Carl Lentz’s former nanny, Leona Kimes, published an essay on Medium Monday in which she claimed to have “experienced a great deal of pain” while working as a nanny in Lentz’s NYC home for seven years. “I was subjected to manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse,” she wrote. “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.”
While Kimes did not initially name Lentz as her former employer, she later identified him by name in a statement to Religion News Service. “I felt trapped and silenced. I also felt so ashamed and I had been told not to say anything or tell anyone.”
In her essay, Kimes claims that “I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas. I froze. Every time, I froze.” She also writes that his “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. My husband was frequently criticized as a group sport. Gossip was constant. If I didn’t join in or if I disagreed, I was the odd one out. Classic bullying.
Kimes alleges that the sexual abuse “started small too,” like cat-calls around the house, which escalated, like being told that “after you have kids, we’ll buy you a boob job.” She writes about “the moment my pastor noticed my body in a way that felt predatory to me.”
I was outside in my bathing suit getting ready to swim with the kids. His wife was there. He looked me up and down, making comments about my body and how hard I’d worked to get in shape. His gaze was so intense that I wanted to say “ok, enough please,” but I just covered my belly with my arms and sat down to feel safely covered by the chair. He would frequently say things like, you trust me, right? or I’ll always have your back or I’ll never let you down. 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.
In one experience, she says he took a photo of her without her knowledge and texted it to her with the line: “Sheesh girl looking good.” As it escalated, she says he began to touch her without her consent, because “I didn’t feel like I could say no.” Kimes also alleges that “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.” Later in the essay, she writes that “we were growing so quickly that we really didn’t have the things that are supposed to protect against situations like this,” like HR or whistleblower policies.
After the publication of her Medium essay, a lawyer for Lentz told Religion News Service that he and wife Laura Lentz “vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described.”
Prior to Kimes’s account, Lentz was dismissed from his position at Hillsong’s Manhattan church for “moral failings” in November, which included an affair with Ranin Karim, an NYC-based jewelry designer. Religion News Service notes that leaders at the church, including co-founder Brian Houston, “suggested the affair was not Lentz’s only transgression.” Lawyers hired by the church conducted a review of Hillsong’s leadership structure, but their report, which included Lentz’s affair, made no mention of further sexual misconduct or abuse.
In Kimes’s account, Laura Lentz was the person who ultimately fired her from her position after learning of her husband’s alleged actions:
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.
While Laura and Carl’s marital status isn’t clear, she did share an Instagram post earlier in May that alluded to “overcoming strife.” Lawyers responding to these recent allegations, meanwhile, represent them both. While Kimes’s direct account concerns Carl’s behavior, she alleges that Laura backed him up.
Dismantle the whole church at this point. Everything has to go.