Amid Pastor Carl Lentz’s affair drama, Hillsong church is facing allegations of homophobia and racism.
Business Insider revealed bombshell allegations of discrimination behind the scenes at the church. "Being at Hillsong was really traumatizing," former member Noemi Uribe told the publication, whose existing issues with depression and anxiety were heightened by the church. As a result, she considering suicide in 2019.
Uribe, who was a member of the Boston branch, came out as bisexual, but her pastor reportedly told her that should she "start practicing" her sexuality since "that’s where there’s a problem."
Uribe was admitted to a psychiatric inpatient program after she came close to overdosing but "none of the pastors ever visited from Hillsong," and she left the church weeks later with the belief that if she stayed she “would have probably attempted suicide again."
Another former member, who was a children's ministry leader in Boston, said that she also faced discrimination because she’s a lesbian. "I re-closeted, dated men, and I really committed to it," the anonymous woman said. "I was so terrified of displeasing God — that it was like a demonic attachment that made me want to be with women."
However, it’s not just homophobia that is an issue. Urbie, who is Mexican-American, claimed that pastor Donnie Mainellis repeatedly called her Spanish-speaking pals the "Rosetta Stone group."
"I corrected him several times, saying 'Spanish-speaking connect group!' and he would just laugh," she said.
However, Boston-based Hillsong pastor Josh Kimes told Business Insider that "Noemi Uribe’s account does not align with my experience. What I can tell you is that Hillsong Boston welcomes all people."
But there have been allegations of racism against Kimes, too.
Jessica Lim and Tiffany Perez, who were part of the church's communications team in Boston from 2017 to 2018, said that volunteers of color were rarely invited to his gatherings and he only had Black women bring him water onstage. Lim claimed that she raised the issue to Kimes several times, but "he engaged in a clumsy form of gaslighting, telling me I didn’t understand what was going on and that he, and Hillsong Church, cared very much about diversity."
Kimes also denied these allegations and said: "Our Hillsong Boston team has taken some intentional steps to improve racial diversity and equity at Hillsong Boston since we launched and we’re committed to make further strides as we continue to listen and learn."
Perez also got candid about how volunteers get "paid to get an education, but we also paid to basically do free labor." Perez alleged that she was asked by Kimes to babysit his daughter for 25 hours a week for $150, which broke down to $6 an hour, while also putting in 60 unpaid work hours as an administrative assistant for Hillsong.
Perez claimed that the church says the free labor is "honoring," but "over the years I wondered, is it really honoring or is it that you’re just being taken advantage of?" Perez was later fired via text after Kimes heard rumors in which she criticized him. (Perez denied she never spread the rumors.) The next month, Perez was suicidal and checked herself into the ER.
Lentz also benefitted from the unpaid labor. A former New York City Hillsong member said that "people would be running errands all day, back and forth to Starbucks to make sure he had his fresh coffee." Lentz has since entered treatment for depression and anxiety.
Kimes told Business Insider: "Hillsong Church is and has always been a church that celebrates diversity, abhors injustice and welcomes all.' In this cultural moment, Hillsong Boston leadership is committed to listen and learn."