Former Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz is being accused of bullying and sexual assault
A former nanny for ex-Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz is accusing him of ‘bullying, abuse of power and sexual abuse.’
In a post on Medium.com, Hillsong Boston pastor Leona Kines wrote that she was sexually assaulted several times over the seven years she worked as a nanny and personal cleaner for the church leader.
Although she did not name Lentz in her Medium post, referring to him as the lead pastor of Hillsong NYC’, she confirmed his identity to the Religion News Service.
She said Lentz started off by making flirtatious comments about her appearance, but soon asked for foot and muscle massages and proceeded to touch her inappropriately on two separate occasions — once in a movie theater with at least one of Lentz’s children present.
An attorney for Lentz and his wife, Laura, told the Religion News Service they ‘vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.’
Kimes claims in her Medium post on Monday that she was eager to help the family out when she took the job in 2011, and ‘started to feel like I was actually part of the family, and they reinforced the idea by telling me that I was.’
‘The boundaries between personal and professional blurred early on, and an unhealthy bond and attachment was formed,’ she wrote.
Soon, the family started asking her to work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and called her Cinderella, ‘which they said was their way of loving me.’
In a post on Medium.com, Leona Kimes (left) wrote that Lentz touched her inappropriately while she was in his employ. She is pictured with her husband, Josh, and their kids
Lentz was fired from his position as head of the New York City church in November for ‘moral failings,’ after which he admitted to having an adulterous affair
Kines claimed Laura Lentz (left) found out about her husband’s transgressions in 2016
At first, she said, she didn’t think much of it when Lentz started making comments about her appearance, calling it ‘flirty teasing,’ but after a while, she said, the comments began to escalate.
In one instance, she said she remembers the pastor telling her: “After you have kids, we’ll buy you a boob job.’
Another time, Kimes recalls him taking her photo while she was sunbathing, and cropping his wife out, editing the picture with a black and white filter and texting it to her saying: ‘Sheesh girl, looking good.’
Kimes further claims Lentz would get into the hot tub she was in with his kids and position himself so his hands ‘could graze my legs.’
By the summer of 2015, she said, Lentz started asking for foot rubs when he came home or muscle rubs after playing basketball.
Then, she said, ‘the physical encounters escalated.’
‘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,’ Kimes wrote in her post.
She detailed how he once touched her inappropriately as she was driving his sick son to the doctor, and once again when she took his children to the movie theater and the lights went dark.
Kines said Laura found out about Lentz’s alleged misbehavior in 2016, and ‘blamed’ and ‘silenced’ her, at which point she started to blame herself.
‘I would leave church on Sunday full of shame after hearing his sermon,’ she wrote. ‘I would think it was all my fault … He was my pastor, I was the problem. He was the boss, I was the employee.’
Lentz was pictured with his family, who Kines was hired to take care of for up to 19 hours a day
The Lentzes allegedly spoke with her again in 2017, when Kines claims he ‘took full responsibility for taking advantage of me and putting me in a situation that was so heavy for me.’
He even contemplated confessing to Hillsong executives about his conduct, she reported, but concluded it wasn’t necessary ‘after talking it through with his wife.’
She said the couple promised to set boundaries with her, but soon Laura told her she should ‘repent’ and dismissed her from all her duties.
‘I was told that if his reputation was ruined, my reputation would be too,’ Kines said.
She is now working as a co-pastor with her husband, Josh, at the new Hillsong Boston location.
Kines said she never spoke to church leaders about the alleged misconduct because she was afraid she or Josh, who helped build the New York City megachurch, would be fired.
But instead, Lentz was fired from his position as head pastor of the New York City church in November for ‘moral failings,’ after which he admitted to having an adulterous affair.
Soon after, Ranin Karim, a Brooklyn jewelry discussed her relationship with Lentz on Good Morning America, and the following month Hillsong co-founder Brian Houston called him a ‘narcissist.’
DailyMail.com has reached out to the Lentzes for further comment.
The Hillsong Church was founded by Brian and Bobbi Houston in the 1980s and has grown into a multimedia empire with 130 locations across the globe
The church, which was founded by Brian and his wife Bobbi in Australia in the 1980s and has since grown into a multimedia empire with 130 locations across the globe, is now investigating the claims.
In a statement on the Hillsong website, Brian and Bobbi wrote that they found Kines’ claims ‘very disturbing’ when she first came forward with them following Lentz’s ouster.
‘We know that Leona may face criticism for her story and her choice to share it,’ the statement read. ‘In that light, we commend her for her courage, and have assured her of our utmost compassion in their journey forward.’
They added: ‘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.’
The scandal comes on the heels of Darnell Barret resigning from his position as creative director of Hillsong New Jersey after sharing lewd photos in April.