Ex-Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Admits to 'Inappropriate Relationship' with Nanny: 'I Am Responsible'

"There were mutual adult decisions made by two people who lied profusely, mainly to my wife," Carl Lentz says in FX's The Secrets of Hillsong, premiering Friday

FX Carl Lentz
FX Carl Lentz

Carl Lentz, once a "rockstar pastor" known for his close relationship with Justin Bieber, is opening up about his cheating scandal in FX's new documentary series, The Secrets of Hillsong.

The four-part series, which premiers Friday, chronicles the scandals of the famous megachurch, and features the first interviews with Carl and Laura since they were pushed out of Hillsong Church in 2020.

Carl, now 44, helped get Hillsong's N.Y.C. branch up and running in 2010 and rose to fame with the church's success, but was eventually ousted due to "moral failures," admitting a day later that he had been "unfaithful in my marriage."

In the series' first episode, Carl referred to his wife as "love of his life" in footage from one sermon. At another point, while at home in Florida in 2022, Carl began crying as he addressed his trepidation about participating in the documentary. "I'm so nervous about how this is going to be portrayed, but I can't control that," he said.

"I had some major lies and secrets I was carrying for years," he admitted, acknowledging the power dynamics at play in his transgressions. "If you are led by somebody, you have to trust them. One of the biggest [mistakes] of my life was that breach of trust for thousands of people, especially my wife, my children."

Related: Ex-Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz Talks 'Healing' from Cheating Scandal as He and Wife Mark 20th Anniversary

In October 2020, Hillsong leadership were informed that "incriminating text messages" had been found from Carl to a woman named Ranin Karim, according to the documentary. Karim later identified herself as his alleged mistress in an interview with Vanity Fair published weeks after his firing.

He was then approached by church leadership.

"I just remember feeling like, am I in an alternate universe right now?" Carl said during the second episode. "The hardest part of this was just trying not to look my wife in the eye, ever."

FX Laura Lentz
FX Laura Lentz

Laura was in shock upon first learning from her husband that he'd been unfaithful. "Carl was like, 'Hey, can I talk to you for a second?' As soon as he shut the door…my heart just dropped," she recalled. "He basically said, 'I've been unfaithful to you.'"

"There are some things that you can recover from. There's other things that I'll never recover from," Carl said. "Just the sound of her voice, the kind of cry that she had was like no other cry I've ever heard. Nobody should go through that, especially a wife that is flawless in character. I told her the best I could at that time and at that time I wasn't even fully honest."

"She wasn't mad, she was just so broken," he added. "People who have walked through infidelity know what I'm talking about right now."

Related:Ex-Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz's Wife 'Freaked Out' After Finding Him in 'Compromising Position' with Nanny

FX Carl Lentz
FX Carl Lentz

On a Zoom call with the couple, board members and church founder Brian Houston, who went on to resign in 2022 amid complaints that he behaved inappropriately towards two women, questioned Carl about his relationship with the Lentz family's nanny, Leona Kimes, also a church member.

"He hadn't told me this part yet," Laura said in the episode.

Kimes had been a trusted part of the family, but Laura had suspected something was going on. "I'd sometimes get these little feelings. And then one night I found them in a compromising position," she said. "I was angry and I definitely freaked out."

But afterwards, they "never talked about it again."

"We were her pastors, we were her leaders; she was on staff. It got really messy," Laura said. "I was pretty much gaslit by both of them for quite a while."

Charley Gallay/Getty Carl Lentz and wife Laura
Charley Gallay/Getty Carl Lentz and wife Laura

Soon after that Zoom call, Carl was fired from Hillsong in November 2020. Six months later, Kimes came forward with allegations that she was sexually and emotionally abused by the ousted pastor, whom she did not identify by name, which Lentz denied.

Addressing her allegations in the second episode, Carl said, "I am responsible for allowing an inappropriate relationship to develop in my house with someone that worked for us." However, he went on to claim that "any notion of abuse is categorically false."

"There were mutual adult decisions made by two people who lied profusely, mainly to my wife," he added. "It's an issue because I was a boss, this person was an employee. I'm responsible for that power dynamic and the management of it and the wisdom that goes with it and I failed absolutely miserably."

In a previous statement, an attorney for the Lentzs told PEOPLE, "Laura and Carl Lentz vehemently deny the allegations and, in addition to that, have irrefutable proof the events did not happen as Leona Kimes has described."

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In the episode, Carl said he "thought about vacating the planet" amid the fallout from the scandal. He also alleged he was sexually abused as a child by a family friend, something he had never spoken about before.

"I'm tired of this damage, I'm tired of this wreckage, I'm tired of putting people I love through pain," he said. "I did those things, those are on me, I take responsibility for those. The rest of my life I'll be making amends where I can. And it's also my job to go figure out how the hell that happened."

Related:Ex-Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz's Wife Laura Breaks Silence on Sex Scandal on Wedding Anniversary

Over a week before the show premiered, Carl shared that the couple's decision to take part in the documentary was "part of the healing" process.

"For the last 3 years my entire focus has been fighting for my wife and my kids," Lentz wrote in the social media post. "In order to do that, seeking sobriety and healing had to run parallel with those goals."

"Although we have a long way to go, with a lot of work, a lot of honesty and a lot of prayer, we have found ourselves in a beautiful, happy and deliberately honest place," he added, sharing that he and his wife are still together, and just celebrated their 20th anniversary.

He went on to share that they've moved on to a new "supportive" church, but that he is no longer preaching.

The Secrets of Hillsong episodes 1-2 premiere on FX on Friday, and will be available to stream on Hulu the following day. Episodes 3-4 will premiere May 26.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.

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