Grace City Church in Florida has been added to the list of churches that dropped their affiliation with Hillsong Church after a series of scandals surrounding its founder Brian Houston and Pastor Carl Lentz.
The Ledger revealed the reason behind the decision of a fast-growing church in Lakeland City to cut ties with Hillsong. Andrew Gard, co-pastor at Grace City Church, noted that their reason wasn't about the three-part Discovery+ documentary lashing out at Hillsong. "It was about the news that came out about Pastor Brian," Gard explained.
On March 23, Hillsong Officials announced the resignation of the global senior pastor of the Australian megachurch Brian Houston due to misconduct allegations. On that note, he said that they're broken and sad just like everybody and noted that these events weren't reflective of churches as a whole.
He said, "Character matters in what we do, and rightfully so. Our church for the last few years has operated in a way that's above reproach and board." He also commended churches for doing a lot of "amazing works."
In September 2015, Grace City Church became a part of the "Hillsong Family," a second-tier association of Hillsong to its affiliated congregations. Gard explained that their church has always been nondenominational. For Gard, Hillsong serves as an "emergency contact" of their local church council.
He said the local church council could reach out to Hillsong in case there would be "moral failure" on Gard's end to determine if the case is restorative or not. He also said that the local church council could work with them to find new senior pastors just in case he and his wife lost their lives in an accident.
By their decision to disaffiliate with the Hillsong Church, Gard noted, "Decisions have consequences, and we understand that."
Grace City Church's Familial Relationship With Hillsong
Before becoming part of Hillsong's Family Network, Gard said Grace City's leadership agreed to remain independent but later on, approached Hillsong to share its "vibe" without formal denominational ties. Through that, he came to know Houston. "You don't get into Hillsong unless he approves," he said.
Gard said throughout their "relationship," Hillsong provided them with a couple of things. He said that it provided them with a great network of pastors around the world that they could learn from. Hillsong also had ministries that could come to help their ministries.
He said that Houston provided him an excellent leadership as they got started. His longtime friendship with Carl Lentz also made him drawn to Hillsong. However, in recent years allegations of sexual indecency among Hillsong leaders began to rise.
Gard said that it's heartbreaking and Lentz means a lot to him as a friend yet his terrible decisions have messed with the way people view God. He said that it was an easy decision for them to make, since "Hillsong Family" was about relationships. He noted that when there's a change of leadership, then the nature of their relationship also changed with Hillsong.
Related Article: Pastor Shares How Hillsong Scandals Affect The Church In Australia