Police: Pastor raped 17-year-old at Tennessee church

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NEWPORT, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Tennessee pastor now faces rape charges following an alleged incident Saturday.

Pastor of Cross Way Worship Center, James "Ronnie" Messer, was charged with statutory rape, aggravated sexual battery, and rape after an investigation by the Newport Police Department.

At 8:23 p.m. Saturday, officers were sent to investigate a report after a 17-year-old girl told her family she had been raped by her church pastor.

Police spoke with the 17-year-old who said that at noon she rode with Messer to the Crossway Worship Center. She said she entered the back door of the church with Messer and went into a room where Messer allegedly started flirting with her and asked her three to four times to take her clothes off. The teen told police she felt scared, so she removed her clothes and laid on the floor where Messer allegedly raped her.

The 17-year-old said she then went with Messer to the Hartford area to swim, but the water was too muddy and swift. She said Messer took her to a different location.

In an interview with a detective, Messer reportedly admitted to having sex with the 17-year-old, but claimed it was consensual. He was arrested Saturday at 11 p.m.

Officials issued warrants for aggravated statutory rape and sexual battery by an authority figure out on Messer on Sunday. He was taken to the Cocke County Jail at 1 a.m. Sunday.