since living with Carl he had not partaken in any drug use but still drank “socially”.
Just last month Justin and Hailey joined Carl and friends for a day at the beach in Santa Barbara, California.
In addition to the Biebers, Carl’s services have also been frequented by Oprah, Kylie Jenner and Jay-Z. Drake and many other stars have also popped up on the father-of-three’s Instagram profile – which often boasts his famous friends.
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I really enjoyed my time with @oprah filming for her super soul Sunday show... She is truly a special woman and a culture changer. To come from absolute poverty in Mississippi and reach the point where she became the first African American MULTI-BILLIONAIRE, takes a passion and drive that is exceptional and tireless. What struck me most about her, was her ease and kindness. She told me her key was "waking up each day and thanking Jesus for loving me and thanking Him for all he has done." That practice, in that order, is one to be copied.. I'm grateful that she opened up her platform to talk about Jesus unapologetically and without borders. It's literally impossible to "say all the right things" in interviews like this. I don't even remotely try to. My goal is to always say the one thing that matters eternally, and by Gods grace, we are able to at least do that! #occupyallstreets #especiallytheonesyoudontbelongonnaturally #newroadsnewrivers #mysnapchatiscarl.lentz
Sources: usmagazine.com, vogue.com, tmz.com