An ‘explosive’ upcoming docuseries will explore the alleged ‘exploitation’ of Hillsong Church, which grew to more than 150,000 global members before it was rocked by a series of scandals.
Discovery+ will air the three-part exposé, Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed, in 2022, which will include interviews with former pastors, volunteers, and church members.
The series will also feature jewelry designer Ranin Karim, who alleged that she had been involved in a relationship with married pastor Carl Lentz for five months in 2020.
Prior to Karim’s revelations, Lentz, 42, was ousted from his position as at the megachurch, where he counseled the likes of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, because of reported ‘breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.’
In the wake of his downfall, Hillsong founder Brian Houston, 67, has also been fighting charges that he illegally concealed his father’s alleged child abuse, and in September he stepped down from Hillsong’s board.
An ‘explosive’ docuseries will explore the alleged ‘exploitation’ of Hillsong Church, which grew to more than 150,000 global members before it was rocked by a series of scandals
Discovery+ will air the three-part exposé, Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed, in 2022, which will include information on disgraced pastor Carl Lentz
The former Hillsong leader was known for being a pastor to the stars, including Justin Bieber, whom he baptized in 2014
According to a press release from Discovery+, the docuseries will ‘examine how the star-studded Hillsong was able to grow into a global brand that attracted high-profile celebrity attendees, unearth the truth behind headlines of recent scandals, and shine a light on the fine line between culture, corporation and cult.’
Breaklight Pictures and New York Post Entertainment have secured interviews with several people involved with the church to shine line on what happened.
Interview subjects will include former Hillsong pastors and volunteers.
Jaclyn Hayes — who was a volunteer at Wave Church in Virginia Beach, where Carl Lentz served as a pastor prior to joining Hillsong — appears in the series to allege that Lentz ‘exhibited controlling behavior towards her.’
Janice Lagata, a former Hillsong student and volunteer, says she frequently raised concerns about gender and racial inequality within the church.
Finally there is Ranin Karim, 35, who told Vanity Fair last November that she had been involved in a relationship with the married pastor for five months in 2020.
The docuseries, will include interviews with former pastors, volunteers, and church members, as well as Ranin Karim (pictured)
Karim (pictured) alleged that she had been involved in a relationship with married pastor Carl Lentz for five months in 2020
‘I know what I got myself into, but at the same time I wanted to do the right thing and walk, walk away. I am not a monster,’ she said
‘I know what I got myself into, but at the same time I wanted to do the right thing and walk, walk away. I am not a monster,’ she said.
She also told The Sun that he didn’t wear a ring and didn’t tell her he was married, and they had ‘a deep, special connection.’
Hillsong’s drama began a year ago when Lentz, who co-founded the New York City branch of the Australian church back in 2010, was fired by the organization’s leader Brian Houston, who accused the pastor of ‘moral failures’ and ‘breaches of trust’ in a statement issued.
‘This action has been taken following ongoing discussions in relation to leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures,’ Houston revealed.
Lentz, who rose to notoriety after baptizing his close friend Justin Bieber in 2014, later admitted that he had cheated on his wife, Laura.
‘I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that,’ he wrote in a lengthy Instagram post, alongside a picture of him posing with his wife and their three children — daughters Ava, 17, and Charlie, 15, and a son, Roman.
Lentz, 42, was ousted from his position as at the megachurch, because of reported ‘breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures’
He confirmed that he had cheated on his wife, Laura. The pair have three kids – daughters Ava, 17, and Charlie, 15, and son Roman, 12 (pictured)
‘This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions.’
Lentz hinted that he and wife Laura, whom he married in 2003 after meeting her while studying at the Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, Australia, were working through his infidelity, writing that he is focusing on ‘rebuilding trust’ with her and their three kids.
‘[I am] taking real time to work on and heal my own life and seek out the help that I need,’ he continued.
‘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.’
‘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,’ he wrote. ‘When that does not happen, a change needs to be made and has been made in this case to ensure that standard is upheld.’
Following Lentz’s dismissal, the church said that Laura had also left her role, and sources have told The Sun that she was cast out because of her husband’s infidelity — despite having known the church founders her entire life.
Several people came forward with accusations against Lentz, including Karim.
Justin and Hailey Bieber unfollowed the Lentzes on Instagram after the scandal broke
Laura and Carl Facetimed Hailey and Justin during the April lockdown. The Biebers were also close with the Lentz children
Meanwhile, a witness who saw Lentz at Jennifer Lopez’s post-Super Bowl party said he was flirting with several women, some of whom were then seen sitting on his lap, on a yacht in Miami during a post-Super Bowl party hosted by the singer. The source described him as a ‘womanizing whore.’
Amidst these stories, it came to light that Lentz was accused of sexual misconduct as far back as 2017.
In July 2017, a member wrote to one of the church’s directors with allegations that some Hillsong leaders were texting nude photos to female volunteers.
They said Lentz made one volunteer ‘extremely uncomfortable’ after he ‘acted inappropriately’ was ‘extremely flirtatious’ and ‘involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with different women,’
But a month later a senior member of Hillsong New York wrote a terse email back, claiming the allegations were all false.
The revelations continued to pour in, and in December, Lee Martin, who worked as a dog walker for the Lentz family in Brooklyn for several years, told The Sun that in 2014 he heard the disgraced pastor and a celebrity having sex in his Williamsburg apartment one time when he went to pick up his dog.
‘[I am] taking real time to work on and heal my own life and seek out the help that I need,’ Lentz said
Martin claimed he could hear noises coming from the bedroom and left the apartment but then bumped into the pair by the elevator ‘looking flushed.’
The celebrity in question was not identified but Martin said she was several years the pastor’s junior.
Then this January, a former nanny for the Lentzes accused him of ‘bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse’ in a story for Medium. Hillsong Boston pastor Leona Kines wrote that she was sexually assaulted several times over the seven years she worked as a nanny and personal cleaner for the church leader.
Although she did not name Lentz in her Medium post, referring to him as the lead pastor of Hillsong NYC,’ she confirmed his identity to the Religion News Service.
She said she remembers the pastor telling her: “After you have kids, we’ll buy you a boob job.’
Another time, Kines recalls him taking her photo while she was sunbathing, and cropping his wife out, editing the picture with a black and white filter and texting it to her saying: ‘Sheesh girl, looking good.’
Kimes further claims Lentz would get into the hot tub she was in with his kids and position himself so his hands ‘could graze my legs.’
It allegedly escalated from there.
In the wake of his downfall, Hillsong founder Brian Houston, 67, has also been fighting charges that he illegally concelaed his father’s alleged child abuse
‘While he never had intercourse with me and never kissed me, I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas,’ Kimes wrote in her post.
She detailed how he once touched her inappropriately as she was driving his sick son to the doctor, and once again when she took his children to the movie theater and the lights went dark.
Kines said Laura found out about Lentz’s alleged misbehavior in 2016, and ‘blamed’ and ‘silenced’ her, at which point she started to blame herself.
‘I would leave church on Sunday full of shame after hearing his sermon,’ she wrote. ‘I would think it was all my fault … He was my pastor, I was the problem. He was the boss, I was the employee.’
An attorney for Lentz and his wife, Laura, told the Religion News Service they ‘vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.’
Then this summer, the founder of Hillsong, Brian Houston, was charged by Australia police with concealing his late father’s sex offenses.
He pleaded not guilty.
Police will say that Frank Houston (pictured with wife Hazel) indecently assaulted a male in 1970
According to a police statement, Houston’s father, Frank Houston, indecently assaulted a male in 1970.
Court documents allege that between 1999 and his father’s death in 2004, Brian Houston believed his father had committed the crime.
Police will argue that he knew information that could help secure the prosecution of his father and failed to bring it to the attention of police.
Since being charged, Houston has stepped down from the board of Hillsong, the church he founded with wife Bobbie in Sydney’s Hills district in 1983.
Houston has said that he will still be the church’s Global Senior Pastor in an internal email, People reported.
In the email, Houston did not cite his court case in Australia, saying instead that he had resigned so the board could function ‘to their fullest capacity during this season.’
‘I also wanted to let you know that I’ve made a decision to step aside from my role on the Hillsong Church boards that oversee the governance of our operations.
‘I did this so that these boards can function to their fullest capacity during this season.
Hillsong has become popular with young people with its concert-like sermons and recruiting of celebrities including Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez
‘This doesn’t change my role as Global Senior Pastor. I thought it was important to let our church family know in the interests of transparency, and I wanted you to hear it from me directly,’ the email obtained by People said.
Meanwhile, in September, an American woman named Anna Crenshaw and an Australian woman using the alias Katherine both claimed they were sexually assaulted by Hillsong members.
Katherine told 60 Minutes she stayed back after a bible studies class one night to help pack up the room, where she claims she was raped by another Hillsong member.
There is no suggestion Mr Houston or any other high-ranking member of the church knew about the allegations.
As the allegations aired on Sunday night, he tweeted: ‘Courage is taking a stand when sitting down would be so much easier’.
‘He closed the doors and turned off the lights. I said to him: “What are you doing, are you OK?” Then he grabbed my hair, pushed me onto this office chair,’ she said.
‘I said: “What are you doing? Stop. No, this isn’t happening”, because in that moment I knew what was going to happen. He pulled down my pants and my underwear and he raped me in our events office at church.’
In September, a woman said she stayed back after a bible studies class one night to help pack up the room, where she claims she was raped by another Hillsong member
Katherine, a devout Christian and at the time a virgin, described the alleged attack as callous and ‘violent.’
‘I had no reason to think I wasn’t going to be safe. It was really violent. It was just completely filled with anger and rage and hatred,’ she said. ‘It was scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my whole life.’
Katherine said the man was ‘so much bigger’ than her, and when he left he ‘just pulled up his pants and left without saying anything to me.’
‘That was the only sexual experience I’d ever had and it was non-consensual and I just wanted to pretend it didn’t happen,’ she said.
After reporting the incident to Hillsong, she claims she was told she needed to focus on ‘repairing relationships’ and told her to ‘sort it out’ with her accused rapist.
‘He wouldn’t let me speak. I can’t breathe, I’m crying, I’m hysterical in front of this man,’ she said of the man she spoke to about her alleged ordeal.
‘Every time I would say a word he would say: “That’s not for my ears to hear. You go sort that out with him.”‘
After taking her allegations public by posting her story on social media, Katherine was immediately contacted by Hillsong, who wanted to meet with her, she said.
After reporting the incident to someone at Hillsong, she was told she needed to focus on ‘repairing relationships’ and told her to ‘sort it out’ with her accused rapist
Three years after going approaching someone in the church to reveal her alleged rape, Hillsong finally told police, she said.
‘I want my abuser to never have the chance to be able to do that to another person again’ Katherine said.
‘I also want Hillsong and the person I told to be held accountable for not doing anything.’
A second woman, an American named Anna Crenshaw, has revealed the horrific details of the night she was violated by a Hillsong worker.
A man named Jason Mays, a married administrator at the church, made a number un-reciprocated advances at her, leading to an incident at a party in 2016.
‘He put his hands around my waist, in between my legs, touching my crotch. I was trying to pull away from him but he stumbled out the door trying to follow us,’ she said.
She too went to Hillsong and also was met with little co-operation from the church, who took three months to speak to the man before appointing his wife to be her new church leader.
Anna Crenshaw (pictured) was violated by Jason Mays, a married administrator at the church, at a party in 2016. Mr Mays pleaded guilty to indecent assault in a Sydney court last year
Crenshaw found out through LinkedIn after Mr Mays pleaded guilty to indecent assault that he had been promoted by Hillsong, with founder Brian Houston publicly supporting him
‘I felt like I was the one in trouble, not him,’ Crenshaw said.
Mays pleaded guilty to indecent assault before Penrith Court in January last year and was sentenced to two-years probation, keeping his job.
Crenshaw discovered through LinkedIn he had been given a promotion, with Hillsong saying their justification was forgiveness and also that they ‘did not fully corroborate (Anna’s) version of the events.’
‘One of the cornerstones of our Biblical belief as Christians is forgiveness and redemption. It is important Jason is allowed this as well,’ they said.
Mays’ father is the head of HR for Hillsong.
The church’s founder, Houston, said Mays ‘is not a sexual predator’ but rather a ‘young man who did something stupid, got much drunker than he should and got himself in a bad situation.’