Former Hillsong Church pastors are claiming that the global megachurch network's founder, Brian Houston, ignored their complaints about the immoral behavior of former Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz before his termination in late 2020.
Pastors Zhenya and Vera Kasevich, who previously led a Hillsong church in Kyiv, Ukraine, were recently featured in the new Discovery Plus docuseries, "Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed." While being interviewed, the pastors claimed they saw red flags with Hillsong as early as 2010.
"We were senior pastors of Hillsong Church in Kyiv for 17 years. We left Hillsong in 2014," Zhenya explained. "New York started about 2010 [and] we saw some things even back then."
Vera added that a source told her Lentz was seen behaving in an "unpastorly manner, including smoking and drinking," The Christian Post reports. Vera allegedly tried to bring her concerns to Hillsong's General Manager in Sydney, but she was ignored, and the couple was "shut down."
"There were double standards in this situation, and it was like this with Carl for sure," Vera said.
In 2017, two former Hillsong volunteers also brought complaints about sexual misconduct by Lentz to church leaders. However, the volunteers said their allegations were deemed false, and they were dismissed from their positions at the church.
Lentz, who oversaw Hillsong campuses across the East Coast, was fired in 2020 over leadership issues and moral failures. The former pastor later revealed that he had been engaged in an extramarital affair.
After Lentz's termination, a leaked audio call between Houston and other Hillsong leaders surfaced online. In the audio, Houston tells Tolu Badders, the executive pastor at Hillsong East Coast, that Lentz was fired after "compromising" texts sent to his mistress were found on his computer.
Houston insisted that this was the first that he had "heard of any moral complaint" concerning Lentz, but Vera argued that he was aware of allegations beforehand and refused to take action.
"The audio from Brian did not just pop up," Vera said. "If you want people to know something, you find a way how to bring this narrative and how to groom people."
"Brian probably wanted people to know that he did not know. But he knew because I told him so personally," she continued.
Vera further argued that Hillsong church has a pattern of "secrecy" and called for its leaders to take accountability for their actions. Since Lentz's firing, several scandals about Hillsong leaders have surfaced, including one about Houston himself.
Houston, who founded Hillsong in 1983, resigned last Wednesday as Hillsong's global senior pastor after two women accused him of misconduct.
The day after Houston tendered his resignation, Discovery released its Hillsong docuseries. The docuseries includes accounts of negative experiences from several former Hillsong members and dives into the recent scandals surrounding the church.
Photo courtesy: ©Unsplash / Lauren Bryan
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.