First Baptist Church, Clarksville, Tenn. BAPTIST PRESS/Photo submitted
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — First Baptist Church of Clarksville, Tennessee, is no longer considering for senior pastor Wes Feltner, accused of pastoral abuse by two women who were students in his former youth ministry.
Feltner is also taking an administrative leave from a church he pastors in Minnesota.
The women, using the website broughttothelight.org, have accused Feltner of enticing them into secret intimate relationships, at least one sexually, in 2002 in Evansville, Ind.
Once the top candidate for senior pastor at the Clarksville church, Feltner has been dropped along with all other candidates as the church takes a break from its search, deacon chairman Mark Zirkle announced during Sunday (Nov. 10) worship service.
“Effective immediately, we have dissolved our pastor search committee and ended our relationship with all candidates,” Zirkle said Sunday. “We will take a short break from our pastor’s search as we pray together while continuing to pursue God’s plan for our church. We will also look for an interim pastor who will provide leadership and direction in the days ahead.”
In disbanding the pastoral search committee, First Baptist Clarksville apologized to the victims and others adversely affected by the search.
“We regret the pain this process has caused to all who have had to relive past events, including these two young ladies and their families,” Zirkle said. “We realize the memory of days past is very real and very raw, and we’re truly sorry for any part we played in that journey.”
Sunday at Berean Baptist Church in Burnsville, Minnesota, Feltner announced his administrative leave in a prerecorded video. The non-Southern Baptist Minnesota church is having Feltner investigated in relation to the accusations.
“Berean must stay focused on its Gospel mission to this community and to the world,” Feltner said in a video of the service posted on YouTube. “Therefore the elders and I have mutually agreed that I take a leave of absence while the investigation is underway.”
Feltner was suspended Nov. 6 from his adjunct professorship at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he taught before the allegations came to light, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in a statement.
The alleged victims identify themselves as Megan and JoAnna, and tell their stories at broughttothelight.org. Both women allege pastoral abuse in 2002 when Feltner served as their youth pastor at First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville, Ind.
Megan, since identified as Meg Frey, alleges a “sexual relationship” at age 18 when she sought counseling from Feltner.
“The counseling soon transformed into him having a bubble bath waiting for me in his upstairs bathroom ‘so I could relax’ after coming from work and school, thereafter offering a massage. [What I thought was] a relationship progressed, and many nights I would stay until 3, 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning,” Frey said at broughttothelight.org. “Wes quickly told me that he wanted to be with me, loved me, and wanted to marry me, but had lists of reasons why we had to remain a ‘secret couple.’ … The sexual relationship began before I graduated high school.”
JoAnna, since identified as JoAnna Hendrickson, said her story began in the fall of 2002 after she served as a summer youth intern under Feltner. He told her he felt “God leading him to pursue” her, even as he was trying to end another relationship, she said.
“It did not take long for Wes to initiate the physical side of our relationship. As things were progressing and lines were being crossed, I remember questioning him about the spiritual health of our relationship especially since our relationship was not public … and worrying about things going too far physically,” Hendrickson said. “His responses to me anytime I would question him was to dismiss my concern and make me feel childish about questioning things about our relationship.”
In disbanding the pastoral search committee, First Baptist Clarksville apologized for any actions it has taken that dishonor God.
“For actions we have taken that did not bring glory to God, we humbly confess and we ask His forgiveness,” Zirkle said. “We are grateful for the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We embrace 1 John 1:9.”
Feltner, in previous comments and in his Sunday video message, generally admitted to some of the allegations but denied others specifying none.
“They accused me of pastoral abuse, based on events that occurred 17 years ago when I was a single young man working as a youth leader at a church in Indiana,” Feltner said. “I agree with some of the facts alleged in the statements and deeply regret the hurt I caused. But some of the allegations are not true.”
Feltner “dated” the two women “with the permission of their parents when they were 18-years-old,” Feltner said in the video.
“I remain fully willing to address and apologize for any concerns whenever they are willing to talk,” he said of the two women. “I am pleased that Berean has hired independent investigators to investigate these allegations and I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with them.”
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.