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Carl Lentz claims Hillsong Church browbeat him into signing NDA in firing

todayJune 7, 2024 9

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By Leonardo Blair, Senior Reporter (Christian Post)

Former Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz claimed Tuesday that he was unable to speak publicly about his firing from Hillsong Church in 2020 because he was browbeaten into signing a non-disclosure agreement to collect severance pay from the megachurch headquartered in Australia.

While owning his role in the adultery scandal that led to his firing from Hillsong, Lentz argued that he believes the church used him as a scapegoat to deflect from a larger culture of “cover-up” he once viewed as protection, which was revealed in the wake of founder Brian Houston’s firing in March 2022.

Sharing in the second episode of their new “Lights On” podcast published Wednesday, Lentz raised the issue of the NDA after his wife asked him why he didn’t speak out against inaccurate narratives that emerged about him in media in the wake of his adultery scandal.

“I think the response of Hillsong Church, from our view, is just … we just stopped caring a long time ago, just walked away. And I think people have said, ‘Well, why didn’t [you say anything] if you’re not guilty of things? Why didn’t you say something?’ And I said, ‘Well, number one, it wouldn’t matter, but two, we also signed an NDA, which is a practice of most corporations and some churches,’” Lentz said.

“Not saying it’s right, not saying it’s wrong, but [that’s] the way it works. And I, we, didn’t know any of this because I’ve never gotten fired before,” he recalled. “We were told we had to sign this NDA in order to get half of a severance payment for like a year salary.”

Lentz said he was “petrified” because he had never imagined he would be in that situation. He ultimately signed the agreement because he and his family were in a very vulnerable place.

“You have no money. We were scrambling, didn’t know what was going on. And it was a very, it was, you know, not a lot of money. But if I didn’t sign it, I couldn’t get anything. I now look back and I go, that’s, I didn’t know that it was gonna go the way it went. So I was like, Yeah, I’m gonna sign it. Because I’m not gonna need to say anything.”

Lentz was fired from his post at Hillsong NYC in November 2020 over “leadership issues” and moral failures, including being unfaithful to his wife with multiple women, including a staff member at Hillsong NYC. Details from an internal investigation shared with The Christian Post in 2022 that was conducted on behalf of Hillsong Church by the New York City law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, alleged, among other things, that he manipulated some former staff and volunteers and caused them mental distress.

When Lentz did not respond to CP when he was asked to comment on claims made in an internal Hillsong report in April 2022, Hillsong Church was asked if he had to sign an NDA as part of his severance package and officials there remained silent

The church is allegedly notorious for using NDAs to silence potential critics.

Last month, former member and ex-Hillsong College student Anna Crenshaw revealed that a legal agreement that was being brokered between her and Hillsong Church Australia, to settle a lawsuit over the harm she suffered from being indecently assaulted by a married church administrator in 2016, fell through because the church asked her to lie and sign an NDA.

“We were unable to come to a settlement today because Hillsong changed their plan in a ploy to intimidate and silence me. And I will not give up my voice. This has never been about money for me but about justice and accountability, which we’ve not received this week,” Crenshaw told reporters outside an Australian court.

Hillsong Church denied Crenshaw’s claim but Lentz and his wife say the church was very aggressive in ensuring he signed the NDA as his family reeled in the scandal.

“You’re not thinking. Like, you’re just like … they were pretty forceful on it as well,” Laura Lentz recalled. “You need to sign this today.”

Lentz admits that while he didn’t have to sign the NDA, he was left with very little choice.

“I didn’t have to sign it. I should have had a lawyer present. Didn’t know what I was doing, but did it. I signed it. And I think that’s why they went so hard, because they knew I couldn’t say anything,” the former Hillsong NYC pastor said while questioning the church’s use of NDAs.

“I don’t know about that practice. I feel like that practice is one that can be scrutinized, but that’s what happens when people are like, ‘Why didn’t you say something early?’ I was like, ‘Well, I was petrified.’ Because I didn’t want to lose the little bit of support that we have for my family, and I signed a frickin legal document that was so extensive.”

Lentz asked people not to see what happened at Hillsong as a failure of the church but a failure of the leadership.

“The amazing people that are part of it have nothing to do with that. That’s how I feel about a lot of things that have to do with Hillsong. It’s that there’s some people that made it difficult and it got cloudy somewhere along the way,” he said.

Written by: D Roy

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