Joel Osteen’s Senior Worship Leader: ‘I Have Not Been Fired’ Following Divorce, New Girlfriend

Osteen-Houghton
Photo Credit (Houghton): Sam Panasyuk

HOUSTON, Texas — The longtime senior worship leader for megachurch self-help author and motivational speaker Joel Osteen says that he was not fired after announcing his divorce last month and being photographed this month kissing a woman not his wife. Lakewood has classified the arrangement as “indefinite leave.”

As previously reported, 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.”

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“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.”

Earlier this month, 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.

While Lakewood did not respond to Christian News Network’s phone calls, it told a secular outlet this past week 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.” He had served as Osteen’s worship leader for 14 years and had also spoken at the podium on several occasions.

On Thursday, Lakewood provided further clarification in a public statement in which it said that while Houghton has indeed been placed on indefinite leave, he has not been fired.

“We can confirm that Israel is on indefinite leave, but it is important to clarify that we still consider Israel to be a part of the Lakewood family and that his employment has not been terminated,” it said.

Houghton also Tweeted, “I truly love @joelosteen & my gracious Lakewood family. … I have not been fired.”

Houghton has been scrubbed from the Lakewood leadership page. A cached image of the page from late November 2015, one of the last archived images available, shows Houghton still being on staff at that time. His photo and bio were removed at some point between December and this month.

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…”


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