Florida church breaks with Hillsong after scandals

Andrew Gard and his wife, Christina, are lead pastors of Grace City Church in Lakeland, Florida.(Photo: Facebook/Grace City Church)

A Florida megachurch has ended its affiliation with Hillsong Church in the wake of multiple scandals, including most recently the resignation of the denomination's founding pastor, Brian Houston.

Andrew Gard, co-pastor of Grace City Church, in Lakeland, told The Ledger that the scandals had been "devastating" for everyone concerned and that the last straw had been "the news that came out about Pastor Brian".

Houston stepped down in March after investigations into complaints by two women concluded that he had broken the Hillsong Pastor's Code of Conduct.

Gard also voiced his heartache over the firing of Hillsong New York City pastor, Carl Lentz, in 2020 for moral failures and leadership issues. 

"It impacted us in that these are people I love. Carl Lentz was and is a friend. So it's devastating, it's heartbreaking," he said. 

He added, "We feel bad for everyone that is involved."

Grace City Church was not a Hillsong church but had an association with the denomination that meant its assistance could be sought in certain instances. 

"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," Gard told The Ledger.

"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."