Sex abuse allegations against former pastor prompts church school meeting

by: Tom Regan Updated:

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DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - Parents of children who attend the Kings Way Baptist Church School in Douglasville packed a meeting Monday night to learn more about the abrupt resignation of their pastor of 15 years.

The Rev. Bill Wininger left the church last month, after allegations of sexual abuse from nearly 20 years ago in Michigan, surfaced on the Internet. Wininger has neither been arrested nor charged with any crime.

Bethany Nicole-Leonard, who claims she was abused as a child, traveled from her home in Pennsylvania to speak out to parents and other church members at the meeting. She started an online petition drive to call attention to her allegations and those of others.

"A friend of mine actually started it. A Facebook page for justice for victims of Bill Wininger, is what it's called. We have a petition on that page, and every time it's signed, it's sending an email to the prosecutor in Michigan to try to get them to do a thorough investigation and take action criminally," Nicole-Leonard told Channel 2's Tom Regan.

A former church member and sexual abuse counselor told Tom Regan that she wished to attend the meeting but was told only parents and grandparents of school children were invited.

"I decided to come down here, because I've known about this problem with Brother Wininger and know that it has been severe, and I'm hoping in some way that I can have an influence tonight," said former church member Mary Ellen Cowling.

A representative of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said there are no local allegations against Wininger involving children, but said the former pastor is under investigation for allegations involving inappropriate behavior with an adult.

A phone message left for Wininger seeking comment has not been returned.



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