A former nanny to the family of Carl Lentz is accusing the ex-megachurch pastor of sexual abuse in the form of repeated and unwanted touching.
Lentz was fired from New York City’s Hillsong Church after several “moral failures” came to light, including repeatedly cheating on his wife, Laura.
In an extensive post on Medium, Leona Kimes revealed that Lentz repeatedly abused her while she worked with his family between 2010 and 2017.
Kimes, now a co-pastor at Hillsong Boston with her husband Josh Kimes, said that the experience led her to seek “intense therapy” after she moved to Boston.
“While there were joyful moments during that time, no one knew that I also experienced a great deal of pain,” Kimes wrote. “During the years I spent serving them, I was subjected to manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse. Having told almost no one before this, I am just now able to share what I experienced in their home as the result of intense therapy.”
“The abuse of power started small,” Kimes recalled. “Hours would increase beyond belief. Often I would work from 7 am to 11 pm. Schedules were switched last minute without even attempting to confirm my availability. Tasks kept getting added and added to my load. They made fun of me constantly, even calling me Cinderella, which they said was their way of loving me.”
Kimes went on:
The sexual abuse started small, too. My pastor would look at me and say, “Gurl, you’re looking good. You’ve been in the gym?” There was a lot of flirty teasing like this. I had been around long enough to know that’s just how he was with women. But after a while, the comments started to escalate. I remember being told, “after you have kids, we’ll buy you a boob job.” Looking back, I know I felt embarrassed, but I didn’t know it was wrong then. It hadn’t occurred to me that I had a right to not be spoken to like that, by my pastor or anyone else.
Ultimately, the abuse became physical.
“While he never had intercourse with me and never kissed me, I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas,” she said. “I froze. Every time, I froze.”
Although she complained about the behavior in 2016, Kimes claims that the Lentz family “blamed and silenced” her.
“I was the problem,” she said. “But they kept me in my role, and I worked harder than ever after that.”
“I tried to escape by telling him I would find a new job outside of church,” she added. “Even though my husband was on staff, too, I thought it would be the best solution. I will never forget my pastor standing over me with a stern look, asking me who would possibly hire me. Without a college degree, he asked, what kind of job did I think I could get in New York City? I won’t forget how that made me feel, so alone, so worth absolutely nothing.”
For his part, Lentz has denied, through a spokesperson, all of Kimes’ allegations and claims to have “irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.”
In a recent statement, Hillsong founders Brian and Bobbie Houston called Kimes’ revelation “disturbing.”
“After the termination of the former Lead Pastor of Hillsong East Coast, it was clear the issues were significant and because of our concerns, we initiated an independent and lengthy investigation into the culture of all four Hillsong East Coast locations,” the statement reads. “In the process of seeking clarity, hearing Leona Kimes’ experience was very disturbing,” the statement continued. “We have respected Leona’s privacy and her deeply personal story. She has now decided to share her experience so that she and her husband can continue moving forward as a family.”
“We know that Leona may face criticism for her story and her choice to share it,” the Houstons concluded. “In that light, we commend her for her courage and have assured her of our utmost compassion in their journey forward. Abuse of any kind, in any circumstance, is always deplorable. As a church, we are committed to learning more about how to identify such trauma and bring meaningful support to anyone who has experienced it.”
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