The scandal-plagued New York and London arms of the Hillsong Church will be taken over by two young Australian couples, after founder Brian Houston announced plans to be less involved in the church.
Carl Lentz was last year sacked as head of the New York church amid revelations he was using Hillsong money to fund his lavish lifestyle, while also cheating on his wife.
The rising star of the megachurch became close friends with celebrity worshippers such as popstars Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, basketball star Kevin Durant and actress Vanessa Hudgens, during his time as Hillsong’s head pastor in New York.
The church’s Australian-born founder Houston’s decision to sack Lentz from his role was this week followed by him making the call to move on Gary Clarke as lead pastor of the London campus, into a role as head of the church in the UK and Europe.
In their place Houston announced a glamorous couple from Victoria would be taking over in London, while a Perth family will be taking over from the disgraced Lentz in New York.
The scandal-plagued New York and London arms of the Hillsong Church will be taken over by two young Australian couples, as founder Brian Houston announced he and wife Bobbie (both pictured) plan to be less involved in the church
The moves come after New York lead pastor Carl Lentz (right) was sacked late last year after he was found to be using church funds to pay for his lavish lifestyle. Lentz had made a host of star friends while running the church on the U.S east coast, including popstar Justin Bieber (left)
In a leaked email last year, Houston admitted that Lentz had not created a ‘caring’ or ‘healthy environment’ for parishioners in New York.
In a follow up letter to members of the East Coast chapter of the church, Houston said he was very sad to have to sack Lentz but put the decision down to ‘leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures’.
‘I know this will come as a shock to you, but please know that this action was not one made lightly and was done in the best interests of everyone, including Pastor Carl,’ he said.
Chrishan Jeyaratnam and his wife Danielle joined Hillsong in its early days as a small church in Sydney’s west.
Houston said the couple – who have four young girls and have been in charge of the Perth and Bali chapters of the church over recent years – were strong candidates to put the church back on track.
The decision to move Mr Clarke on from his role as lead pastor in London comes just months after he was criticised by Houston over his comments about George Floyd’s death.
At the time Clarke – also originally from Australia – said during a service he did not want to be commenting on the Black Lives Matter issue, as he did not live in the U.S.
‘For me to be railing as a pastor about something that’s going on in another country, I’m not really sure that’s going to help anyone,’ Mr Clarke said.
In response, Houston said that Hillsong was firmly ‘opposed to racism’.
Chrishan Jeyaratnam and wife Danielle (both pictured) will be taking over from Lentz in New York, moving their family from Perth where they have been lead pastors in Western Australia
Mr and Mrs Jeyaratnam were announced as the new US east coast pastors during a Hillsong service on Sunday
Lentz was sacked in November over what Hillsong leader Houston called ‘leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures’ (He is pictured with his wife and children)
Houston said the decision to sack Lentz was particularly sad, given his own family’s lengthy and close relationship with him and his wife Laura (Pictured is the letter sent to Hillsong East Coast parishioners)
‘I was disappointed to learn today that comments were made by one of our pastors in last weekend’s UK online service which I’m sure he deeply regrets, have caused hurt and offence, and for that I am deeply sorry,’ he said.
Mr Clarke and his wife Cathy will be moved into a role overseeing the church across both the UK and Europe.
Taking over in London will be glamorous couple Tim and Danielle Douglass, who in recent years have been leading the church in Victoria and Tasmania.
The couple have been together for more than 16 years and have three young kids.
Mrs Douglass is from the UK originally and Houston told those gathered at Sunday’s service she was looking forward to returning home.
Houston told parishioners it was part of his plan to put ‘younger leaders’ in place as he and wife Bobbie close in on their 70s.
At the same service on Sunday, Houston also announced he and his wife would be aiming to take a reduced role across the church in coming years.
Glamorous couple Tim and Danielle Douglass will be taking over as lead pastors in London
The couple have been leading the church in Victoria and Tasmania in recent years
The move comes after former London lead pastor Gary Clarke and his wife Cathy were shifted into a role overseeing UK and Europe, just months after he was criticised by Houston over his comments on the Black Lives Matter movement
‘It’s virtually impossible, unsustainable for us to lead everything that we’re leading right now,’ Houston said.
‘So over these next few years… I would really like to put in place younger leaders in Australia and younger leaders around the globe.
‘Bobbie and I aren’t going anywhere… I’m not putting any time on this, we’re definitely not retiring, we’re not retiring. We’ll be around, but I do think it’s the right season for us to look at a whole new season for us personally.’
Hillsong was founded in the Hills District of Sydney in 1983 and has more than 28 churches in Australia, and more than 100 around the world.
Brian and Bobbie Houston founded Hillsong in the Hills District of Sydney in 1983 and they now have more than 28 churches in Australia and more than 100 around the world