Hallmark Star Bethany Joy Lenz Reveals She Spent 10 Years in a Cult

Bethany Joy Lenz

Heavy/Getty Actress Bethany Joy Lenz

Popular Hallmark actress Bethany Joy Lenz admitted in a new podcast released on July 9, 2023, that she was “in a cult for 10 years” and that it took her just as long to shake the conditioning and trauma she experienced during that time.

“I was in a cult for 10 years,” Lenz said during the latest edition of her “Drama Queens” podcast, which she co-hosts with Hilarie Burton and Sophia Bush, her former castmates on the long-running CW series “One Tree Hill.”

Though Lenz has alluded to religious trauma in her past, she’s not previously given any concrete details. Here’s what you need to know:

Bethany Joy Lenz Hopes to Write a Book About Her Experience in a Cult

Hilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush

GettyHilarie Burton, Bethany Joy Lenz and Sophia Bush speak onstage during the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Festival

During the latest “Drama Queens” episode, the women chatted with former “One Tree Hill” castmate Michaela McManus, who asked whether they all wanted to become authors since Burton is about to release her second title this fall, “Grimoire Girl.”

That prompted Lenz, who will appear in Hallmark Channel’s “A Biltmore Christmas” opposite Kristoffer Polaha this holiday season, to mention her experience with a cult as a topic she’d like to share more about.

She said, “That would be a really valuable experience to write about, and the recovery — 10 years of recovery after that. So there’s a lot to tell.”

Lenz said she’s already begun writing and “for sure” wants to publish a book one day, but said her ADHD has made it difficult to focus.

“I think the ADHD has made it really difficult over the years to — I have lots of essays and lots of chapters and things,” she explained. “But to really commit to putting it all together? I would love to write about my experience.”

But, she said, there are also other people and circumstances involved that she has to consider, too.

“The pressure of getting it right and everything having to be exactly real and all the people that are involved, and also I don’t know how much I can say because there are still people and legal things in place that make it more complicated for the timing of that,” she said.

When Burton suggested that Lenz, who is also a singer-songwriter, write about some of her experiences in a song, she replied, “And I have.”

Bethany Joy Lenz Has Alluded to Her Experience With a Cult in the Past

Lenz, 42, has never publicly said what cult she was part of, but in she pointed to the Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, founded by Erwin McManus, whom the church’s site calls an “iconoclast and futurist,” as an example of the kind of cult-like leadership she wanted to help other people avoid.

In an Instagram post, Lenz shared a photo of a billboard from the church and wrote, “Hey @mosaic church, what about this billboard over your church says ‘Christ’ to you? Nothing. It says #ErwinMcmanus”

After sharing that she’d attended the church “on-and-off for 2 years,” Lenz wrote, “The level of control displayed, particularly by McManus was deeply characteristic to me of a high-demand group and was disturbing to me and to many other people who have left Mosaic for that very reason.”

Lenz continued, “I don’t call people in my community out publicly, EVER, but this billboard made me sick & angry that so many people are being mislead in the name of a God I love and cherish.”

“The hierarchy in this ‘church,'” she wrote, “the level of abuse that I’ve consistently heard goes on behind the scenes and how everything centers around the Leader is textbook 101 of cults.”

Meanwhile, when Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Church in New York City, died on May 19, Lenz wrote an Instagram tribute to him that alluded to the trauma she’d been through in a previous religious community.

“This man changed my life,” she wrote. “The only reason I’m still a Christian today is because, 10 years ago, after many years of faith being used against me as a tool of manipulation, Tim Keller taught me how to re-build my faith using reason and logic. A belief system that fully engages my mind while still leaving room for wonder and mystery.”

Lenz wrote that she believed God guided her to Keller to “bring me out of a pit of despair, walk me through intense healing and into the glorious freedom of the real Christ. I will forever be grateful for the day I walked into Redeemer Presbyterian church on the Upper East Side in 1999.”

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