New York (RNS) – Helsong Founding Pastor Brian Houston informed Helsong East Coast staff and members via email Wednesday afternoon (4 November) that Karl Lentz’s work as the main sponsor of the New York City Grand Church site has been terminated.
The email, obtained by the Religion News Service, cited the reason for the termination as “leadership issues and breaches of trust, as well as a recent revelation of ethical failures.”
Houston wrote: “I know this will be a shock to you, but I hope you know that this measure was not taken lightly and was in everyone’s interest, including Reverend Carl.”
Please understand that it would not be appropriate for us to go into detail about the events that led to this decision. However, you can rest assured that this decision was made to honor God and pastoral care of you, and the East Coast family, Reverend Karl and his family, ”continued Houston.
In a statement that Houston posted on the church’s website later on Wednesday evening, he repeated many initial emails but added praise for Linz’s work in Helsong and said he was grateful for the years of service that Linz and his wife had provided to Helsong New York City.
“They have a heart for the people and we are confident that after a time of rest and restoration, God will use Karl in some other way outside of Helsung Church. By ending his term, we do not in any way want to diminish the good work he did here,” the statement said.
Houston also assured readers that the service would “continue as usual,” and the leadership team was “praying for God to have an exciting new season for our church and this area.”
Lentz, 41, was one of a number of pastors described by GQ Magazine as “pastors of the priests” who lead churches frequented by celebrities. Friends and devotees include Justin Bieber and his wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber, as well as the Jenner sisters.
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Lentz, along with Houston’s son Joel, began building Helsong Church, New York, the first church on the East Coast in Helsong, in 2010. The church, part of the global network of Helsong churches, soon drew attention to the long lines awaiting “admission” on Sunday. Sunday in the morning – and for the demographic wait in those lines. The congregants who flocked there – like the chief pastor – were young, sophisticated, and dressed more as if they were heading to a rock concert than they were to a Sunday morning church. In fact, their place, Irving Plaza in Manhattan’s Gramercy neighborhood, was a church by day and concert hall at night.
Lentz, who was relatively unknown prior to taking over the Presidency of Hillsong NYC, drew mainstream media attention for his beloved costume, his arms covered in tattoos, and celebrity worshipers, including Justin Bieber, who according to GQ was baptized by a priest in a bathtub Tyson Chandler, The New York Knicks player at the time.
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Lentz grew up in Virginia and played basketball in North Carolina, where he told the New York Post that he “was doing something of my own, being my God.” He moved to Los Angeles to attend Kings College and Seminar, then went to Australia to join Helsong’s training program, Helsong College, where he met his wife, Laura. He worked for the Virginia Beach Department of Youth before moving to the trendy Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to launch the first Helsong site in the US, according to media reports.
Huston wrote in his letter: “Although I have no doubt that this is the correct course of action, I must mention Bobby and my personal sadness, as we have known Laura throughout her life and Carl for more than 20 years.”
Priests Brian and Bobby Houston founded the original Heilong Church in 1983 in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. It now has sites in 28 countries around the world, and in the pre-pandemic period it saw an average of 150,000 visitors each week, according to its website.
Helsong is also famous for its cult music and popular congress.
Neither Helsong nor Karl Linz immediately responded to requests for comment.
This story is disabled and will be updated.
Emily McFarlane Miller contributed to this report.