Pastor is sued by son and wife alleging sex abuse

St. Louis Post-Dispatch/February 9, 2003
By William C. Lhotka

The pastor of a church in Fenton is being sued for actual and punitive financial damages in a pair of unusual civil cases that allege clergy malpractice and the long-standing sex abuse of a parishioner.

Not only is the pastor, the Rev. James Manning, a defendant in the suits but so is his church, Solid Rock Ministries at 316 Summit Road - on the border between St. Louis and Jefferson counties.

Making it more complex still is that the plaintiffs in separate but similar suits are Manning's son, the Rev. James Mitchell Manning, and the son's wife, Angela. They recently moved to Louisiana, where, their lawyer said, they are in counseling.

The suits claim that beginning in 1982, when Angela was 12, the senior Manning, now 59, forced a sexual relationship on her that continued until Feb. 9, 2001, through "mental, physical, and financial coercion and duress."

Manning flatly denies the civil allegations. No criminal charges have ever been filed against him. And he maintains the support of his congregation, his attorney, Mark Goodman, said Friday. The 400 church members are aware of the nature of the allegations, Goodman added.

In October, Manning resigned as district superintendent of the Missouri office of the United Pentecostal Church International, the Rev. Stephen Willeford said Friday. In that role, Manning had been a supervisor of Pentecostal churches in Missouri.

Willeford is the district's secretary, based in Hazelwood. He added that Manning "is outside our jurisdiction now. He is no longer practicing the ministry."

But Goodman insisted that Manning "continues to be a pastor. He has not resigned from being a pastor. And the church has lost none of its members."

Goodman said Solid Rock is no longer under the umbrella of Pentecostal International.

The two suits were filed by the firm of Margulis and Grant in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Jan. 17 and are pending before Judge Larry Kendrick.

Goodman said he will seek a dismissal soon.

In naming the church as a defendant, the plaintiffs alleged that Manning used a church credit card for hotel rooms and also provided Angela Manning with a church credit card.

Because some staff members of the church knew about the arrangement, Solid Rock, too, is liable under a theory of clergy malpractice, the suits charge.

Goodman said Solid Rock has hired its own lawyers.

The suits allege the relationship continued until Feb. 9, 2001. Angela was then 32. She married Manning's son, James Mitchell Manning, in November 1991, the suits said.

Father and son had been co-pastors at Solid Rock, which the senior Manning founded in 1982.

Originally from St. Louis, the senior Manning graduated with a degree in theology from a Bible college in Portland, Ore., in 1964.

He has served as pastor at churches in Oregon, south St. Louis and south St. Louis County before starting Solid Rock on Highway 141 in Fenton. Before October, he had also served on several boards of the international.

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