Ranin Karim, who claims to be the ex-mistress of former Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz, spoke out in a televised interview and questioned his rise as a celebrity pastor.
"When you give somebody so much power, they become God to people," Karim, who is Muslim, told “Good Morning America” anchor Amy Robach. "I think people forgot the concept of religion and beliefs. I think that people look at Carl like he's God to them."
Lentz, whose congregants have included such celebrities as Justin and Hailey Bieber, Kevin Durant, Selena Gomez, and Kylie Jenner, was fired from the global megachurch due to “leadership issues and breaches of trust, plus a recent revelation of moral failures.”
The 43-year-old allegedly started a relationship with Karim during the global pandemic. Karim, 34, said her "love" story with Lentz began after they met at a park near her New York City home.
Initially, the megachurch pastor told Karim not to Google him and wouldn’t give her his last name or real occupation.
“He was like, ‘You know, I work with celebrities … I manage celebrities, and I travel with them,'" Karim recalled. "He didn’t want to say what he does."
She did a search on his number and discovered that he was actually the pastor of Hillsong East Coast and was married. The New York designer asked him directly about his marriage.
"I was like, 'Are you married?' and he said, 'I am,'" Karim, who said she visited Hillsong once many years ago, recalled. "But he doesn't wear a ring. You never ever see him wearing a ring.
"I was like it's all good. I was married before, and I didn't want to judge him. I like to meet people, and feel like they're a blank canvas, you know?"
She also asked him if there was anything wrong with his marriage and he said no.
Karim said he told her that his wife of 17 years, Laura, found out about the affair in October, she recalled.
“He called me at midnight and he said ... 'My wife find out. And I gotta go. She saw the text messages,’” said Karim. “I was devastated.”
Looking back at their relationship, she said, “I still cherish what we had. It was always going to be part of my past. I wish I can just like, delete it, but you can’t.”
Regarding Laura Lentz, with whom the former pastor has three children, Karim said, "I feel bad for her, woman to a woman I don't think she deserved to be hurt the way that she did. I never meant to hurt her.”
Lentz acknowledged on Instagram that he cheated on his wife but did not identify the woman he had an affair with.
In his Instagram post that was shared after he was fired from Hillsong, Lentz wrote: “When you lead out of an empty place, you make choices that have real consequences. I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that. This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Hillsong’s founder, Pastor Brian Houston, first made the announcement about Lentz's termination in an email to church staff and members of Hillsong East Coast early this month.
The worldwide ministry has now begun an investigation into the culture of Hillsong New York and East Coast, which Lentz led.
Lentz said he is now focusing on rebuilding his marriage.
“I now begin a journey of rebuilding trust with my wife, Laura and my children and taking real-time to work on and heal my own life and seek out the help that I need,” he confessed.
“I am deeply sorry for breaking the trust of many people who we have loved serving and understand that this news can be very hard and confusing for people to hear and process. I would have liked to say this with my voice, to you, in person because you are owed that. But that opportunity I will not have. So to those people, I pray you can forgive me and that over time I can live a life where trust is earned again."