Burnsville church investigating sex abuse claims against pastor

Allegations that a Burnsville pastor had inappropriate sexual relationships with two 18-year-old women 17 years ago in Indiana have shaken the congregation at his south metro megachurch, resulting in a leave of absence for him and his removal from consideration for hire by a church in Tennessee.

“We understand the nature of these claims and we take them very seriously,” Berean Baptist Church elders said in a statement released on Twitter and given Sunday at the church. Berean Baptist has been noted in recent years as among the nation’s fastest-growing Protestant congregations. A neutral party has been enlisted to investigate, the statement said.

The Rev. Wes Feltner, now 41, is being accused of simultaneously dating the congregants in 2002 when he was a youth pastor in southern Indiana. The accusations have been deemed credible by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, where Feltner taught and has been suspended, and came to light after he applied for a position this fall at a church in Clarksville, Tenn.

In an e-mail to the Star Tribune, Feltner said he had permission from their parents to date both women but that he deeply regretted the hurt he caused. He said that he’s offered to speak to the women multiple times, including with a mediator, which he said was how the Bible says such accusations should be addressed.

He said that he and his family are facing “a withering barrage of online attacks,” some of them threatening.

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