Former Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Accused Of Sexually Assaulting His Nanny

Photo: BEBETO MATTHEWS/AP/SHUTTERSTOCK
Carl Lentz

Former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz has been accused of sexual abuse by a woman who once worked as a nanny in his home. 

Leona Kimes shared an essay on Monday in which she called out the church and staff amid months of controversy surrounding Hillsong. She later named Lentz as her abuser.

"I felt trapped and silenced. I also felt so ashamed and I had been told not to say anything or tell anyone," she said of her reluctance to come forward.

Lentz was one of the most famous faces in the charismatic megachurch. Labeled as the “hypepriest,” Lentz is known for his friendships with Justin Bieber, who moved in with him to aid his sobriety at one point, and his penchant for his own image. 

However, the new allegations cast another grim shadow over the controversy-ridden church.   

What is Carl Lentz accused of? 

Kimes revealed that she had moved to the US to help establish the Australian-founded church in New York. She began working for Lentz, and other leading Hillsong pastors, as a nanny. 

"During the years I spent serving them, I was subjected to manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse," she wrote.

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Kimes described how the alleged incidents escalated throughout her time working for Lentz. First, there were inappropriate comments about her body, then he would ask for massages or attempt to touch her. 

"Then the physical encounters escalated," she wrote. "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 says she felt “blamed and silenced” by Lentz and another pastor and recalled a conversation with Lentz and his wife in which she was told that her reputation would be ruined if she came forward. 

Kimes, who is now a pastor at Hillsong Boston, says she was fearful about her security as she was told she would be unable to get another job in New York if she left. 

"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."

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Carl Lentz denies sexual assault claims. 

A legal representative for Lentz and his wife, Laura, says the couple “vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.”

Lentz was ousted from Hillsong in 2020 after a decade of service. The church declared that “moral failures” were behind his firing and Lentz later hinted that he had been unfaithful to his wife

Subsequent reports revealed that in 2017, Lentz was accused of sexually inappropriate behavior by a Hillsong staff member and in 2018, a group of church volunteers emailed Lentz about what they said was a rampant culture of protected sexual misconduct and bullying by church staff members. 

Kimes did, however, praise Hillsong founder Brian Houston for his support in the aftermath of Lentz’s abuse. 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.