HOUSTON, Texas — The longtime senior worship leader for megachurch self-help author and motivational speaker Joel Osteen is raising concerns after he was recently photographed in Mexico with a woman not his wife just weeks after announcing his divorce.
On February 22, Houghton, a five-time Grammy Award Gospel singer known for his songs “Friend of God,” “Not Forgotten” and “Moving Forward,” announced publicly on social media that he and his wife had divorced.
“It is with a collective heavy heart that we announce that after over 20 years of marriage and a long separation, Meleasa and I are officially divorced,” he wrote.
Without providing details, Houghton explained that he had “sinned” in his marriage and was unable to fully restore the relationship.
“Several years ago I failed and sinned in my marriage. Though this is new to many, it is not new to us as we have been working through this for over 5 years,” he said. “Although we tried, the challenges in our relationship have proven too much to overcome.”
Houghton apologized for the hurt that his actions had caused.
“Although I am sincerely sorry, and forgiven, I soberly realize that I will live with the consequences of my failings for the rest of my life,” he stated. “As this has become a public matter I want to apologize to the many who have supported my ministry through the years. I’m sorry for the many who will be hurt to learn of my personal failure. I regret any pain or disappointment that this news may cause you.”
The post has since been deleted, and some followers expressed concern that Houghton had continued serving as worship leader at Lakewood while living in sin, as well as singing in general with Israel and New Breed.
This past week, Houghton, 44, was spotted in Tulum, Mexico with a woman who is not his wife. Actress Adrienne Bailon, 32, donned a scantily-clad bikini as she and Houghton vacationed together on the beach. The two were photographed embracing and kissing in the water.
Bailon is the former girlfriend of Rob Kardashian, and had been engaged to Lenny Santiago until she ended the relationship in September. Houghton met Bailon three years ago while working on the film “I’m In Love With a Church Girl,” which he produced.
The development and photographic evidence quickly prompted concern, and some wondered if Bailon had anything to do with the divorce.
A defiant Houghton took to social media on Tuesday to acknowledge the relationship, but to clear Bailon of any wrongdoing.
“Adrienne is a woman of integrity and character,” he wrote. “Most of all she is a true friend, and she should not be blamed for my past indiscretions.”
“My marriage had been over for quite some time before going public with my divorce announcement,” he said.
Houghton suggested that others shouldn’t scrutinize his life but focus on bigger problems in the world.
“In the midst of all that’s going on in the world: suffering, terrorism, deciding a future for our country, and making the world safer; it is sad that I am even having to address this matter,” he stated, concluding with, “I appreciate your prayers, and I join you in praying for the issues of life that truly matter today all over the world.”
A cached image of Lakewood’s leadership page from late November 2015, one of the last archived images available, shows Houghton still being on staff at that time. (See above.) His photo and bio were removed at some point between December and this month.
Lakewood’s Andrea Davis, who is handling public relations, did not return Christian News Network’s calls for comment and clarification. However, Lakewood told a secular outlet that “Lakewood Church released Israel Houghton from his responsibilities as a worship leader [in February] and placed him on indefinite leave. Since that time, he has not been featured in any Lakewood Church related activities.”
The representative further stated that they were not at liberty to provide details about Houghton’s situation, but advised that Lakewood officials are willing to provide spiritual counsel if Houghton so desires. He had served as Osteen’s worship leader for 14 years and had also spoken at the podium on several occasions.
Much concern has been raised over the past decade that the messages at Lakewood are noticeably void of instruction to shun sin and walk in holiness. Osteen’s self-help books have included “Your Best Life Now,” “Become a Better You,” “You Can, You Will” and “It’s Your Time.”
Osteen’s latest book, “The Power of I Am,” teaches readers to manifest blessings in their life by making positive confessions about themselves, so that they might “lead a more productive and happier life.”
In 2014, Osteen’s wife Victoria raised concerns when she preached, “Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself…”