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Carl Lentz Begins Intensive Marriage Therapy; Woman Who Had Affair Seeks ‘Closure’

By Paul O'Donnell
Carl Lentz
Fired Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz. (Source: Instagram)

Since admitting adultery and being fired from his job as lead pastor of the New York congregation of Hillsong Church for “moral failures,” Carl Lentz is giving every sign he wants to move on. He and his wife have reportedly sold their New Jersey home, moved to California, and begun intense marriage therapy. 

But the woman who confesses to a five-month affair with Lentz says she is still looking for closure. Ranin Karim, 34, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America this morning, wearing a necklace she said Lentz gave her.

In the segment, Karim described her encounter with Lentz on the lawn in Domino Park, on the Brooklyn riverfront, and recounted that she felt “confused” when the pastor told her he had been married for 17 years, with three children, not long after asking her out for a drink.

According to Karim, Lentz “didn’t want to say what he does,” but told her, “I manage celebrities.” She eventually figured out who he was and confronted him about his marriage.

“When you give somebody so much power, they become God to people,” she told GMA. “People forgot the concept of religion and beliefs and people look at Carl like he’s God.”

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Karim, a Palestinian Muslim who came to the United States 11 years ago to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, according to Vanity Fair, is now a jewelry designer. She told GMA that she had attended a Hillsong service six years ago.

Relatively unknown before taking the helm of Hillsong NYC in 2010, Lentz, now 37, caught the attention of the mainstream press after baptizing Justin Bieber and growing close to the singer and his wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez and basketball star Kevin Durant have attended services at his 8,000-member church in upper Manhattan.

Since his dismissal, Lentz has been unfollowed by Bieber, according to Vanity Fair, which described the pastor as “embarrassed and unreachable.” In recent days, friends have reported that Lentz was surprised to find paparazzi camped outside his new Manhattan Beach home, south of Los Angeles.

Raised in Virginia, Lentz played basketball for North Carolina State University before studying for ministry in Los Angeles, at King’s College and Seminary. He met his wife, Laura, at Hillsong’s training program near its headquarters in Australia, and the couple returned to the United States and  moved to Brooklyn’s trendy Williamsburg neighborhood after a stint as a youth leader in a church in Virginia Beach.

Hillsong NYC, sometimes called Hillsong East Coast, was the first U.S. location for the 150,000 member network of churches founded in the Sydney suburbs by the couple Brian and Bobbie Houston. It now has locations in 28 countries. Hillsong is famous for its raucously devout crowds and its services’ concert atmosphere.

After Lentz explained his sudden firing in a Nov. 4 an Instagram post, writing that he’d been “unfaithful to my wife,” the Houstons have promised an investigation into “leadership and trust issues” at the New York church.

Karim, in an Nov. 18 interview with Vanity Fair, meanwhile, called Hillsong “a joke,” and “a money machine,” saying, “I think he is a victim of his own church.”

However much Karim is ready to take his side, her search for closure is likely to deprive Lentz of the distance he is hoping to find.

Paul O'DonnellPaul O’Donnell is editor-in-chief of Religion News Service.




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13 Responses

  1. This coming from Brian Houston, who stymied a Royal Crown commission investigation into his pedophile sexual abuser dad in Australia.

    Investigation, my you know what.

  2. Yes I am sure that Palestinian Muslim has a great experience with Christianity and will tell all her family and friends about it. As a result, the love of Christ in her mind is linked to this sociopath and womanized pastor.

    And all you evangelicals wonder why the “Nones” and “Dones” want absolutely NOTHING to do with Christianity. and why Christianity in America is dying and will be dead before too long. Way to go.

      1. I concur. Those who want to know the Truth about Christianity only need to read the Gospels. We also need men who will preach Christ and Him alone. Celebrity culture and idol worship do not mix well with Orthodox Christianity.

      2. Yes, Sandy Williams. And we will all have to give an account to Christ one day about whether or not we made Him Lord of our lives while on earth. Though He would no doubt understand our feelings of hurt and disillusionment because of the behavior of a church or Christian leaders, it won t “fly” as a reason to reject Him entirely, not acknowledging the price He paid on the cross for us, and not accepting the free gift of eternal life that He offers to those who believe in Him.

      3. Unfortunately, there is more “fake stuff” in the American church than many folks realize. Throughout history there has always been the true remnant church – and others who make it something else. We are warned about it in the early church scriptures. I believe there is judgement going on in the church today – and Julie’s articles keep us appraised of much of it. I don’t think the original intent of the church was to be big spectator corporate entertainment events. I think the early church was groups of people radically changed, devoted to Jesus, counter cultural in their love for others, and set apart by their holy behavior. As said previously – we can read the Gospels to see what we should be like. Jesus said it would be a narrow, difficult road. If our road is anything else, we should be concerned and examine it.

    1. You could look at it the other way, too: What kind of impression does she give of Muslims, with her vodka-fueled fornication with a man she knew to be married?

      I think an ideal form of “closure” would be if normal people never heard about either of them again.

    2. All the other Muslim women I have ever known have never had affairs (I know many from work and my community). That doesn’t mean that the example of Lentz is good, but it’s definitely not the norm for a Muslim woman to have an affair with a pastor.

  3. I think it’s interesting that Karim is openly discussing her relationship with Lentz. I’m not sure I’ve seen women in similar situations do the same thing. I think it’s positive in many respects. It doesn’t seem like she’s isn’t being shamed and pressured into silence or quick forgiveness. Or if she is, she’s not buying it. It seems like she respects herself enough to actually demand answers. Since she’s not going away so quickly, Lentz and Hillsong won’t be able to make the situation go away quickly either. Good for her!

    1. Rick B. she has said it in other articles. She’s not a victim. Yes he lied about his job but she went full force into that relationship even when she realized who he was. She’s out to help ruin him…but he’s done a good job of ruining himself already.

  4. Let’s remember that she went forward with the relationship even after she found out he was married with kids. Closure? She is as much at fault as he is! Stay out of the media, ask forgiveness and move on.

  5. I guess Carl Lentz won’t be doing liquor shots, in a club with Justin Bieber anytime soon. Google the photos. Story came out in some time ago. Yeah, superficial. Hillsong is a very lucrative money machine.

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