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Hillsong founders react to sexual abuse allegations against Carl Lentz by former nanny turned pastor

by Chantalle Edmunds

A Hillsong worship leader, who worked for ex-Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz, has accused him of "manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power and sexual abuse" throughout the seven years she worked for his family.

Leona Kimes, 37, made her allegations on the website Medium on Monday. Although she did not name Lentz in her the post, referring to him as the 'lead pastor of Hillsong NYC', she confirmed his identity to the Religion News Service. 

Kimes, who is now a co-pastor of Hillsong’s Boston location, claimed Lentz abused her sexually on multiple occasions.

Brian and Bobbie Houston released a statement on the Hillsong website on the same day in which they referred to Kimes' claims as "disturbing."

"After the termination of the former Lead Pastor of Hillsong East Coast, it was clear the issues were significant and because of our concerns, we initiated an independent and lengthy investigation into the culture of all four Hillsong East Coast locations.

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

The statement went on to condemn abuse of any kind as "deplorable" and added what the church is doing to update its infrastructure services which include increased HR training and improved "accountability and communication."

A legal representative for Lentz "vehemently" denied the accusations in a statement to NBC News, adding that the ex-pastor and his wife "have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as they are being described."

Carl Lentz was fired from his position as head over Hillsong Church East Coast in November. Following his dismissal, Lentz admitted that he'd cheated on his wife of 17 years.
 

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