Minister files countersuit, says sex charges are false

May 19, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A Fulton minister accused in a civil lawsuit of "manipulating" a former parishioner into having a sexual relationship has filed a counterclaim against the woman, claiming her allegations have defamed him.

The Rev. Rodney Ronneberg, pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, is seeking $10 million in damages from the woman in his complaint filed on May 10 in Howard Circuit Court.

Mr. Ronneberg, who denies in court papers that he had a relationship with the woman, contends that the woman knowingly made false statements about an affair to church members and officials to harm his reputation.

The woman's statements prompted officials of the Delaware-Maryland Synod to investigate, but no action was taken against Mr. Ronneberg, according to court papers.

"[Mr.] Ronneberg has suffered humiliation before members of his congregation, has suffered the indignity of an official inquiry . . . and has had questions raised about his character," the counter suit says.

The woman, identified in her suit as Jane Doe, is requesting $208 million in damages in a 16-count complaint she filed in March against Mr. Ronneberg, St. Paul's, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church's Delaware-Maryland Synod.

She contends that she and Mr. Ronneberg had several sexual encounters between May 1992 and February 1993.

The woman said the relationship developed while her marriage was unraveling and she was seeking Mr. Ronneberg's guidance to become a minister.

Mr. Ronneberg and the co-defendants also are challenging a court order granting the woman's request to pursue the case anonymously. A hearing on that issue has been scheduled for June 24.

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