Another investigation of Hillsong Church has been leaked to the media, this time regarding its New York City branch, once led by Carl Lentz. The disgraced former pastor, fired in November 2020 for “moral failures,” wasn’t the only problem, according to the report. Commissioned by Hillsong’s global board and conducted by law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, the report reveals a manipulative, abusive culture throughout the global megachurch’s East Coast branch.
On Monday, The Christian Post summarized details of the leaked 51-page report, noting that a Hillsong spokesperson confirmed its authenticity. When CP asked Australia-based Hillsong why it hadn’t made the results public, despite calls for transparency, the church said it wanted to protect people’s confidentiality. The spokesperson added, “Any unauthorized release of this type of information acts as a deterrent for individuals who wish to participate with any organization’s desire to uncover and address truth as the basis for change.”
Carl Lentz: ‘Lack of Oversight’ Was ‘Recipe for Trouble’
A key takeaway from the Hillsong NYC investigation is the claim that Carl Lentz’s poor leadership, combined with “insufficient supervision and accountability,” created “a recipe for trouble.” The Australian headquarters bears some blame, note investigators, for a “lack of oversight” of Lentz, who became the “final arbiter of what was proper behavior for everyone in New York, himself included.” Several interviewees recall Lentz saying, “Australia is dead to us.”
Another bombshell from the report: Numerous former Hillsong NYC staffers and volunteers allege that Lentz drove them to mental illness, including anxiety and panic disorders. They cite the former pastor’s manipulative, demanding leadership style—and claim that their complaints to global officials weren’t productive. The report also mentions that spiritual care was mishandled for a Hillsong NYC parishioner with an eating disorder, who died.
Finally, the report provides more details about sexual misconduct by Lentz and other Hillsong NYC leaders. Those include the circulation of explicit photos, requests for sexual favors, and numerous inappropriate relationships. A former housekeeper for the Lentz family describes incidents of indecent exposure by Carl, who denies the claims.
And the family’s former nanny, Leona Kimes, accuses Carl Lentz of “repeated sexual touching”—which Laura Lentz reportedly witnessed. In the report, Carl Lentz describes “manipulated intimacy” with Kimes, plus an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman he met in a Brooklyn deli.
Kimes tells Religion News Service she felt “trapped and silenced” by Carl Lentz’s unwanted sexual advances. According to the newly leaked report, the power imbalance between the pastor and nanny made it “unlikely that Leona was capable of achieving the distance necessary to exercise true choice.” Leona Kimes now pastors Hillsong Boston, along with her husband, Josh Kimes.
‘Enough Is Enough,’ Says Laura Lentz
The report, based on interviews with current and former Hillsong NYC staff members and volunteers, is limited, investigators admit, partly due to “the extensive assertion of failure of memory by certain witnesses.” Carl Lentz apparently told investigators he had been forthcoming about sexual misdeeds because he was receiving inpatient treatment “and was forming the habit of honestly expressing what had happened.” He also described being “a very good liar” who had previously covered up his behavior.