Seven months after Carl Lentz was fired from the megachurch Hillsong, new allegations about him have come to light.
Hillsong Church Boston co-pastor Leona Kimes, who previously worked as a nanny for the disgraced pastor and his family, claims she was “subjected to manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse” in Lentz’s home over the course of seven years.
On Monday, Kimes published an essay titled “Writing My Voice Back” on Medium, in which she made accusations against the former Hillsong pastor. Although Kimes didn’t identify Lentz by name in her story, she confirmed her accusations were about him in a statement to Religion News Service.
“I felt trapped and silenced. I also felt so ashamed and I had been told not to say anything or tell anyone,” she told the outlet.
Following Kimes’ claims, a legal rep for Lentz and his wife, Laura Lentz, told Religion News Service they both “vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.”
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E! News has reached out to the couple’s rep and attorney for comment. However, we have yet to receive a response.
In her essay, Kimes described her work environment with Lentz and his family before she moved to Boston, where she now serves as a pastor alongside her husband. While working as a nanny for the family for seven years, Kimes explained that she not only took care of Lentz’s kids but she also cleaned their house and ran errands for them.
While Kimes explained “there were joyful moments,” she also claimed that she “experienced a great deal of pain.”
“The boundaries between personal and professional blurred early on, and an unhealthy bond and attachment was formed,” she said.
Kimes alleged the “sexual abuse started small,” noting that Lentz would make comments about her appearance.
“My pastor would look at me and say, ‘Gurl, you’re looking good. You’ve been in the gym?'” she claimed. “There was a lot of flirty teasing like this.”
Additionally, Kimes accused the former pastor of “crossing more boundaries.”
“When I was sitting in the hot tub with the kids, he would get in, positioning himself close to me so his hands could graze my legs,” she recalled of one incident.
“Then the physical encounters escalated,” she said. “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. I froze. Every time, I froze.”
Kimes said Lentz’s “inappropriate touching and suggestive text messages were addressed by both lead pastors on two occasions during my time serving in their home.” But despite coming forward, Kimes alleged that she was “blamed and silenced” in both instances.
Following Kimes’ claims, Hillsong Church founders Brian and Bobbie Houston issued a statement, which read in part, “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.”
“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.”
The founders said they are “committed to learning more about how to identify such trauma and bring meaningful support to anyone who has experienced it.”
Ultimately, Kimes said she was fired from her nanny role in the summer of 2017 after telling Lentz she was going to find another job.
“I can’t forget how he took away my confidence. I can’t forget how he took away my voice,” she wrote. “I can’t forget about the days I laid in bed that year believing that I didn’t deserve to be on this earth and entertaining ideas of how to end it all. Unfortunately, I can’t forget any of it.”
“Even though I can’t forget it, I believe I can use it to become stronger,” she said. “Through intense therapy, I now recognize that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t fail. Church didn’t fail me. God didn’t fail me. Man did.”
After being fired from Hillsong, Lentz admitted to infinitely.
In a statement shared on Nov. 5, 2020, he stated, “I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that,” the pastor stated. “This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions.”