Organized religion, especially attendance in large-scale gatherings and services, is rapidly declining. Maybe folks are finding solace in other activities, or the communal, gathering aspect of attending weekly religious ceremonies is no longer deemed necessary by many.
Or perhaps it's got something to do with popular religious figures being involved in publicized scandals, like these DMs from Darnell Barrett, former pastor of Hillsong Church, who says he sent them to a woman "accidentally" and is now trying to mend his relationship with his wife.
Darnell Barrett resigned from the church after he sent "bulge" photos to a woman who wasn't his wife over Instagram.
If you aren't familiar with Darnell, he's a pastor for the Hillsong Church, which has locations in over 23 countries and boasts more than 150,000 members worldwide. The church has at least 10 separate locations across the United States, and Darnell Barrett was a senior pastor for the Montclair, N.J. branch.
He recently resigned over the controversy surrounding two separate mirror selfie photos of him posing in white Nike compression tights. The post-workout selfies — which were shared by Daily Mail — came with a message about depression and anxiety and how he didn't leave his own bed for almost an entire day. "Depression and anxiety got the best of me in the last 30 hours," he shared.
He continued, "Barely got out of bed yesterday. I'm just proud of myself for getting to the gym today even if it was a cheap 30 minute workout. One of the insidious things about grief is it's [sic] capricious nature. I'm learning to give myself grace in how to deal with it."
It's clear in the photos that he's not wearing underwear in the compression shorts, and he's sporting a genital bulge.
The follow-up picture again showed him in the same white tights, stating that it was "Day 2 of kicking depressions [sic] tight a--." It was followed up with a fist emoji. The photos were shared to his Close Friends list on Instagram, but he also sent the pictures to a female member of his parish, a woman who once volunteered at the church.
According to The Daily Mail, Darnell told the former volunteer that he "might've added [her] to [his] close friends list by accident [and that he was] trying to figure out how the hell to edit it."
Darnell told the outlet that he "was not at all trying to lure" the young woman to whom he sent the photos. "I get that she, within the context of what's happening with Hillsong, that she would draw those conclusions. But I barely know her. That was not my intention," he stated.
The parishioner who received the messages, however, didn't think that they were sent mistakenly, citing the fact that Darnell had reached out to her earlier in 2021 when he was in her area, saying he was looking for a place without a cell phone signal with a liquor store.
She states that she didn't notice the bulge at first but then blocked him when she did. She then unblocked him to send him a message back.
"Darnell, I'm not going to lie, I blocked your [sic] for a second but I've decided I need to say something to you. First off, I'm insulted that you wouldn't understand what you're doing but I'm not f--king stupid. For you to go out of your way to make it seem like you 'accidentally' added me to your close friends… and then, went out of your way to message me about it KNOWING that would make me go look is bulls--t."
"What pisses me off is knowing that I'm not the only person you've probably done this to. I'm actually horrified by the thought of how many other innocent girls you've manipulated with this ploy of yours…."
Darnell responded with, "I'm sorry?" before ultimately being blocked.
Darnell Barrett isn't the only pastor to leave Hillsong for infidelity.
The former head of the Montclair branch said that he ultimately resigned, citing infidelity as the reason and that he's currently working on his marriage.
Carl Lentz, who was notably linked with Justin Bieber, was ousted due to "moral failures" and a "breach of trust" for not only cheating on his wife with Ranin Karim but lying to Ranin in the process, telling her he was an unmarried sports agent.