BY TK BARGER
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Kristopher Schondelmeyer, 30, is the associate pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Toledo, responsible for youth and small-group ministry and adult education. When he was a teenager, a minister touched him sexually, he alleges, but even so, he became a minister. And though he serves the Presbyterian Church, he is suing it. He claims that repressed memory kept him from realizing until November 2012 that he was a victim of clergy sexual abuse in July 2000.
His attorneys filed a legal petition in Fulton, Mo., on April 14, and an initial hearing was held in Columbia, Mo., Aug. 18, for a lawsuit against Fulton’s First Presbyterian Church and the larger bodies that Fulton’s church is a part of, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Presbyterian Foundation, which holds church funds, is also a defendant. And Jack Wayne Rogers, 69, at the time an ordained Presbyterian lay minister, now a federal prison inmate convicted in 2004 of child pornography and obscenity, is named as the abuser and is also being sued. The Rev. Schondelmeyer is asking for “compensatory and punitive damages” and “other and further relief,” the lawsuit says.
Rev. Schondelmeyer’s allegations include that Rogers and the Presbyterian Church established a ”trust relationship” with him and, exploiting that, Rogers “engaged in non-consensual sex acts with the plaintiff” on a church trip to a youth conference in Maryland. Rogers had been convicted of child pornography in 1992, and the lawsuit alleges the church knew, yet made him a chaperone for youth, and also that the church was “encouraging [Rogers] to commit the abuse and battery” and “actively concealing the abuse after it occurred.” The Church also violated its own policies and procedures regarding sex abusers, the lawsuit says.
His Toledo congregation is very supportive of Rev. Schondelmeyer, said its pastor, the Rev. Tom Schwartz. “Our governing body, or session, had talked with Kris about it,” and a letter was sent to all members. The alleged abuse, cover-up, and lack of accountability, response, and help by the Church is “out of line. It’s why we would agree that his desire to litigate would be something we would be in support of.”
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