An Australian pastor and his wife working at the Boston branch of scandal-hit Hillsong church have resigned after he admitted sending a ‘racist text’ to a congregant, in the latest scandal to rock the Pentecostal group.
Josh and Leona Kimes announced on Monday that they were stepping down from the group.
Leona in May 2021 announced in a bombshell Medium post that she had been ‘subjected to manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse’ by the founders of the New York branch, Carl and Laura Lentz, while working at their home as a nanny.
The Lentzes strongly denied Leona Kimes’s allegations.
On April 11, The Christian Post published excerpts of an internal investigation into the Lentzes behavior, which found that Laura Lentz had punched Leona Kimes when she found her snuggled on the sofa with her husband.
Carl Lentz, pastor to the stars who presided over Justin and Hailey Bieber’s September 2019 wedding, was fired from the church in November 2020 after his five-month affair with Brooklyn-based jewelry designer Ranin Karim emerged.
While he was seeing her, he also engaged in another ‘inappropriate relationship’ with a woman he called Germany, who he met in Brooklyn, the report allegedly says.
Lentz was also accused of causing workers to suffer mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
The Kimeses said on Monday: ‘It was never in our plans to ever leave Hillsong Church.
Josh and Leona Kimes on Monday announced that they were leaving Hillsong Church, where they led the Boston congregation. They did not give a reason, but it emerged on Tuesday that Josh admitted to sending a ‘racist text’ to a congregant
The Kimes family, from Sydney, Australia, said they have made ‘the difficult decision’ to step down from the church
‘It’s been home for 22yrs of my life. It’s where I’ve pastored for the last 16yrs.
‘We’ve made the difficult decision to resign as we know God is directing our steps to walk confidently & humbly into the unknown & trust Him to open the right door & plant us somewhere new.’
They did not give a reason for stepping down from the church.
But on Tuesday, it emerged that Josh Kimes admitted to sending a racist text.
The admission was enclosed in a report entitled ‘Internal Investigation Report Regarding Carl Lentz and Other Matters,’ produced in January 2021 and obtained by The Christian Post.
In late 2020, multiple people had accused Kimes of race-related discrimination, according to a Business Insider report, but Kimes never publicly admitted to any wrongdoing.
When investigators from Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, asked Kimes about the allegations for the report, he said it was limited to ‘a racist text.’
‘Josh Kimes admitted that he once wrote a racist text,’ they wrote.
‘He explained that he apologized to each of the people who received the text.
‘Outside of that, he stated the other allegations of racism were half-truths or lies.
‘Leona Kimes stated that if there was racism at Hillsong, it was Carl Lentz’s fault. Leona stated that each time they wanted to have a meeting or organize an event related to racism Lentz would tell them that he would handle it and then never do anything.’
One Asian member of the church described to investigators, The Christian Post reported, how she once attended a Connect Group leaders training meeting in 2012.
Kane Keatinge, one of the co-founders of Hillsong NYC, allegedly walked into the room and said: ‘I’m so glad there are more white people here today. In the last training, there were too many non-white people and it felt weird.’
The church member said those present laughed nervously, and Keatinge said: ‘It’s a joke. And you know, if you can’t take the joke, there are many churches out there who will welcome you.’
Carl Lentz’s wife (pictured together) punched Leona Kimes in the face when she caught him with her under a blanket on the couch, a bombshell leaked report revealed on April 11
Lentz is pictured with his friend Justin Bieber in August 2017, who he baptized and married
Jewelry designer Ranin Karim, 35, claims she had a five-month affair with married former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz before he was fired in 2020
Josh Kimes, in his resignation note, apologized for his role in ‘perpetuating a culture that at times valued the building of the church at the expense of those building it.’
He wrote: ‘Transparency, honesty, accountability & a culture that allows people to create healthy boundaries is so important & I’m encouraged to see things starting to change.
‘Hillsong will always hold a special place in our hearts, even with the immense pain we’ve endured while building church here in the USA.
‘Pastors are meant to be shepherds who protect the sheep, not wolves who prey on the sheep they’re entrusted to protect,’ they wrote.
Lentz, in the January 2021 document, was also reportedly accused of messing with workers’ mental health.
One ministry leader is believed to have said he had left him feeling depressed and suffering from anxiety due to his time at work.
He claimed his boss would ‘belittle him, bully him and complain about the driving or the route he was taking’ as well as be expected to be free 24 hours a day.
But Lentz hit back, claiming he only shouted at him once when they nearly crashed in Manhattan.
He also disputed the claim drivers had to be available 24/7, saying he was not driven out to club late at night.
The pastor, who co-founded the New York City branch of the Australian church back in 2010, claimed he had resigned from Hillsong in 2020.
Lentz is still married to his wife, Laura, with whom he shares three kids
But a few days later, the church announced he had been fired by the organization’s leader Brian Houston, 68, who accused the pastor of ‘moral failures’.
Lentz, who rose to notoriety after baptizing his close friend Justin Bieber in 2014, later publicly admitted he had cheated on his wife.
Earlier this month Hillsong was back in the headlines when Dallas pastor Reed Bogard was accused of raping a female staffer who he had an affair with in 2013.
He was ousted from the church along with his wife last year amid claims they had been misappropriating church donations to fund their lavish lifestyle.
But it emerged this year he had an affair between October 2013 and 2014 with a junior female staffer.
The woman claimed in October 2020 – six years after the affair ended – that Bogard raped her the first time they had sex on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2013.
She made the allegation for the first time in conversations with Hillsong leaders and an investigation was commissioned as a result. The details have never been made public until now.
The Christian Post obtained a copy of the investigation report in which lawyers said it was still a possibility Bogard could face criminal charges.
It remains unclear if the allegation has ever been reported to the police.
New York’s statute of limitations for reporting rape cases can be as long as 20 years.
There is no statute of limitations for first degree rape cases.
Church leaders did know about the affair and had for years, but they thought it had always been consensual.
Hillsong Dallas pastor Reed Bogard was secretly accused of raping a younger, female staffer who he had an affair with in 2013, it has been revealed
Bogard with his wife Jess. The pair stepped down last year amid claims they were misappropriating funds from the church
Hillsong started in Australia in 1983 but has since ballooned to become an international mega church with a cult-like celebrity following.
Justin and Hailey Bieber are the church’s most famous followers but the Kardashians have been tied to it as has Selena Gomez and others.
Its selling point are its army of young, glamorous and trendy pastors who give concert-like sermons and appeal to Instagram-savvy, younger worshippers.
But over the last few years, the so-called disciples of the church have revealed themselves to have somewhat compromised morals.
In 2020, star pastor Lentz was exposed for cheating on his wife.
He was fired by Houston and retreated from the limelight, which he had enjoyed with his celebrity following.
Bogard was fired in January 2021.
‘It was very disappointing to learn that, while some of you experienced the Bogards as dedicated pastors, many others have experienced leadership that failed to meet the commitments and standards of Hillsong Church,’ Houston said at the time.
Other former church members have compared it to a cult and detailed incidents of sexual assault.
Houston himself is now facing claims that his father, who founded the church and died in 2004, covered up sexual abuse during his tenure in charge.
He resigned on March 24 after it was also claimed he had been inappropriate with staff, notably two women.
He has been criminally charged in Australia over the allegation that he turned a blind eye to his father’s abuse – which he vehemently denies.
Darnell Barrett, another member of the church, was fired in 2021 for sending a shirtless picture to someone else in the congregation.