Just months after taking the helm of Hillsong Boston in 2020, Pastor Josh Kimes, who recently resigned from the church with his wife, Leona, without stating a reason, admitted in a deposition summarized by lawyers hired by Hillsong Church that he once wrote a racist text to church colleagues but later apologized.
The revelation comes in a deposition by lawyers from the New York City law firm Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, who were hired by Hillsong Church to investigate allegations of abuse at Hillsong NYC following the firing of former Hillsong NYC Lead Pastor Carl Lentz in November 2020 for sexual misconduct. The findings of their investigation were delivered to Hillsong Church officials in a report called “Internal Investigation Report Regarding Carl Lentz and Other Matters” in January 2021. A copy of the report was recently shared with The Christian Post.
In late 2020, multiple people had accused Kimes of numerous instances of race-related discrimination, according to a Business Insider report, but Kimes never publicly admitted to any wrongdoing.
Kimes’ response to the allegations at the time when questioned by Business Insider was: “Our Hillsong Boston team has taken some intentional steps to improve racial diversity and equity at Hillsong Boston since we launched and we’re committed to make further strides as we continue to listen and learn.”
When investigators from Zukerman Gore Brandeis & Crossman, LLP, asked Kimes about the allegations, he said it was limited to “a racist text.”
“Josh Kimes admitted that he once wrote a racist text. 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,” investigators wrote. “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.”
The “Internal Investigation Report Regarding Carl Lentz and Other Matters,” highlights several allegations of racism from current and former staffers and volunteers.
One Asian member of the church described to investigators how she once attended a Connect Group leaders training meeting in 2012, and 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 everyone kind of 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.”
In an Instagram post that has since been restricted but cited by Religion News Service, Josh Kimes, who began leading Hillsong Boston with his wife in early 2020, announced on Monday that they had “made the difficult decision to resign.”
“It was never our plan to ever leave Hillsong Church. It’s been home for 22yrs of my life. It’s where I’ve pastored for the last 16yrs,” Kimes wrote, according to RNS.
Kimes originally began working for Hillsong College in the U.S. after serving for five years as a youth pastor at Hillsong Church in Sydney. He later joined the staff at Hillsong NYC which was once led by Lentz who resigned in 2020 over sexual misconduct.
The former Hillsong Boston leader stated, according to RNS, that many of his life’s milestones had occurred while he worked for Hillsong Church, including meeting and marrying Leona Kimes, having children and moving to the U.S.
Though he did not give a reason for his resignation, Kimes, whose wife alleges that she was sexually exploited by Lentz while serving as his nanny in a relationship that was kept secret for years, apologized for his role in “perpetuating a culture that at times valued the building of the church at the expense of those building it.”
“Transparency, honesty, accountability & a culture that allows people to create healthy boundaries is so important & I’m encouraged to see things starting to change,” Kimes wrote in the post. “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.”