Minister’s lawsuit targets his own denomination over sexual abuse allegations

A minister is taking his own denomination to task, claiming in a lawsuit that the Presbyterian Church was partly responsible for sexual abuse he suffered as a teenager.

The Rev. Kris Schondelmeyer, a youth minister in Toledo, Ohio, is seeking unspecified damages in a lawsuit he filed against the Louisville, Ky.-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Mo.; the Missouri Union Presbytery in Jefferson City; and his alleged abuser, Jack Wayne Rogers.

Schondelmeyer, 31, a native of Sedalia, Mo., said he was sexually abused at a youth conference in 2000 in Maryland. At the time, Rogers was a lay pastor in Montgomery County, Mo. The lawsuit alleges Presbyterian officials allowed Rogers to work as a chaperone despite Rogers’ 1992 conviction for child pornography.

An attorney for the denomination declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Rogers, 69, has a long criminal history.

In 2004 he pleaded guilty in Missouri for practicing medicine without a license and assault for cutting off a man’s penis at a hotel in Columbia as part of a makeshift gender reassignment surgery. That same year he was convicted of federal child pornography and obscenity charges.

Authorities have also cited him as a potential suspect in an unsolved missing-person case in northwest Missouri. Branson Perry was 20 when he went missing after leaving his parents’ home in Skidmore in 2001. Rogers has denied involvement and has never been charged.

In a statement issued through the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Schondelmeyer said he still believes in the Presbyterian Church.

“There is much compassion and mercy in my heart, and I would rather stand with church leaders than against them to work together to create safe and sacred space for children and youth,” he said.