The woman, 37, of Lubbock also alleges that Bishop James L’Keith Jones, who leads the New Mexico jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, sent her 6-year-old daughter a video intended to groom the girl for sexual purposes, according to the civil lawsuit filed Oct. 31 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas in Amarillo.
The lawsuit identifies Jones, the Memphis, Tenn.-based denomination and its board of bishops as defendants, seeking $12.2 million in damages on behalf of the woman and her child.
Jones, the denomination, and their attorneys did not respond to email and phone message requests for comment.
On its website, the Church of God in Christ describes itself as a Holiness-Pentecostal denomination with predominantly African-American membership. The National Council of Churches lists it as the fifth-largest U.S. denomination with 5.5 million members.
The woman alleged that the abuse started around 1995 when as a minor she attended a church convocation in Albuquerque. The suit alleges that Jones used his position in the church to coerce the woman to continue their sexual relationship for 20 years.
The woman went to the denomination’s grievance committee in March after Jones sent the video to her daughter, the lawsuit said. The grievance committee recommended that the board of bishops consider the complaint in an internal “trial,” but the board decided in September not to consider the complaint, it said.
The board’s decision not to consider the woman’s complaint violated the denomination’s rules and procedures, the suit alleges.