Florida Church Ends Association with Hillsong amid Scandals

Brian Houston

Andrew and Christina Gard, the lead pastors of the multi-campus Grace City Church in Lakeland, Florida, United States, have said that they would no longer be associating with Hillsong Church following the alleged misbehaviour of the church’s founder, Brian Houston, with women.

Andrew Gard told The Ledger that the scandals which the megachurch has experienced recently have left him heartbroken. He said, "It impacted us in that these are people I love. Carl Lentz was and is a friend. So it's devastating, it's heartbreaking. We feel bad for everyone that is involved.

"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."

Since Grace City Church was founded, it has always associated itself with Hillsong. However, it removed the statement of its affiliation with the megachurch from its website on April 1, 2021.

There were reports that Houston tried to cover up the alleged child sexual abuse crimes committed by his late father, Pastor Frank Houston. This accusation made Houston resign as the Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong in March. The New York Times reported that due to the scandals that have rocked the church, Hillsong has lost nine of its sixteen churches in the U.S.

"We're heartbroken and sad like everybody. I don't think it's reflective of not just our church but churches in general. I think there's a lot of amazing people doing a lot of amazing work.

"Decisions have consequences, and we understand that. 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," Andrew Gard said.

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