(RNS) — Carl Lentz, the ousted pastor of Hillsong New York City, has landed on staff at Transformation Church, a predominantly Black, nondenominational megachurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that is led by pastor, author and popular YouTuber Michael Todd.
Transformation, a juggernaut in a town replete with megachurches, has confirmed that Lentz, who was fired from Hillsong in 2020 when an extramarital affair came to light, has joined its staff.
“We gladly welcome Carl Lentz to our Transformation Church staff, helping TC with strategy as we continue to move forward in our vast vision,” Tammy McQuarters, the church’s executive pastor of operations, told Religion News Service in an email Monday (March 27).
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Lentz, 44, once labeled a “hypepriest” by GQ Magazine for his fashionable attire and ministry to NBA players and celebrities such as Justin Bieber, has been mostly silent since his firing, even as rumors and ongoing accusations have dogged him and his former church.
(That silence will end May 19, with the release of an FX docuseries covering the Hillsong scandals and, it was announced Tuesday, featuring the first interviews from Carl Lentz and his wife, Laura, since his firing.)
“After two years of Carl being in his own discovery and healing process, he has shown readiness to use his God-given gifts towards the local church again. We believe in Carl, his marriage, his skill set, and his restoration,” McQuarters said.
McQuarters said the church’s vision to “re-present God to the lost and found for transformation in Christ” includes restoration. The two go “hand-in-hand,” she said, pointing to Scripture from the Book of Galatians that includes a message to “restore one another” after sin, mistakes and repentance.
“We are called to be a safe environment for people to evolve and transform,” she added.
Transformation Church, founded in 1999 in the historically Black Greenwood District of Tulsa, home to the city’s 1921 race massacre, now meets in the nearby suburb of Bixby, at the 4,500-seat SpiritBank Event Center, which the church owns. The arena, purchased by Transformation in 2019 for $10.5 million, was among the nearly $67 million in real estate properties the church has bought in the area in the past four years.
Todd and Transformation Church have become known in Tulsa for their community donations, including $200,000 to each of the three living survivors of the race massacre, part of a $1 million donation given by the church to commemorate the tragedy at its centennial.
Lentz, a native of North Carolina, was trained at Hillsong College in Sydney, Australia, before being sent to by the Pentecostal powerhouse to plant a Hillsong outpost in Manhattan in 2010. Dubbed Hillsong NYC, the church drew as many as 10,000 mostly young New Yorkers to its services at its height. But since Lentz’s firing in November 2020, the NYC branch and Hillsong Global have been embroiled in parallel scandals, with revelations of indiscretions with women resulting in the resignation of Hillsong’s founding pastor Brian Houston last year, as well as ongoing allegations of financial misconduct by the church.
Soon after Lentz’s ouster, Ranin Karim, a Brooklyn jewelry designer, discussed her relationship with Lentz on “Good Morning America.” A few months later, Lentz’s former nanny, Leona Kimes, came forward with allegations that Lentz had subjected her to “bullying, abuse of power and sexual abuse,” which a legal representative for Lentz denied at the time. A leaked report, commissioned by Hillsong Global to look into the leadership of Hillsong East Coast, painted a picture of a church leadership rife with abuse, sexual misconduct and secrecy.
At Transformation Church, McQuarters said they are praying for Lentz and his family to experience restoration and to, in turn, help others do the same, “by using their triumphs and failures to create resources for the body of Christ at large.”
“We believe that this is part of what it looks like for the church to be the church,” McQuarters said.