Second woman reveals all on Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz
A woman who admits she was "completely sold on the mission" at Hillsong in New York City said she eventually left the church due to its toxic culture of mansplaining, gaslighting and a lack of diversity.
American Janice Lagata said she was "in deep" at the church and even travelled to Sydney to study at Hillsong's international base for three years.
But she told the The Daily Telegraph she left in 2016 after more than a decade of service, due to what she described as injustices at the church.
Her comments come after the highly-publicised termination of former Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz, who was sacked for having an affair with a fashion designer Ranin Karim.
"I was there faithfully every week up until 2016ish and then especially in the months leading up to and after the election, I just couldn't see myself there anymore and was tired of fighting for justice and equality both outside and inside church," she said.
"I started resigning from the teams I was on and phasing myself out."
Since Mr Lentz's affair was made public, Hillsong head pastor Brian Houston announced the church had launched an independent investigation into its NYC outpost.
Ms Lagata has since submitted a letter to the investigation detailing her experience at the church.
She wrote that during her time working as a stage manager she got to "know and love" Mr Lentz.
"I got to know and love Carl Lentz. Working in my capacity as a Stage Manager, I interacted with him all the time in the early days and for whatever reason, we clicked," she wrote.
"And knowing that issues of infidelity are what ultimately brought his pedestal crashing down, let me be clear that there was never any of that type of impropriety between us.
"Any abuse of power in our relationship was the good old-fashioned-irritating-mansplaining kind."
But Ms Lagata wrote that Mr Lentz was not responsible for all the church's problems.
"I hope it (the investigation) doesn't try to pin all the problems of Hillsong East Coast on Carl Lentz. He, like so many of us, was a victim and a villain of the framework he was handed. And he fumbled the ball (and the bag) badly. But culture isn't taught, it's caught, right?" she wrote.
"So even as I write this and know how much it might upset some of my friends who are still deeply sown into Hillsong, I say you can't have it both ways: A leader CANNOT be that corrupt within a good structure with nobody noticing for so long. Especially not Carl Lentz, emotional, spoiled, pampered and coddled Carl Lentz. Bless his heart.
"This investigation may label him Patient Zero, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that denying sickness doesn't lessen its damage."
In the letter, Ms Lagata also outlined how she was overlooked for higher positions in the church.
"As a single, black woman who had given so much of myself, my time, and my talents, it stung to watch lesser qualified white boys waltz into positions I would never even be considered for."
She also wrote about the demanding volunteer schedules which she said abused the concept of honour.
"Goal number one is making sure the church machine has an unlimited supply of souls to grind by perverting the concepts of serving and of honour to take advantage of everyone involved, but especially volunteers," she said.
Ms Lagata also wrote that she often perceived herself as the problem.
"How does that old saying go? … Gaslight someone and they'll serve for a day. Teach them to gaslight themselves and they'll serve forever. It works. I kept thinking my frustrations were my fault."
Originally published as Second woman reveals all on Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz