Woman accuses San Diego pastor of ‘sexual healing’ therapy scheme
A San Diego woman is suing her former pastor, alleging he duped her into having sex in the guise of “sexual healing” therapy. He alleges in his own lawsuit that she made private, graphic communications between them public as revenge when he ended their consensual relationship.
The two lawsuits were filed Jan. 16 in San Diego Superior Court, with both acknowledging their sexual relationship lasted about a year, from the fall of 2016 until October 2017.
Amy McClanahan and John Wright filed their separate suits anonymously, using only their initials as plaintiffs, but they each gave the other’s full name as defendants.
McClanahan, now 24, went on camera for an interview with 10 News that was aired Friday night. She said she was doing so out of concern for other women.
She told an interviewer that Wright singled her out because, “I was in a very vulnerable status.”
Her lawsuit alleges sexual battery, rape, gender violence and sexual harassment, as well as negligent supervision of Wright, who was then a pastor of the English-language congregation at Mid-City Church of the Nazarene, which is also named in the lawsuit.
No one answered phone calls to the church Saturday, and Wright’s name does not appear on the church’s website along with other staff.
Wright also taught at Point Loma Nazarene University as a theology professor. The university is not named in McClanahan’s lawsuit.
When asked on Saturday about the allegations against Wright, a university spokeswoman said that a complaint against a faculty member was filed in November and the school hired outside experts to investigate the complaint rather than conduct an internal probe.
She did not name the faculty member and said she was prohibited by law from discussing further details. The complaint was made under Title IX, a federal civil law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs.
McClanahan’s lawsuit states that they met in 2014 and she attended Wright’s church, where she confided that she had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse by a family member and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.
Wright’s wife also was a pastor at the Nazarene church at that time.
McClanahan alleges that he offered to help heal her PTSD, and by 2016, was meeting with her privately, where they progressed from holding hands to kissing to having sex, according to the lawsuit.
In his own lawsuit, Wright declares the sex was consensual and that they exchanged nude photos of themselves over Skype, as well as graphic emails and texts that expressed their love for each other.
He and his wife are suing McClanahan for alleged illegal recording of confidential information and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Wright alleges that she agreed to keep their relationship secret, and when she asked him in October to have an open dating relationship, he said he wanted to end their sexual contact, his lawsuit states.
He further alleges that McClanahan illegally recorded a screen shot photograph of his genitalia without his permission and later threatened his wife with making the photo public. McClanahan also is alleged to have made a secret recording when she talked to Wright’s wife about the sexual relationship with her husband, his lawsuit says.
Wright’s Los Angeles attorney, Alec Rose, said in an email Saturday that his only comment on the McClanahan lawsuit “is that it has no legal merit whatsoever. My clients and I will litigate in court, not in the public media. Anything my clients and I have to say about these matters will be stated in court as testimony, legal argument, or written briefs.”
McClanahan says in her lawsuit that she had accepted the pastor’s offer to help her PTSD as a mentor, “but in reality Wright was a predator who recognized plaintiff’s vulnerability and took that opportunity to groom and coerce her into a sexual relationship.”
In her television interview, McClanahan said, “He would say it was healing for me, healing my past trauma. I foolishly believed him.”
Wright and his wife sought temporary domestic violence restraining orders against McClanahan in December, alleging she caused several public disruptions. McClanahan also filed for a restraining order against Wright, alleging he threatened to use force on her.
McClanahan’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, said Saturday that she has graduated from college and wants to work as a pediatric nurse. She has been staying with her parents in Sacramento while undergoing psychological therapy, he said.
Repard is a staff member of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The perils of parenting through a pandemic
What’s going on with school? What do kids need? Get 8 to 3, a newsletter dedicated to the questions that keep California families up at night.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.