AVON, Minn. (WCCO) – An Avon Community Church pastor has been charged with having a sexual relationship with a parishioner during ongoing counseling sessions.

Charles Norman Pelkey, 49, of Albany, turned himself in to Stearns County Sheriff’s deputies Monday and was then charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony.

According to information the Avon Police Department received, Pelkey was allegedly having a sexual relationship with a parishioner of Avon Community Church.

Pelkey provided religious and spiritual advice, family counseling, marriage counseling, and individual counseling as part of his ministerial duties.

In November 2017, according to police, a parishioner sought religious and spiritual guidance from Pelkey, and a sexual relationship began in March 2018. The relationship allegedly continued until May.

Pelkey continued to provide the parishioner religious and marital guidance for the duration of the sexual relationship, police said.

Minnesota law prohibits a member of the clergy from engaging in a sexual act during the course of a meeting in which the victim sought or received religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort from the suspect in private or during a period of time in which the victim was meeting on an ongoing basis with the suspect to seek or receive religious or spiritual advice, aid, or comfort in private. Consent is not a defense.

If convicted of the criminal sexual conduct charge, Pekley faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and/or a fine of $30,000.

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