NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (CN) — Facing lawsuits from two women who accuse him of sexually exploiting and assaulting them during marriage counseling, a Texas pastor has resigned from his church north of San Antonio.
In separate lawsuits in Comal County Court, Kristen Harvey and Amy Arp sued pastor Terry Knighten and Renew Ministries fka Celebrate Life Church, Inc., claiming he "intentionally" made "unwanted and nonconsensual sexual contact" after they sought his counseling.
Both women, represented by Scott Braden with Komie & Morrow in Austin, seek punitive damages of more than $1 million on seven claims, including sexual exploitation by a mental health services provider, from Knighten and from the church.
Harvey, who began attending the church in 2003 when she was 13 years old, sought marriage counseling from Knighten in 2015. Shortly after the counseling began, she says, Knighten made unwanted sexual advances, cornering and kissing her at his house and then reaching into her underwear, sexually assaulting her.
Arp says Knighten sexually assaulted her repeatedly from 2005 to 2010.
Shortly after Arp began marriage counseling with Knighten, she says, he asked her to pull down her shirt while they were unpacking "children's church items" at the church. Six months later, she says, "Knighten had non-consensual sexual intercourse" with her at church. She claims similar sexual encounters happened repeatedly until the last incident of "nonconsensual sex," on Christmas Eve 2015, also at church.
An online search of Comal County records showed has no felony criminal history for Knighten in the county.
Renew Ministries' attorney Katari Buck, of Plano-based Asiatico Law, said in a statement that the church "takes the allegations seriously and is committed to ensuring the safety of all of its members."
Asiatico Law is not representing Knighten.
Knighten resigned from his position on the board of directors and as pastor-president of Renew Ministries on Oct. 21. His wife also resigned from her position on the board of directors, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Knighten founded the church, which has about 300 members, according to the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.
Renew Ministries has appointed a new pastor.
Both women also seek damages for negligence, gross negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent hiring, retention and supervision.
New Braunfels is the seat of Comal County, directly north and northeast of San Antonio.
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