Last month, news broke that Carl Lentz, one-time “spiritual confidant” to celebrities including Justin Bieber and head pastor at Hillsong megachurch, was “released” from his job due to unspecified “moral failures.” Soon afterward, it was revealed that Lentz cheated on his wife, having had an affair with Brooklyn-based fashion designer Ranin Karim (and potentially, many others). As of last week, it appeared like his redemption arc was beginning to unfold, having reportedly entered treatment for anxiety, depression, and “pastoral burnout.” Except, of course, new information about a seedy, “sexual inappropriate” culture at Hillsong has begun to emerge, and I just don’t get how a “religious man” gets out of this one!
According to Page Six, back in 2018, whistleblowers within the Hillsong organization sent a letter to church leaders citing “verified, widely circulated stories of inappropriate sexual behavior amongst staff/interns,” allegedly labeling Hillsong “…dangerous and a breeding ground for unchecked abuse.”
Apparently, one high-ranking church leader was instructed to leave after the letter exposed he had “multiple inappropriate sexual relationships with several female leaders and volunteers and was verbally, emotionally, and according to one woman, physically abusive in his relationships with these women.” Another high-ranking male church leader was accused of “not respecting physical and sexual boundaries within dating relationships with female church volunteers.”
The letter also stated that church volunteers face “harsh words, belittlement, name-calling from certain pastors and staff,” and one pastor in particular was guilty of “losing his temper, bullying, yelling and outright screaming at other volunteers and leaders… that’s just how they are—it’s their personality/culture.”
How very Christian of them! The time for a reckoning is nigh.
I wonder if this means celebrities are going to abandon ship—according to Page Six, Selena Gomez has left Hillsong, citing a source from Australian tabloid Daily Telegraph. “At one stage she adored Carl…,” an insider said. “She, [Hillsong founder] Brian [Houston], his daughter Laura and Justin were a team, really close, she used to hang out with Brian’s daughter-in-law Esther, now she doesn’t want anything to do with Hillsong anymore.” Who will follow suit? Your move, Bieber. [Page Six]
Cheer star Jerry Harris has pleaded not guilty to seven federal felony charges “that he tried to lure minors for sex and shared sexually explicit photos with them,” Page Six reports.
According to Us Weekly, each count of sexual exploitation of children results in a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment, if Harris is convicted—and he has four: Harris’s official charges are “four counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of enticement, one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of travel with the intent to engage in an illicit sexual contact with a minor.”
Back in September, Jezebel reported that Harris was under FBI investigation for alleging soliciting sex from a minor. Three days later, he was arrested after FBI agents raided Harris’s home, where he allegedly admitted during an interview that he had “asked one of the teens to send him photographs and videos of his penis and buttocks on Snapchat.” Agents charged him with producing child pornography.
*story by Jezebel