Leona Kimes published accusations against her former employer, disgraced pastor Carl Lentz. Kimes had worked for Lentz, and his wife Laura Lentz, when they were pastors for the New York branch of the evangelical Hillsong church.
Carl Lentz was fired from his position evidence of adultery was made public, in November 2020. His wife Laura also lost her job. On May 31, 2021, Kimes went public with her accusation in an article on the online site Medium, claiming Carl had regularly groped her.
Hillsong was founded in Australia, and, like Laura Lentz, Kimes and her husband, Josh Kimes, are Australian. The Kimes left Australia to work under the Lentz's, at Hillsong's New York City ministry. For her first seven years in America, from 2011 to 2017, the Lentz employed Leona as a nanny to their four children.
Kimes described being called upon to work unscheduled overtime, sometimes being asked to work from 7am to 11pm. Her husband also worked full time in helping with the administration of the Ministry, and addition, also worked a fulltime job, outside the ministry. She wrote that the Lentz scheduled their days-off for different days, so she and Josh were not able to spend any liesure time together.
Kimes described an escalation of Carl's harrassment of her. She described being called "cinderella", and hearing Carl and Laura mock her husband in front of her. Early instances of sexually charged comments, from Carl, that made her uncomfortable, included, “Gurl, you’re looking good. You’ve been in the gym?”. He said he later told her “after you have kids, we’ll buy you a boob job.”
Next, she said, he began surreptitiously groping her, like when he would join her and the children, in the Lentz family hot-tub, or when she was drving the children on errands.
She said that, by 2015, she didn't feel she could say "no" when he asked for massages. She described how she "froze" every time he surreptitiously touched her on an intimate zone of her body, noting, however, that they never had intercourse. She described feeling full of shame. She wrote, that, at the time, she saw herself as the problem, and didn't recognize that she was a victim.
In 2016 Laura became aware of suggestive texts, and held her responsible. Nevertheless she would remain working in their home, for another year.
She said that, in 2017, when she spoke of finding herself a new job, outside of the ministry, Carl had mocked her, asserting that without any College education, no one would hire her.
In the summer of 2017 she said that Carl acknowledged he had been wrong to sexualize their relationship, that he had considered informing church management, but that, after discussing doing so with Laura they had decided "it wasn't necessary." She said Laura told her to "repent", and fired her. Kimes wrote that the experience left her feelng shameful and worthless, and she considered committing suicide.
The Kimes would later be promotoed to head Hillsong's Boston ministry. According to The New York Post the Kimes's own nanny would describe them taking advantage of her with unscheduled overtime, for which she went unpaid.
On June 2, 2021, two days after Kimes published her essay, representatives for Carl and Laura denied her accusations.
- Alyssa Morin (2021-06-01). "Fired Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Denies Former Nanny's Sexual Abuse Claims". E Online. Archived from the original on 2021-10-21. https://web.archive.org/web/20211021145525/https://www.eonline.com/ca/news/1275668/fired-hillsong-pastor-carl-lentz-denies-former-nannys-sexual-abuse-claims. Retrieved 2021-10-21. "On Monday, May 31, Kimes published an essay titled "Writing My Voice Back" on Medium, in which she made accusations against the former Hillsong pastor. Although Kimes didn't identify Lentz by name in her story, she confirmed her accusations were about him in a statement to Religion News Service."
- Roxanne Stone (2021-05-31). "Exclusive: Sex abuse allegations by Carl Lentz’s former nanny put spotlight on Hillsong culture". Daily Religion News. Archived from the original on 2021-11-05. https://web.archive.org/web/20211005233412/https://religionnews.com/2021/05/31/sex-abuse-allegations-by-carl-lentzs-former-nanny-put-spotlight-on-hillsong-culture/. Retrieved 2021-10-21. "In a statement published on Medium on Monday, Kimes, now a co-pastor of Hillsong’s Boston location, claimed Lentz abused her sexually on multiple occasions. 'I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas. I froze. Every time, I froze,' Kimes said in her statement."
- Hannah Frishberg (2021-06-01). "Hillsong pastor accuses unnamed leader of bullying, sexual abuse, ‘boob job’ offer". New York Post. Archived from the original on 2021-06-02. https://web.archive.org/web/20210602045105/https://nypost.com/2021/06/01/hillsong-pastor-accuses-unnamed-leader-of-bullying-sexual-abuse/. Retrieved 2021-10-21. "In a bombshell essay published on Medium on Memorial Day, Leona Kimes, 37 — currently a lead pastor of Hillsong Boston — has alleged that in the seven years she spent as a nanny for Hillsong NYC pastors, she was 'subjected to manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse.'"
- Leona Kimes (2021-05-31). "Writing My Voice Back". Medium. Archived from the original on 2021-10-02. https://web.archive.org/web/20211002193958/https://leonakimes.medium.com/writing-my-voice-back-69febd4f3e5e. Retrieved 2021-10-21. "A decade ago, my husband Josh and I Ieft our lives in Australia to set off across the world and help build Hillsong NYC. When we joined the team, I couldn’t have been more excited. My role wasn’t up-front nor on the platform. I was the nanny for the lead pastors. I served their family in that role for seven years before moving to Hillsong Boston, where I have served as a pastor alongside my husband."
- Lydia Wang (2021-06-01). "A Hillsong Pastor Revealed The Culture Of Sexual Abuse & Exploitation At The Megachurch". Refinery 29. Archived from the original on 2021-06-16. https://web.archive.org/web/20210616210911/https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2021/06/10501363/carl-lentz-leona-kimes-hillsong-church-sexual-abuse. Retrieved 2021-10-21. "Now, Leona Kimes, a pastor at Hillsong Boston, is coming forward about the abuse, bullying, and exploitation she faced while working for a Hillsong New York pastor."
- Alyssa Morin (2021-06-02). "Fired Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Denies Former Nanny's Sexual Abuse Claims". NBC Boston. Archived from the original on 2021-06-03. https://web.archive.org/web/20210603010933/https://www.nbcboston.com/entertainment/entertainment-news/fired-hillsong-pastor-carl-lentz-denies-former-nannys-sexual-abuse-claims/2395203/. Retrieved 2021-10-21. "Following Kimes' claims, a legal rep for Lentz and his wife, Laura Lentz, told Religion News Service they both 'vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.'"