Former nanny accuses ex-Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz of bullying and sexual abuse

Carl Lentz(Photo: ABC/The View)

Fired Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz has been accused of bullying and sexual abuse by a former nanny.

Leona Kimes, now a co-pastor of Hillsong Boston, made the accusations in an article on Medium on Monday. 

She worked as a nanny for the Lentz family for seven years and alleges that during this time, there was "repeated sexual touching" and "flirty teasing" by Lentz. 

She also alleges that her hours were "increased beyond belief" so that on some days she was working from 7am to 11pm, and that schedules would be changed at the last minute "without even attempting to confirm my availability".

"While there were joyful moments during that time, no one knew that I also experienced a great deal of pain," Kimes wrote.

"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 goes on to say that she only shared her story with her husband when Lentz was fired last November for moral failures and leadership issues. She says it was at this time that she felt "safe". 

She adds that Hillsong Church Senior Pastor Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, have been supportive of her after coming forward.

"It has been a process for me to come forward and report my experiences to leadership. I have been met with compassion, particularly by Brian and Bobbie Houston. And, I have been welcomed into a journey of healing," she said.

She continued, "I have decided to stay because I still have the same heart toward church that I've always had.

"Even with all I've been through, I still love it. Hillsong is my church, and I will remain on staff, working toward a stronger future."

Lentz has denied the allegations. A legal representative for the Lentz family told Religion News Service that they "vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described."

Responding to Kimes' Medium article, Brian and Bobbie Houston said in a joint letter to the Church that after Lentz's firing, it was "clear" that the issues in Hillsong East Coast were "significant". 

"In the process of seeking clarity, hearing Leona Kimes' experience was very disturbing," they said.

"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.

"It will be a long process and they have our full concern and pastoral support.

"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.

"As we work to rebuild Hillsong East Coast, Leona's experience will be central in our processes. Earlier this year, we made this commitment to update our suite of infrastructure services including increased HR training and the requirement of our policies to be standardized across our network of churches and we hope to improve accountability and communication even further.

"We ask for your continued prayer as we seek to bring Godly wisdom to what has been a difficult and heartbreaking situation and season."