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Hillsong church appoints legal firm to conduct an ‘in depth investigation into its culture’

Carl and Laura Lentz were both cast out by the church over his cheating 

Hillsong, the celebrity-adored megachurch, has appointed a New York City legal firm to conduct an ‘in-depth review’ into its culture after a ‘number of people came forward’ with concerns after loverat pastor Carl Lentz’s affair was revealed. 

Lentz, 42, was cast out of the church along with his wife Laura last week after admitting to being unfaithful to her. 

He had a five-month affair with a 34-year-old designer, Ranin Karim, who he met in lockdown

She has since spoken out, saying she believes she is not the only one he had an affair with 

In a statement to DailyMail.com on Friday, the church said: ‘Since last week’s announcement of a leadership change at Hillsong East Coast, we have heard from a number of people about their experiences and concerns. 

‘It is important that we establish the truth and then do everything we can to ensure our church is both a safe place and one that seeks to glorify God in all that we say and do.

‘For this reason we have decided to appoint a New York based legal firm that is not associated or affiliated with Hillsong to conduct an in-depth review and investigation into all concerns and any wider cultural issues. 

‘We are taking this extremely seriously and on the basis of this report, we will be better positioned to take whatever actions are deemed necessary to right the wrongs and see Hillsong East Coast move forward in a way that enables many more people to find hope in Jesus.’

Lentz, 42, had a five-month-long affair with 34-year-old fashion designer Ranin Karim after meeting her in Domino Park, Williamsburg, in May. 

Over the last week, she has given multiple interviews describing their ‘deep, sexual’ connection which involved him going to her home to drink ‘so much’ tequila, FaceTiming when they weren’t together and arguing. 

Karim found out he was married at the start of their relationship but carried on with it because he was ‘like a drug’ to her. 

Carl and Laura have three children. He is from Virginia and she is Australian. They’ve been married for 17 years and she appears to be standing by him despite being cast out from the church along with him.

Ranin Karim says she had a five-month affair with Lentz which began in May in Brooklyn

Ranin Karim says she had a five-month affair with Lentz which began in May in Brooklyn

Karim says she knew he was married but couldn't stop herself and that the pair were 'like a drug' to each other

Karim says she knew he was married but couldn't stop herself and that the pair were 'like a drug' to each other

Karim says she knew he was married but couldn’t stop herself and that the pair were ‘like a drug’ to each other

Among the friends they have made through Hillsong are Hailey and Justin Bieber, whose wedding they attended with their children and who they often had at their home in Montclair, New Jersey. 

HILLSONG STATEMENT

Since last week’s announcement of a leadership change at Hillsong East Coast, we have heard from a number of people about their experiences and concerns. 

‘It is important that we establish the truth and then do everything we can to ensure our church is both a safe place and one that seeks to glorify God in all that we say and do.

‘For this reason we have decided to appoint a New York based legal firm that is not associated or affiliated with Hillsong to conduct an in-depth review and investigation into all concerns and any wider cultural issues. 

‘We are taking this extremely seriously and on the basis of this report, we will be better positioned to take whatever actions are deemed necessary to right the wrongs and see Hillsong East Coast move forward in a way that enables many more people to find hope in Jesus.’

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After news of Carl’s affair emerged this week, Hailey unfollowed both Carl and Laura on Instagram. Justin followed suit and now the Lentz’s have unfollowed them too.

While the Biebers were their most famous friends, Carl and Laura have mingled with countless celebrities over the years after being introduced to them through the church. He’s been seen with the Kardashians, Drake, Vanessa Hudgens, and various NBA stars. 

Lentz grew up in Virginia then went to Australia after graduating high school. That is where he was introduced to Hillsong and met its founder, Brian Houston. 

In 2003, he returned to the US with Laura to set up Hillsong in New York City. 

It has since grown, under his leadership and with the help of Brian’s son Joel, into a celebrity-mecca. Lentz’s salary is not listed anywhere in the company’s most recent annual reports. 

In 2019, Hillsong East Coast – which he is in charge of – brought in $12.7million in revenue and more than a quarter of that – $3.87million – went on staff salaries.

He and Laura, and their kids, live in a $1.5million, five-bedroom home in Montclair, New Jersey, where the church is registered. 

They have also been listed on the deed for a $2million apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the past.

Details of exactly how much they are paid or if any of their living expenses are counted as church expenses is unclear. 

Hillsong is registered as a company in Australia, where it began. According to the most recent Australian annual report, the church took in $95.9million AUD in revenue, around  $70million USD, and spent $21million AUD ($15m USD), including $6m AUD ($4m USD) in staff salaries. 

Hillsong East Coast, which the Lentzs were in charge of, also produced an annual report last year.

The East Coast branch brought in $12.7million in revenue, $3.87million of that which went on staff salaries. 

It is unclear exactly how much of that money went to the Lentzs. 

The pair both favor trendy, expensive clothing. When they were spotted having what looked like crisis talks this week outside Justin Bieber’s apartment, Laura was wearing a $200 pair of Alexander Wang sweatpants.

Carl has been seen in the past wearing a $37,000 Gold Rolex. He was riding a $2,000 electrical bike last week. 

The Lentz family lived in this $1.5million home in Montclair, New Jersey, near the Hillsong church there. They sold it last week before the scandal emerged

The Lentz family lived in this $1.5million home in Montclair, New Jersey, near the Hillsong church there. They sold it last week before the scandal emerged

It's unclear now whether the family will stay in NJ , near the church, or how they'll sustain their lifestyle

It’s unclear now whether the family will stay in NJ , near the church, or how they’ll sustain their lifestyle

Carl counts other celebrities among friends. He is picture with Drake

Carl counts other celebrities among friends. He is picture with Drake 

Laura and Carl FaceTimed Hailey and Justin during the April lockdown. The Biebers are also close with the Lentz children

Laura and Carl FaceTimed Hailey and Justin during the April lockdown. The Biebers are also close with the Lentz children 

Neither Lentz nor the church has revealed what will happen now. Laura has not spoken since the scandal erupted last week. 

In their statement, Brian and Bobbie Houston – the founders – said they were ‘saddened’ to let the pair go. 

‘We thank Pastors Carl and Laura for the way they have served faithfully and sacrificially since the start of Hillsong NYC and for contributing so significantly to the countless lives that have been transformed for Jesus Christ through this ministry.

‘They have a heart for people and we are confident that after a time of rest and restoration, God will use Carl in another way outside of Hillsong church. In terminating his tenure, we in no way want to diminish the good work he did here.

‘This action has been taken following ongoing discussions in relation to leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.

‘It would not be appropriate for us to go into detail about the events that led to this decision. Our focus at this time is to honor God and pastorally care for our East Coast church community as well as the Lentz family.’   

‘While I have no doubt that this is the right course of action, I must mention Bobbie’s and my personal sadness, as we have known Laura her entire life and Carl for well over 20 years,’ Brian said. 

The statement from the Houstons was the first sign of trouble. 

Carl then took to Instagram the following day to give more information. 

‘I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that. This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions. 

‘I now begin a journey of rebuilding trust with my wife, Laura and my children and taking real time to work on and heal my own life and seek out the help that I need,’ he said. 

Karim, 34, came forward next. She first spoke to The Sun to say she was hurt by her lover’s Instagram message. She said he’d posed as a single sports agent when they first met, then revealed to her later that he was married with three kids. 

She has since spoken to The New York Post, saying he was like a ‘drug’ to her, as she was to him. 

It also emerged that Laura found out about the affair because Carl had synced his iPhone messages to his iCloud. She discovered messages from Karim to him on his work computer while in the Hillsong offices, surrounded by co-workers.

Karim says she now believes she is not the only woman he was unfaithful with. She wants others to come forward.  

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