Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong mega-church has been fired from his position due to past “moral failures.”
In an announcement obtained by PEOPLE on Wednesday, Brian Houston, the church’s founder, said that Lentz had been relieved of his position.
“Today Hillsong Church East Coast advised our congregation that we have terminated the employment of Pastor Carl Lentz,” Houston said. “This action was not taken lightly and was done in the best interests of everyone, including Pastor Carl.”
Houston said the move came after “ongoing discussions in relation to leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.”
“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,” Houston said in the statement.
“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,” he added. “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.”
Houston did not go into further detail.
As noted by PEOPLE, Lentz has “been a pastor at the New York location of Hillsong since 2010, when he launched the church’s first U.S. location with Joel Houston” and has frequently courted celebrities such as Justin Bieber, whom he baptized long before the pair had a falling out.
On Thursday, Lentz revealed in an Instagram post that he was “unfaithful” in his marriage.
“I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that,” Lentz wrote in the post. “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.”
In 2017, Lentz famously refused to condemn abortion as a sin when speaking on “The View” as the co-hosts pressed the question.
“So, it’s not a sin in your church to have an abortion?” host Joy Behar asked.
Lentz responded: “That’s the kind of conversation we would have finding out your story, where you’re from, what you believe. … I mean, God’s the judge. People have to live to their own convictions. That’s such a broad question, to me, I’m going higher. I want to sit with somebody and say, ‘What do you believe?’”
“So it’s not an open and shut case to you?” Behar asked.
“Some people would say it is,” Lentz responded. “To me, I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, and find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”
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