Last November, Carl Lentz, the quintessential “hipster pastor” of the Hillsong NYC megachurch, was fired after a “recent revelation of moral failures.” Lentz later confessed to an affair with a fashion designer.
Now, however, his former nanny Leona Kimes is speaking out about the abuse she suffered while working for the Lentz family. Kimes worked for Hillsong for seven years, including taking care of Lentz’s children, but she now says there was a dark side to it all:
… 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.
She says there was no intercourse or kissing, but “I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas.” He asked her to give him massages and foot rubs — unusual asks for a nanny. There was also unwanted touching during trips to the movies with his kids. Given his prominence in the Christian world, she felt there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She “had no voice,” she says. And she was also reluctant because, as a Hillsong staffer, she didn’t want to get in the way of the church’s broader mission.
She no longer feels that way:
I now know there is a huge difference between being faithful to God and being blindly loyal to an individual. Many of us lost sight of that truth as we were building something that was so powerful and so different. In those days, so many people were coming to church for the first time and learning more about God. Lives were authentically being transformed and improved. There were incredible stories every week about how people were flourishing. This gifted man was doing such incredible things. It was hard to recognize what was wrong when so much seemed right.
For their part, the Lentzes deny everything:
A legal representative for Carl and his wife, Laura Lentz, responding to Kimes’ allegations, told RNS the Lentzes “vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.”
Hard to imagine “irrefutable proof” that private conversations didn’t occur as stated over the course of several years, but okay then. The refutation might be more believable if Lentz didn’t have a history of lying.
Kimes and her husband still work in the Hillsong ministry, leading an affiliate in Boston. Which actually makes her accusations even more damning. She can’t be pegged as an ex-Christian out for revenge. She’s part of the ministry’s leadership calling out one of the most famous pastors the church has produced.
That said, Religion News Service points out that the Kimes aren’t exactly perfect either…
Kimes and her husband, Josh Kimes, have themselves come under scrutiny for their treatment of volunteers in their Boston church. Tiffany Perez, a former volunteer there, told Business Insider that she was asked to care for the couple’s daughter for up to 25 hours a week as well as do cleaning and look after their dog, while being paid $150 a week.
None of that negates what Kimes said about Carl Lentz, but there are obviously other issues with Hillsong that also need to be addressed. The entire system they have there is broken and too many people are being abused in a variety of ways. Until more members of these churches walk out — and take their money with them — none of these Christian leaders will ever learn a damn thing.