The pastor of a Newport church is in jail on statutory rape and sexual battery charges after police allege he raped a teenage girl in the church.
Deputies were called to a home in Newport on Saturday night after the girl told family members she had been raped by her church pastor, James “Ronnie” Messer. The girl told police she rode with Messer to the Crossway Worship Center in Newport. She said the two entered the church and went into a room, where Messer began flirting with her and asked her several times to take off her clothes, which she initially refused to do. The girl said she felt scared and, at Messer’s direction, took off her clothes and laid on the floor, where Messer had sex with her.
The girl then told police that she and Messer went to the Hartford area to swim, but the water was too muddy and swift, so Messer took her to an undisclosed location.
A detective interviewed Messer, who admitted having sex with the girl, but said the sex was consensual.
Warrants were taken out on Messer and he was taken into custody and transferred to the Cocke County Jail.
Messer faces charges of statutory rape, forcible rape and aggravated sexual battery by an authority figure.
He was released on bond on Tuesday.