Great Britain

Carl Lentz offered secret severance as Hillsong founder slams fired pastor as a ‘manipulative narcissist’ after affair

SCANDAL-hit pastor Carl Lentz and his wife Laura are being offered a severance package, an executive of Hillsong Church revealed in shocking leaked audio, obtained by The Sun.

The disgraced church leader, who admitted to cheating on his wife of 17 years after being fired for "moral failures," has now relocated from New York to Los Angeles with Laura and their three children.

George Aghajanian, director of Hillsong Australia, made the startling revelation they have offered him an secret cash amount in a recording from a meeting of senior staff and donors on November 19.

He said: "We are trying to care for them as far as they're letting us care for them. And certainly our heart is to look after the children to look after Laura.

"And certainly even Carl who needs a lot of help, and we're working on a severance package that we're negotiating with them on, they haven't accepted that at this point in time.

"And the purpose of that is really to get them the help they need and to help them through this difficult process, to work on their marriage, to work on the issues that pastor Brian's [Houston, founder of Hillsong] just covered, even with Carl.

"So we are doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes, it's not anything we were going to promote publicly, but we do care for them.

"As much as we've taken actions we have, they're not actions to try and hurt them in any way. We're trying to care for them as much as we're trying to care for our church as well."

The audio revealed Hillsong has hired Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, a law firm in New York, to act independently and conduct a thorough investigation. 

Aghajanian insisted Carl and Laura didn't have access to any Hillsong bank accounts and they have no current evidence of any inappropriate use of church cash, although it is part of the investigation.

"If something does come up, we will address it," he said. "And there's a safety net. If the investigation shows that something of a criminal nature [happened] .. we will report it accordingly.

"It wasn't like they had free access to the offerings, we guard and protect the integrity of people's giving. That's a very important thing for us, it has been since our inception in Australia 37 years ago.

"To this day, every church we set up has to has to abide by certain rules," he said, adding that they monitor the finances every month and are independently audited annually.

"There are a lot of systems in place behind the scenes to make sure there is minimal opportunity for anyone to bring any kind of fraud about. But like I said, the investigation is ongoing and we will look at everything."

Founder Brian Houston also slammed Carl, 42, earlier in the meeting, calling out his "narcissistic, manipulating and difficult" behavior, and revealed he'd had multiple affairs.

"I'll only ever say this once, but if you want to know why we took such radical action, and so quickly, the leadership that [inaudible] been talked about ... just general narcissistic behavior," he said.

"Manipulating, mistreating people, other hurtful things, the breaches of trust [inaudible] and constantly lying. I wrote down basically broken trust."

Houston labeled Carl as "unaccountable" and "basically running his own race," adding that he understands some staff and pastors felt they weren't being listened to when they raised issues about him.  

"I just want to say in defence of our pastors and our team there ... Carl was and is an extremely hard man to confront and anyone who may have tried to do that would know exactly what I'm talking about," he went on.

In the revealing leaked recording, Brian can be heard explaining how lead pastors alerted him to Carl's infidelity after compromising text messages were found on his work computer and they "drove across town" late at night to confront him.

The Sun previously interviewed his mistress, Ranin Karim, who claimed she had a five-month affair with Carl - after he initially told her he was a sports agent before she found out his real identity online.  

Brian went on to describe the married pastor in the recording as a “difficult man to have any kind of direct conversation with,” adding that he's “always defensive.”

He said: “It would always be put back on the other person as though they're the ones with the problem."

The Sun has reached out to Hillsong and Carl Lentz's rep for comment.

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