Last year, infamous Hillsong NYC pastor, Carl Lentz, was fired after he admitted that allegations of a sexual affair with an Islamic woman were true. Since then, Hillsong founder and CEO, Brian Houston, has been in total damage control mode as sex scandal after sex scandal has repeatedly plagued the Church and the organization’s image has become increasingly tarnished.
Following the departure of Lentz, several other revelations have come to light, including the newest revelation–that Lentz repeatedly molested and sexually abused a female staff member and blaming her for the abuse. According to a blog post by the alleged victim, Boston “pastor” Leona Kimes says that though Lentz never had intercourse with her or kissed her, he would make sexually-charged remarks to her, gaze at her body inappropriately, and physically touch her in her “intimate areas.”
Kimes alleges that the abuse began with simple flirting and comments that made her uncomfortable while grooming her to feel inferior and subjected to him. “He would frequently say things like, you trust me, right? or I’ll always have your back or I’ll never let you down,” she writes. “I felt like he was testing my loyalty and it made it even more difficult for me to reconcile all that was happening.”
“If I would bring up a small concern, I was made to feel ungrateful or, worse, disloyal,” she continued.
After this, she alleges is when the touching–on multiple and repeated occasions–began. She writes,
Summer of 2015 is when things moved far beyond just flirty compliments and suggestive teasing. I was giving a foot rub to his wife, and he asked me to give him one too. He had never asked me this, and I didn’t feel like I could say “no.”
After that, he would ask me to rub his feet when he would come home or rub his tired muscles after playing basketball. Then 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. I froze. Every time, I froze.
He offered to accompany me to the doctor with his sick son once and he touched me while I was driving, both hands on the wheel. Again, I froze.
He suggested accompanying me to a movie with the kids and sat next to me and touched me in the dark, even though we were surrounded by people. Again, I froze.
According to Kimes, Lentz’s dominance over her put her in a position where she felt like she had no control over the situation. “He was my pastor, I was the problem. He was the boss, I was his employee,” she writes. She then says that Lentz, along with his wife, would often sit her down and make her feel like the perpetrator and even once, told her she needed to repent.
The inappropriate touching and suggestive text messages were addressed by both lead pastors on two occasions during my time serving in their home. The first time was in Summer of 2016. I was blamed and silenced. I was the problem. But, they kept me in my role, and I worked harder than ever after that.
She then says that in 2017, Lentz and his wife, after discussing among themselves the situation, decided against confessing the molestation to leadership. They then approached her to “fire” her from her household duties in their home, but that she remained on staff at Hillsong.
When his wife sat me down, she told me that I should repent and dismissed me from all of my duties in the house. I’d been fired from their family, but not from their staff. I felt like it was my fault, leaving me full of shame. I wasn’t given another role, and thought we could resolve it, though I wasn’t sure how. I just knew we were all going to keep quiet.
Kimes says she threatened to quit staff at Hillsong once only to be met with scorn by Lentz who told her that because she had no college education, she would be unable to find work in New York City.
Hillsong CEO, Brian Houston, has responded to the allegations in a statement on Hillsong’s website that he was aware of these allegations, but had decided to “respect her privacy” with her “deeply personal story.” Now that Kimes has decided to go public with her story–which was her decision to do–Houston says that the detail of her story are “very disturbing.”
“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.”
It turns out that Carl Lentz–who we’ve been warning about at Reformation Charlotte for years and years–has turned out to be exactly what this discernment blog accused him of being. Lentz and the vast majority of megachurch celebrity pastors are ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing seeking to molest the Church for their own personal gain. The entire celebrity culture, including the celebrity worship scene, is a scandal designed to attack and destroy the true Church. It’s time we start treating these God-hating organizations for what they are.