After Carl Lentz imploded in Nov 2020 and took the reputation of Hillsong New York with him, Hillsong commissioned New York City law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman to investigate what went wrong. After two months of investigating, they ultimately ended up with a 51-page barn-burner of a booklet titled “Internal Investigation Report Regarding Carl Lentz and Other Matters” that was given to the leadership in January 2021, While some statements in the report are pure facts: things that Lentz confessed to doing, other portions need to be properly kept in context, with the investigators writing:
“Due to the limited amount of documentary evidence, the extensive assertion of failure of memory by certain witnesses, and the necessity to rely upon oral testimony and demeanor, the conclusions in this report, although they may be phrased in a ‘factual’ style for readability, should be understood as the contentions of a witness, or statements of opinion by the investigating attorneys.”
Here are a few more interesting and yet tragic bits, as compiled by the Christian Post, who obtained the document. From what it seems, Lentz was fairly candid with the investigators, as his truthfulness was a condition of him getting a massive severance.
“It was not uncommon for volunteers and staff who had frequent interaction with Carl Lentz to report that such interaction had ‘caused’ them to suffer from mental illness”
Lentz … described receiving frequent massages, though he would not provide details. In particular, despite his obligations to cooperate pursuant to his severance agreement, Lentz refused to answer questions regarding whether the massages he received were sexual in nature.
Laura Lentz stated that she had ‘hunches’ and ‘vibes’ that the massages were ‘a bit strange’ and that in 2019 the routine of Lentz receiving massages became more of a night time occurrence. Review of Lentz’s text messages showed masseuses quoting Lentz for the cost of massages and also other sexual acts, but it was unclear from the text messages if Lentz received only massages from these women or something more.”
“Last year (2021) , Leona Kimes, who served as a nanny for Lentz and his wife for seven years and currently leads Hillsong Boston with her husband, Josh Kimes, accused Lentz of “repeated sexual touching” in a post on Medium. Through a legal representative, Lentz at the time denied the allegations.
In this report, however, Lentz, who describes Leona Kimes as someone who “got her identity from the Lentz family,” admits to subliminally encouraging a relationship with the married Kimes with whom he engaged in at least 20 but less than 100 sex acts which he described as “manipulated intimacy.”
“Usually Carl and Leona would engage in sexual conduct on the couch in the Lentz’s living room but there were some nights when Leona would ask Carl to go to the third floor of the house and continue what they were doing. Carl said they would do ‘pretty much everything you could do’ without engaging in oral sex or intercourse,” investigators said. “
The relationship involving sexual acts between Leona Kimes and Carl Lentz lasted from 2015 to 2017
While he was engaged in a relationship with Karim (in 2020) , Lentz also revealed that he engaged in another “inappropriate relationship” with a woman he met in August or September 2020 he listed in his contacts as “Germany.” He said he met her at a deli in Brooklyn.
“He stated that he saw this woman two times and that their contact was sexual in nature but did not involve sexual intercourse. He stated that Germany is not affiliated with the church and she did not participate in or attend Hillsong,
Investigators further note the following:
“Lentz’s ability to lead so poorly was itself the result of insufficient supervision and accountability applied to Lentz himself. Indeed, it appears that effective management and accountability of Lentz was nonexistent. What is more, multiple witnesses described Lentz as repeatedly reinforcing the idea that New York was separate and apart from Australia. Although Lentz denies it, multiple staff in New York recall Lentz saying that ‘Australia is dead to us’ and other comments to similar effect.”
As with much of his testimony regarding non-sexual matters, Lentz was not credible when defending his demands for cultural isolationism from the Australian parent church. The Australian mother ship appears also to bear some responsibility here, since it never established effective oversight and accountability for the New York Lead Pastor. This lack of oversight permitted Carl Lentz to assume the role of final arbiter of what was proper behavior for everyone in New York, himself included. With the benefit of hindsight, given Lentz’s personal limitations, this was a recipe for trouble.
One ministry leader who was accused of sleeping around with multiple women in the church said in his deposition:
[Redacted] stated in a letter that when he drove Carl Lentz, Lentz would belittle him, bully him and complain about the driving or the route he was taking. [Redacted] stated that Lentz once yelled at him for ‘breathing too loud’ while he was driving,” investigators noted. “[Redacted] stated that he was expected to be at Lentz’s beck and call 24/7 and never miss a text or call. [Redacted] stated that he would have to sit outside a nightclub and wait for Lentz sometimes for 3-5 hours. [Redacted] further stated that he was removed from his position … after he asked to pray for Lentz during a car ride.”
It’s all awful stuff and offers more insight into the culture of dysfunction that characterized the Church for years.