Former Avon pastor pleads guilty to having sexual relationship with parishioner

By Clairissa Baker And Jenny Berg
St. Cloud Times
August 27, 2019

Charles Pelkey

An Avon man pleaded guilty Tuesday as part of a plea agreement to engaging in a sexual relationship with a parishioner he counseled while he was a pastor at an Avon church. 

Charles Normal Pelkey, 50, was charged in Stearns County District Court with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in July 2018. 

A jury trial was scheduled to start Tuesday; it was canceled in light of the plea agreement. 

As part of the agreement, the judge will likely stay adjudication of the sentence, presuming Pelkey cooperates with his pre-sentence investigation, signs releases for a psychosexual evaluation and follows all recommendations, according to Ole Tvedten, chief of the criminal division in the Stearns County Attorney's Office.

The remaining terms of Pelkey's probation will be imposed at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 31. Probation violations would result in conviction, predatory offender registration and potential prison time, according to Tvedten. 

Minnesota law bars sexual relationships between clergy and those to whom they give counsel; consent is not a defense. 

Clergy members are treated similarly to counselors, physicians, psychologists, social workers and therapists who work with people seeking support, Tvedten said. 

"Members of the clergy are often called to provide spiritual and religious advice, aid or comfort in private," Tvedten said in an emailed statement, "that, if abused, can cause significant harm to people disclosing intimate and private thoughts."

According to the criminal complaint, Pelkey, who was a pastor at Avon Community Church, began counseling a woman who wanted to learn more about God in November 2017.

Counseling happened a few times per month over the next several months, according to the complaint, in his office at the church. 

Pelkey began to ask "more intimate questions" about the woman in February of 2018, according to the complaint. During one session, he moved to a more secluded part of the church and "expressed having sexual feelings" toward the woman. 

Pelkey began to tell the woman things "she had told him during the pastoral counseling sessions that she had stated she wished her husband would tell her," according to the complaint. 

The woman reported she met Pelkey at a Rockville park in March 2018 and performed oral sex on Pelkey. The woman also told police she had intercourse with Pelkey at a St. Joseph parking lot on April 11 and May 21, 2018. 

She contacted Pelkey to end the relationship May 22, according to the complaint. 

During the sexual relationship, Pelkey continued to counsel the woman and talked about the same topics as they had before it began. 

Avon Police Department received information from another church member about the case in July of 2018. 

Pekley was a chaplain for the Avon Police Department. Because of this, Stearns County was asked to conduct the investigation due to a potential conflict of interest. 

Pelkey resigned as pastor of Avon Community Church in July 2018; he is no longer being used in his capacity as volunteer chaplain in the Avon Police Department, Chief Corey Nellis said last year.


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