Minister knew church worker was sex offender

Lay pastor now faces new charges

Associated Press/May 6, 2004

Brooklyn Park, Minn. -- A pastor acknowledges he knew that a man his church ordained as a lay minister to work with young people was a convicted sex offender.

That lay minister, Phillip Conley, 52, of Maple Grove, Minn., has been charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct for alleged sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl he met at their church.

Court records show Conley pleaded guilty in 1992 to a charge involving another 14-year-old girl.

About that time, Conley joined Faith Revival Center of Brooklyn Park, said its pastor, Anthony B. Counce.

Counce said Tuesday that he knew of Conley's conviction and that Conley had sought help for his problem at the nondenominational church before the church ordained Conley as an unpaid minister.

"A church of any denomination is open to sinners when they come to repent and confess their sin. We accept that and forgive them," Counce said.

Asked if he had concerns about putting Conley in a leadership position, Counce said: "God forgives our sins, and the Bible teaches he remembers our sins no more. If (Conley) proved himself to the Lord, God can use anyone."

The latest alleged abuse stared in March in the victim's home in Plymouth, Minn., the complaint said. It said her mother learned of Conley's conviction and prohibited her daughter from seeing him. But she let him into her home at night, the charges said.

Police detective Molly Lynch said the girl told police Conley told her he wanted to join her mind and body sexually to help her spiritually.

The complaint said Conley told police he had a counseling relationship with the girl and admitted having sex with her. He said it was a mistake and that he was sorry and had been having marital problems, Lynch said.

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