Gay and Church Leadership: Can The Two Mix?

By Michal Ortner

Many are questioning the legitimacy of Hillsong New York and their pastor, Carl Lentz, after the discovery of an openly gay worship leader and his fiancé were allowed to remain in their leadership positions at the church. Josh Canfield has led worship alongside his future life partner, Russ Kelly, at Hillsong NYC with no backlash for what many believe is unquestionably immoral conduct.

“I became truthful with my church. I’m a part of Hillsong NYC. I’m one of their choir directors. I also sing on their Worship team. They’ve been amazing as well. Nothing has changed there now that I’m completely out and with Reed. He sings in the choir as well,” Canfield shared with “Playbill.com” back in January.

Confusion has mounted as Carl Lentz, one of the lead pastors at Hillsong NYC, has publicly given his opinion about preaching on the topic of gay relationships and gay marriage.

“I refuse to ostracize people any longer, I hate it. I think that there’s been so much hate, and so much bigotry and so much insensitivity, I’m done with that,” he said in an interview back in June of 2014. “We have a lot of gay men and women in our church and I pray we always do.”

Lead pastor, Brian Houston, wrote a statement as a means of cleaning up the mess that has taken the internet by storm since news of the gay choir members was released and made viral.

“Hillsong Church welcomes ALL people but does not affirm all lifestyles. Put clearly, we do not affirm a gay lifestyle and because of this we do not knowingly have actively gay people in positions of leadership, either paid or unpaid,” Houston began.

“So if you are gay, are you welcome at Hillsong Church? Of course! You are welcome to attend, worship with us, and participate as a congregation member with the assurance that you are personally included and accepted within our community. But (this is where it gets vexing), can you take an active leadership role? No,” he wrote.

“This won’t make everyone happy and to some, this stance may even be seen as hypocritical. We are a gay welcoming church but we are not a church that affirms a gay lifestyle,” the statement continued.

After Lentz gave his opinion on the subject of treatment of gay people, Houston clarified that he holds a “traditional view” but that the topic was too important to be simplified to the point of answering with “yes” or “no” concerning his approval of the gay lifestyle.

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