Pastor Andrew Gard in Florida is sharing that while he is heartbroken about it, his congregation must stop being affiliated with Australia's Hillsong Church.
The multi-campus Grace City Church in Lakeland, Florida, is no longer affiliated with Hillsong Church. This comes after the founder, Brian Houston recently resigned because of an investigation of inappropriate behaviour with two women in the church.
Grace City Church wasn't the only church or campus cutting it's affiliation with Hillsong.
According to Christian Post, Hillsong had nine of its 16 American church campuses remove themselves from any affiliation, stemming from a series of ongoing scandals that erupted amid the pandemic with the firing of former Hillsong NYC Lead Pastor Carl Lentz in November 2020, after he was unfaithful to his wife Laura.
The Connections podcast: real life, real faith
"It impacted us in that these are people I love. Carl Lentz was and is a friend. So it’s devastating, it’s heartbreaking," says Andrew Gard, co-pastor at Grace City Church, in an interview with The Ledger.
Gard went on to share that while they are their own non-denominational church, Hillsong acted as an 'emergency covering.'
"If I had a moral failure, our local church council could have gone to Hillsong to see if this is restorative or does Andrew need to be fired. Or number two, if my wife and I were killed in a car accident and they had to find new senior pastors, our council could have worked with Hillsong to help us in that."
Some of the Hillsong Church's abuses have also been the subject of a documentary called Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed on Discovery Plus. Gard admitted to watching it and deciding after Houston's misconduct their church would cut ties.
Prior to Houston's resignation the members of Hillsong said he violated the church's pastoral code of conduct by entering the hotel room of an unidentified woman for 40 minutes while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs during the church’s annual conference in 2019.
Up until today Houston denies remembering what happened and the woman in question won't say if anything inappropriate did actually happen.
"Decisions have consequences, and we understand that," says Gard. "Character matters in what we do, and rightfully so. Our church for the last few years has operated in a way that’s above reproach and above board."
In the interim Hillsong Church has appointed Phil Dooley as their Senior Pastor.