Justin Bieber's church Hillsong is accused of racism, anti-LGBTQ behaviour, and exploiting volunteers after pastor Carl Lentz was fired for having an affair

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In November, Carl Lentz — the head pastor of the millennial-friendly Hillsong Church in New York City — made headlines when he was fired for engaging in an extramarital affair.

His ouster was announced publicly by Hillsong’s founder, Brian Houston, who noted “leadership issues,” “breaches of trust,” and “moral failures” as the main reasons for his termination in a statement posted on the church’s website on November 4.

Lentz’ firing made waves in the religious community, especially since the 42-year-old was the pastor for A-listers like Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin and Vanessa Hudgens, and he had even gained celebrity status himself with over 700,000 followers on Instagram.

But former volunteers told Insider that the church’s troubles run deeper than one illicit affair.

Pastors including Lentz aim to project an approachable and modern image, but insiders say the clerics and their inner circle were discriminatory, exploitative, and elitist. Sources accused some in church leadership of blacklisting LGBTQ members, making racist remarks, and tokenizing Black employees.

One former Hillsong Boston volunteer, Noemi Uribe, said she was discriminated against for being bisexual. After coming out to pastor Erika Nedwell in 2018, Uribe was told by Nedwell that “everyone is welcome” at the Christian megachurch. But, according to Uribe, Nedwell also warned her not to act on her sexual proclivities.

“If you were to start practicing, then that’s where there’s a problem,'” Uribe said Nedwell told her. (Nedwell did not return requests for comment.)

Uribe’s experience was “really traumatising,” she said. She later contemplated suicide before checking into a four-day psychiatric inpatient program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, on June 30, 2019, according to medical records reviewed by Insider. She had never been hospitalized for mental illness previously, she said.

In a statement to Insider, pastor Joshua Kimes of Hillsong Boston said: “Hillsong Boston is committed to diversity—we consider it a foundational value of our church.”

You can read the full investigation on Business Insider: Celebrity church Hillsong faces new accusations of racism, exploitation, and discrimination after NYC pastor Carl Lentz was fired for infidelity

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