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Houston spoke to Today‘s Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday, May 19, about the celebrity culture that followed the Christian church. 

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hillsong church founder brian houston scandals carl lentz

Source: TODAY/YOUTUBE

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 “One person who’s obviously been well reported is Justin Bieber,” Houston said. Bieber was close with Lentz and considered him a spiritual adviser. The “Yummy” singer even lived with Lentz and his wife in 2014 during a personal low point in his life. 

“If you think back several years now when he was wrecking hotel rooms and basically on the edge of getting deported to Canada, there was certainly talk about that and living an out-of-control life with abuse of drugs and so on. And look at Justin Bieber today. Anyone who’s being fair could see a radical change, and so not everything about [Hillsong] is ,” Houston said.

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Lentz in particular seemed close to celebrity members and Guthrie said people said “he would come in in a chauffeured car, wait in a green room, come do a sermon and depart.”

Carl was Carl,” Houston responded. “He’s a unique character. There’s a lot of things I miss about Carl. But having said that, there were leadership issues that I believe included lying, included what I would call narcissistic behavior.” 

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“I think there’s a lot of things I should’ve known earlier, and hopefully, moving forward, we’ll make sure we have far better systems in place and better accountability,” Houston noted of the scandal. 

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One of the main criticisms of the church is it’s views on LGBTQ people. Juno star Elliot Page famously slammed the church as “infamously anti-LGBTQ” to which Chris Pratt responded and said “nothing could be further from the truth.”

“I want us to get better at the way we communicate and embrace and work with people who are gay,” Houston said. 

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“I don’t have any personal bias at all against gay or lesbian people. But unfortunately, as a pastor, you don’t represent what you think. You represent what the Bible says. And so at this point, we’re still a conservative one on the subject of active gay relationship, et cetera,” he told Guthrie. 

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“But it’s a journey,” Houston added. “Everyone’s welcome. Many, many people who are gay come to Hillsong Church.” 

Selena Gomez has since left the church because she “doesn’t identify with Hillsong any longer” and feels “bitterly disillusioned” 

“I think so many pastors put themselves on this pedestal,” Bieber previously commented. “[It’s] basically, church can be surrounded around the man, the pastor, the guy, and it’s like, ‘This guy has this ultimate relationship with God that we all want but we can’t get because we’re not this guy.’” 

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