They said I slept with two married men. One of them I did not sleep with, the other one raped me.
–Alexandria Moore, speaking about the leadership of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma
When Tulsa musician Alexandria Moore first recorded a version of her story of her experience with abuse at Transformation Church, she didn’t name the church she was talking about. She released her story on her video podcast, Normalizing Conversations, in January of this year. Her original broadcast provoked many supportive comments, including some from survivors who clearly knew which church she was talking about and hinted at similar experiences.
But then Transformation Church, already a megachurch phenomenon, reached new levels of notoriety with their hiring of former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz, and Alexandria’s story took on new levels of urgency. She has since decided to name the church in which she was emotionally and spiritually abused, raped by a fellow member of ministry, slut-shamed, silenced, and made to feel that she had to prove her worthiness to people who cared nothing for her well-being.
My identity was in that ministry. My identity was in proving who I am to them. My identity was in trying to show them that I’m capable of being a worship leader, I’m capable of singing, I’m capable of serving at my best even when y’all want to run me down, I’m capable of showing you that I’m not a homewrecker, capable of showing you that I’m not an adulterer, that I am not a Jezebel. And I got tired.
Carl Lentz, whose patterns of sexually exploitative behavior are now common knowledge and featured in two separate documentaries, is on a somewhat typical evangelical abuser redemption arc, aided by a sympathetic portrayal in FX’s new “Secrets of Hillsong.” But for a former pastor with a history of abusing his power for sexual access, Transformation Church seems like a far too convenient place to land. The fact that Lentz’s new title is “strategist” rather than minister offers little comfort to those who know from experience how much manipulation and silencing can happen behind the confident front of powerful ministries.
“Now you have this humongous ministry,” Alexandria says. “There’s no telling how many more people this is happening to.” Transformation has also picked up the now-common, spiritually abusive practice within churches of requiring non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements for employees.
As motivating as Lentz’s unwelcome appearance has been, this story is not about him. It’s about Alexandria, who addresses her former church’s leadership directly when she says, “You should be held accountable for condoning a rapist. You should be held accountable for the manipulation and the control.”
Yes, they should. Let Alexandria’s powerful voice and moral clarity inspire you to act in solidarity with her, and against the exploitation, deception, and grifting that is so devastatingly common in megachurched America.
–Stephanie Krehbiel, Executive Director