NEW YORK — Reports that a Hillsong choir director (or former choir director) has come out as “gay” and is engaged to another member has raised controversy nationwide and has elicited a response from the leader of the international chain of churches.
Josh Canfield, a Broadway performer, told Playbill earlier this year that he had become engaged to his boyfriend, Reed Kelly. Both had been featured on the reality show “Survivor: San Juan del Sur—Blood vs. Water.” He outlined that he is a choir director at Hillsong New York City and that he had admitted his homosexuality to his church.
“[I thought], ‘I need to be truthful with everyone,'” Canfield said. “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.”
But he stated that after coming out to his congregation, “nothing changed.”
“They’ve been amazing as well,” Canfield explained. “Nothing has changed there now that I’m completely out and with Reed. He sings in the choir as well.”
On Sunday, a blog reported about the information afresh, lamenting that Hillsong New York City, led by Carl Lentz, “allow[s] an openly and unrepentantly gay couple to lead their choir.” The post went viral, generating over 63,ooo shares and generating concern from Christians nationwide.
Following the attention to the matter, Hillsong leader Brian Houston issued a statement about the situation, stating that both men are no longer in the choir. It is not clear as to whether the men voluntarily left or were ousted by leadership.
“I wish to correct reports that Hillsong church has ‘an openly gay couple directing a choir’ at our New York City campus,” Houston wrote. “Hillsong’s position on homosexuality and gay marriage has not changed and is consistent with Scripture. As I have stated previously, I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”
“Several months ago when one of our choir directors made an unexpected public statement regarding his engagement to a man who sometimes sang in the choir, it was a complete surprise to us as well,” he continued. “It is my understanding that they have not been involved in an active leadership or ministry role since.”
Houston added that although the information has come to light, “[W]e still love them and acknowledge that they—like all of us—are on a journey, and our role as a church is to assist them on this journey with grace and compassion.”
He said in a separate blog post that although homosexuals are welcome to attend the services, they are not permitted to serve in leadership roles.
As previously reported, Hillsong NYC leader Carl Lentz has raised concern over his lack of clarity on what constitutes sinful behavior, including homosexuality. Lentz says he does not like preaching about moral debates and once told Katie Couric that Jesus “very rarely” talked about “morality and social issues.”
“My Bible says, be attentive to individual needs,” Lentz told his congregation in a sermon, which was publicized by Huffington Post. “So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements to individual needs. Never.”
Lentz is also known for his friendship with pop star Justin Bieber, who reportedly was baptized by Lentz last year. Celebrities often stop by Hillsong NYC to experience Lentz’s unorthodox messages, which are often replete with street slang and modern lingo.