Hillsong Church’s rising popularity has only been rivaled by the increasing number of controversies they’ve been named in. Investigation Discovery’s three-part docuseries titled ‘Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed’ aims to delve into the church’s past and the allegations surrounding some of its members, including the founder, Brian Houston. In May 2021, Leona Kimes, a pastor at Hillsong, accused Carl Lentz of sexual misconduct. By then, the latter had already been fired from the organization for infidelity. So, if you’re wondering what Leona had to say about the former Hillsong pastor, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Leona Kimes?
Leona Kimes is a Sydney, Australia, native who grew up loving church and everything it represented. After studying at Macquarie University in Sydney, she went on to join Hillsong. In 2008, Leona married Josh Kimes, who also worked at Hillsong. In 2010, they left Australia to help set up the New York City, New York church co-founded by Carl Lentz. At the time, Leona worked as a nanny for the Lentzes, staying in that role for about seven years.
As part of the job, Leona was responsible for everything from running errands and keeping the house clean to taking care of the kids, and in general, making sure everything was perfect. She worked long hours, sometimes up to 19 hours a day, often sacrificing her and her family’s personal needs. In a May 2021 essay that she penned, Leona talked about her time at the Lentzes’ house and the abuse that she said she faced.
Leona expressed that when it came to working, it started small; apart from working long hours, she claimed that her schedules were often switched without fair warning and without checking whether she was available. In addition to the increasing workload, Leona was made fun of, and her husband was constantly criticized. The sexual abuse, she said, started with unwelcome comments and teasing that made her uncomfortable that soon escalated to touching.
Leona claimed that sometime in 2015, Carl began asking her for foot rubs, eventually moving to touch her in ways that made her uncomfortable. While Leona said they never kissed or had sex, she added, “I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas. I froze. Every time, I froze.” Leona also talked of at least two instances when Carl allegedly touched her in the presence of his children — once while driving to a doctor’s appointment and another time when they were in a movie theater with Carl’s kids.
Eventually, Leona said that these issues were addressed twice by the Lentzes. In 2016, she claimed to have been blamed and silenced. A year after that, Leona mentioned Carl taking responsibility for his actions. However, according to Leona, Carl’s wife, Laura, told her she should repent and then relieved her from duties within the house. But Leona still stayed on as part of the staff. Once the allegations surfaced, Carl and Laura vehemently denied them and said they had proof things didn’t happen as Leona described them.
Where is Leona Kimes Now?
Initially, Leona Kimes viewed herself as the problem and felt nobody would believe her even if she talked about it. But through therapy and her husband’s support, she was able to go public with the story. Leona added that Brian and his wife, Bobbie, were understanding of her plight. However, Leona and Josh were previously accused of exploiting volunteer workers and racial discrimination.
Tiffany, a former Hillsong Boston volunteer, said that she took care of Carl and Laura’s daughter for up to 25 hours a week, in addition to cleaning the house and walking the dog, for only $150 per week. From what we can tell, the couple has since moved back to New York City where they serve as pastors for Hillsong. Leona and Josh previously served in Boston, Massachusetts, and have a son and a daughter together.
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