Leona Kimes, one of disgraced ex-pastor Carl Lentz's former nannies, says she was the victim of disturbing repeated sexual touching
Lentz was fired from his position as lead pastor at New York City's Hillsong Church after it was revealed he reportedly had been cheating on his wife.
What are the details?
In a lengthy reveal on Medium, Kimes — now a co-pastor at Hillsong Boston with her husband Josh Kimes — said that Lentz was guilty of "repeated sexual touching" during her tenure with the family.
Kimes worked with Lentz and his family for seven years between 2010 and 2017 before moving to Boston, and revealed that her traumatic experience led her to seek "intense therapy" after she left. She was also working as the associate pastor in New York at the time.
"While there were joyful moments during that time, no one knew that I also experienced a great deal of pain," Kimes wrote in the Medium article. "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."
Kimes continued, "The abuse of power started small. 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 said that the experience started out as "classic bullying."
The bullying, she explained, soon turned sexual.
"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."
At one point, she recalled Lentz telling her "[A]fter 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," she insisted. "It hadn't occurred to me that I had a right to not be spoken to like that, by my pastor or anyone else."
It got even worse after that, she said, and Lentz reportedly began touching her in intimate areas.
"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."
Kimes said that she complained about the behavior in 2016, but the family "blamed and silenced" her for the reported behavior.
"I was the problem," she said. "But they kept me in my role, and I worked harder than ever after that."
Kimes said still couldn't get out from underneath the ex-pastor's thumb.
"I tried to escape by telling him I would find a new job outside of church," Kimes recalled. "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[.]"
A spokesperson for Lentz denied all allegations and said that the Lentz family has "irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described."
In a Sunday statement, Brian and Bobbie Houston, founders of Hillsong Church, said that Kimes' experience was nothing short of 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," a portion of their statement read.
“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 family continued, "We know that Leona may face criticism for her story and her choice to share it. 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."