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World News

Hillsong founder Brian Houston calls disgraced pastor Carl Lentz 'narcissistic'

by Chantalle Edmunds

Hillsong founder Brian Houston has addressed the behaviour of former pastor Carl Lentz in his first interview since a wave of scandals hit the megachurch.

Houston spoke to Savannah Guthrie for NBC's Today show in the U.S. on Wednesday and commented on Lentz's behaviour: "Carl was Carl. 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, including what I would call narcissistic behaviour."

Carl Lentz was fired from his position as head over Hillsong Church East Coast in November. Following his dismissal, Lentz admitted that he'd cheated on his wife of 17 years.

In a statement on Hillsong Church's website at the time, Brian Houston said Lentz's employment was terminated following discussions about leadership issues, breaches of trust and a recent revelation of moral failures.

During the Today interview, Houston was asked if he should have intervened with Hillsong's leadership prior to November: "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," he responded.

Houston, who set up Hillsong in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in 1983 maintained he wasn't grooming Lentz to take on a senior position in the church and he added he didn't agree with claims that the two are alike: "On one level, if people say Carl was like me, I'd see it as a compliment because (he’s an) incredibly gifted guy, but on another level, I don't think Carl really is anything like me, Houston said. "I am ultimately responsible. I am ultimately accountable."

Houston added that while Lentz's behavior was bad, it wasn't beyond redemption.

The interview also honed in on the church's celebrity following, which has included the likes of Chris Pratt and Vanessa Hudgens. Houston was asked about creating a culture in the church where is there is 'one rule for celebrities' and one for everyone else. 

"I do think that we did allow a culture to develop where it was one rule for celebrities and a different rule for other people," Houston admitted.

"There's another side to it," he continued. "One person who's obviously been well reported is Justin Bieber. If you think back several years now, when he was wrecking hotel rooms and basically on the edge of getting deported to Canada and look at Justin Bieber today - anyone who's being fair could see a radical change, and so not everything about it is bad."

Asked by Guthrie what he thinks Jesus would have thought of Hillsong, Houston said: "Do you want the honest answer? I think he would like it. We're focused on glorifying him."

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