Former Hillsong Church pastors blame the megachurch's culture of "secrecy" as the main reason why founder Brian Houston ignored warnings about Carl Lentz' immoral behavior.
Former Hillsong pastors Zhenya and Vera Kasevich have reported that the megachurch's founder Brian Houston, who recently stepped down following misconduct allegations, was in fact made aware of former pastor Carl Lentz behavior, but chose to ignore it because of the congregation's culture of "secrecy." Several months after Lentz was fired in 2020, a leaked audio call with Houston and other Hillsong leaders revealed that up to the time of the call, the founder did not know of any "moral" issues with Lentz.
According to the Christian Post, the explosive new Discovery Plus documentary titled "Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed" tells a different story than what was previously known. The Kasevichs, who once led a Hillsong church in Kyiv, Ukraine, alleged that they warned Houston of Lentz's immoral behavior once they caught wind of it.
"The audio from Brian did not just pop up," Vera Kasevich said in the documentary. "If you want people to know something, you find a way how to bring this narrative and how to groom people."
Houston, who served as Hillsong's global senior pastor at the time the leaked audio clip was recorded, said that "I can honestly say, before God, the first time I ever heard any moral complaint against Carl was when Tolu contacted me."
Lentz was fired from the megachurch after Hillsong East Coast executive pastor Tolu Badders found text messages on the pastor's computer between him and his mistress. At the time, Houston said that Lentz' termination was because of "leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures."
In an Instagram post published after he was fired, Lentz admitted the affair. Hillsong then launched an investigation after more details of the affair with a Muslim designer came to light. Vera said that Houston should not have been surprised about Lentz and suggested that he himself had leaked the audio so he could control the narrative.
Vera remarked, "Brian probably wanted people to know that he did not know. But he knew because I told him so personally."
Zhenya recounted how they had seen red flags within Hillsong as early as 2010. The Kaseviches were pastors of the Ukrainian Hillsong church for 17 and had left in 2014. When Hillsong New York began in 2010, the two said that they already saw "some things" at the time.
"Some things" included "inappropriate behavior" and "immoral behavior," Vera said, referring to Lentz. She admitted trusting many people around Lentz during her time with Hillsong and that one time, a source told her they saw the megachurch leader behaving in an "unpastorly manner, including smoking and drinking."
When the Kaseviches sounded the alarm to the General Manager in Sydney, Australia, Zhenya said that "no one" paid attention and they "were shut down."
Hillsong has long been plagued with scandal and the reason behind this, Vera said is because church leadership failed to "take responsibility for their decisions and for their mistakes." She argued, "Covering up and dealing in secrecy - it's a pattern for Hillsong Church, and that's why we've got so many scandals."
According to The Guardian, HIllsong began as a small church in Sydney in 1983 and grew to become a massive megachurch with more than 150,000 weekly attendees at churches located in 25 countries. Houston resigned just a year shy of the megachurch's 40th founding anniversary.