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Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Disgraced Former Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Joins Transformation Church in Tulsa

By Roxanne Stone
Carl Lentz
Disgraced former Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz. (Instagram Sept. 22, 2018)

Carl Lentz, the ousted pastor of Hillsong New York City, has landed on staff at Transformation Church, a predominantly Black, nondenominational megachurch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that is led by pastor, author and popular YouTuber Michael Todd.

Transformation, a juggernaut in a town replete with megachurches, has confirmed that Lentz, who was fired from Hillsong in 2020 when an extramarital affair came to light, has joined its staff.

“We gladly welcome Carl Lentz to our Transformation Church staff, helping TC with strategy as we continue to move forward in our vast vision,” Tammy McQuarters, the church’s executive pastor of operations, told Religion News Service in an email Monday (March 27).

A source close to Lentz also confirmed to media that Lentz and his family had relocated to Tulsa and were attending Transformation Church, though the source did not confirm Lentz was on staff at the church. Lentz, according to the source, has launched a consulting and coaching business and his clients include churches.

Tulsa was the right place for Lentz’s family to “continue to heal and move forward,” said the source.

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Michael Todd, Carl Lentz, Transformation Church
Pastor Michael Todd gives a sermon recently at Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Video screen grab)

Lentz, 44, once labeled a “hypepriest” by GQ Magazine for his fashionable attire and ministry to NBA players and celebrities such as Justin Bieber, has been mostly silent since his firing, even as rumors and ongoing accusations have dogged him and his former church.

“After two years of Carl being in his own discovery and healing process, he has shown readiness to use his God-given gifts towards the local church again. We believe in Carl, his marriage, his skill set, and his restoration,” McQuarters said.

McQuarters said the church’s vision to “re-present God to the lost and found for transformation in Christ” includes restoration. The two go “hand-in-hand,” she said, pointing to Scripture from the Book of Galatians that includes a message to “restore one another” after sin, mistakes and repentance.

“We are called to be a safe environment for people to evolve and transform,” she added.

Transformation Church, founded in 1999 in the historically Black Greenwood District of Tulsa, home to the city’s 1921 race massacre, now meets in the nearby suburb of Bixby, at the 4,500-seat SpiritBank Event Center, which the church owns. The arena, purchased by Transformation in 2019 for $10.5 million, was among the nearly $67 million in real estate properties the church has bought in the area in the past four years.

Michael Todd, Carl Lentz, Transformation Church
Transformation Church in Tulsa, OK.

Todd and Transformation Church have become known in Tulsa for their community donations, including $200,000 to each of the three living survivors of the race massacre, part of a $1 million donation given by the church to commemorate the tragedy at its centennial. 

But the church has also attracted controversy. A year ago, Todd made headlines for rubbing spit in a man’s eyes to simulate Jesus’ healing of a blind man. Todd later apologized for the “disgusting” illustration. 

Lentz, a native of North Carolina, was trained at Hillsong College in Sydney, Australia, before being sent to by the Pentecostal powerhouse to plant a Hillsong outpost in Manhattan in 2010. Dubbed Hillsong NYC, the church drew as many as 10,000 mostly young New Yorkers to its services at its height. But since Lentz’s firing in November 2020, the NYC branch and Hillsong Global have been embroiled in parallel scandals, with revelations of indiscretions with women resulting in the resignation of Hillsong’s founding pastor Brian Houston last year, as well as ongoing allegations of financial misconduct by the church.

Soon after Lentz’s ouster, Ranin Karim, a Brooklyn jewelry designer, discussed her relationship with Lentz on “Good Morning America.” A few months later, Lentz’s former nanny, Leona Kimes, came forward with allegations that Lentz had subjected her to “bullying, abuse of power and sexual abuse,” which a legal representative for Lentz denied at the time.

Similarly, a former insider at Hillsong, Janis Lagata, told The Roys Report on a podcast that Lentz promoted a “frat-boy leadership culture” that was toxic and excused “outrageous” behavior. A leaked report, commissioned by Hillsong Global to look into the leadership of Hillsong East Coast, also painted a picture of a church leadership rife with abuse, sexual misconduct and secrecy.

At Transformation Church, McQuarters said they are praying for Lentz and his family to experience restoration and to, in turn, help others do the same, “by using their triumphs and failures to create resources for the body of Christ at large.”

“We believe that this is part of what it looks like for the church to be the church,” McQuarters said.

Roxanne StoneRoxanne Stone is the managing editor for Religion News Service. 

Julie Roys contributed to this story.



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19 Responses

  1. Is there any sign that Carl Lentz repented and sought the forgiveness of those he sinned with and against?

  2. Wow! All I can say it’s more of a judgment against blind sheep than deceiving shepherds !

    All of the Old Testament There were many false prophets that the people fell for!

    The true prophets Jeremiah Ezekiel Elisha etc were hated and the greatest of all John the Baptist beheaded !!

    God used the false prophets ti judge the nations especially Israel and Jerusalem for not listening to God

    It’s no different ! We shouldn’t pray That God removes Carl lentz and his ilk but rather open the eyes of the people !

    1. Was there any question that this wouldn’t happen?

      It’s as if you as a Mega Celebrity Church Pastor, go away for a couple years, stay quite and all is forgotten. Then if you question their return scripture is twisted, manipulated, used to abuse you for not being forgiving.

      It’s sick! Sexual addiction is no joke and if not treated the addict will continue the behaviors. For the betrayed spouse, there is trauma, PTSD and in this case most likely complex PTSD. She’s dealing with a narcissist, pathological liar, gaslighter, manipulator and a multitude of other issues.

      I say all this because I have walked this road of recovery for five years with my wife for my sexual addiction. I was a pastor for 14yrs but I was never discovered. I left the church and know it’s best I don’t go back even “sober” now!

      1. “Should an adulterous pastor be restored?”

        “Genuine forgiveness does not necessarily imply restoration to leadership,” former CT editor Kenneth Kantzer once wrote after the moral failure of several prominent evangelical leaders. Yet the impulse to link forgiveness with restoration to ministry remains strong. Here two pastor-theologians argue for the importance of keeping separate the restoration to the body of Christ and restoration to pastoral leadership.”

        Unfortunately you cannot read the whole article unless you’re a subscriber to Christianity Today. :-(

        This golden oldie by John MacArthur you can read it in its entirety.

        “Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?”

        “It has always saddened me over the years as I’ve watched church leaders bring a reproach on the church of Jesus Christ. What’s shocking to me is how frequently Christian leaders sin grossly, then step back into leadership almost as soon as the publicity dies away….”

        Of course where nepotism reins, the Bible goes out the window!

  3. Minus the church hiring him for this position, I don’t understand why Carl isn’t content to humbly serve his local church with his gifts and abilities, and focus on the healing of his marriage and family. Why does he feel the need to be elevated to a position of authority? And why is someone putting him in this position when it’s only been two years? My guess is the money involved working again for a “megachurch.” I swear I don’t understand why people in the church do not speak up. SMH.

    1. It’s the salary.
      As far as “gifts and abilities,” what has he shown? Just a great flair for motivation and using God for His purpose, not God’s.

  4. I have no problems with those guilty of serious sin who repent and join a church.

    I do have problems if they think they can continue in Christian leadership.

  5. Ugh. Sadly, this has become typical. There’s no longer even a pretext maintained for these “rock star pastors” to follow biblical mandates as pastors. They chase worldly praise, wealth, and appetites. After being exposed in gross sin, they follow their own plan for reconciliation. And like a phoenix they rise from the ashes of the destruction they have caused and once again find a new church home as a leaders and begin anew to preach and teach themselves.

    1. Totally. America’s obsession with celebrity pastors and large churches is a big part of the problem. It’s like they want another Messiah.

    2. You captured my own thoughts. These pastors have created their own reality…they are self-delusion…and so are the congregants. It is tragic that no one is able to see the deception.

  6. Well, Pastors Todd and McQuarters know their “vision,” their audience, and their donor base better than anyone else. If Mr. Lentz’s ability to draw paying customers exceeds his cost to their organization, that’s the definition of a profitable business decision.

  7. Tammy McQuarters and Transformation are a bit confused about repentance and restoration. By her own admission, Carl is still in the process of restoration. So he’s taking on a position (presumably a senior one) before he’s actually completed the process! What could go wrong?

    Equally ridiculous is that he has been in consulting and coaching for churches and pastors during this time of so called repentance and restoration. OK.

  8. But he’s only a “strategist”. Translated- he’s our strategy for attracting star struck sheep to our watering hole/wishing well.

  9. I don’t understand why Lentz was immediately restored to a leadership position. If restoration is the plan, don’t just take his word that he is good now. He should serve at a lower level first and see how he does with that. See if he’s able to be devoted to that role, show care and kindness to others, be trustworthy, and walk in humility – all things that he didn’t do before and what got him into trouble. Then gradually give him more responsibility. I personally feel that shepherding a church is a grave responsibility and if you commit some sins (like financial crimes, sexual infringements, theft, etc.,), you don’t get to be restored to that role ever again. Just like how in certain jobs in the secular world, if you commit s crime there, you can never work in that industry again. Like my teacher taught us in 5th grade, ‘To abuse a privilege is to lose a privilege’. Being a pastor is a calling, yes, but also a privilege. He shouldn’t just automatically get that back because the sin wasn’t just about him. He VICTIMIZED people and wounded them spiritually. To me, that is the worst thing that he could’ve done and he doesn’t get to be restored to wholeness until his victims are. That’s what I think.

  10. As a Black Minister, I can tell you that a Preacher cheating on his wife is NOT going to be a big deal in Many Black Churches; in some cases it is even expected. I use to think that White Churches were more conservative on the issue of moral failure of a Minister/Pastor than Black Churches.

    However, what I have seen in this generation of White Churches and White Ministers, have blown me away in terms of how frequent we’re seeing the Pastors of ARC Churches and other non-denominational Churches that are failing in droves. It is ridiculous and has become a laughing stock to those that hates Christ and His Church.

    Michael Todd has tons of ego, so this experiment with Carl Lentz will be interesting to say the least. I predict that it will not last long-term. It will probably come to a crashing halt once the egos slam into each other!

    1. Obviously this is not a color of the skin issue! Your perspective was just limited due to not being exposed to other people in the context of ‘church’ for an extended time period.. I can testify to the fact that filthy, wretched, sin-adoring, $$$ grubbing, so-called-Pastors are in EVERY people group! No group has a monopoly on sexual sin. Many knuckle heads in the pulpit have continually fallen for the ‘tender trap’… and now ‘rusty traps’! JULIE ROYS AND STAFF. Why do you bury my commentary?? You did not reject my $43 donation to TRR!!

  11. This situation with Lentz falls squarely on the shoulders of the congregation at Transformation Church. This is clearly a step too far. The leadership there is bereft of any biblical wisdom and discernment. The blind directing the blind on the well traveled road to perdition!

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