An Iowa woman has filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for emotional distress and negligence after a former minister at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, who was also serving as her spiritual counselor, allegedly suggested they get naked in bed as a part of her counseling.
The woman, who The Christian Post has chosen not to identify at this time because of her claims that she is a victim of sexual misconduct, alleges in the lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court earlier this month that the actions of her former counselor, Asa Crow, went “beyond all possible bounds of decency.”
According to the lawsuit cited by the Des Moines Register, the woman claims she met with Crow for counseling several times in 2021 for “spiritual direction.” During those meetings, she alleges that Crow, who got married in 2016, made escalating remarks about sexual health. She further claims that he eventually suggested her spiritual direction “may include sexual acts” after proposing that they undress and sit in each other’s laps in a bed.
Lutheran Church of Hope said while Crow worked at one of their satellite locations they had nothing to do with the counseling arrangement the woman made with him.
"This is a sensitive and serious matter, and we are praying for all involved," Chris Gunnare, operations minister for the church, told the Des Moines Register in a statement. "There’s no place for harassment in professional counseling settings, and we place a high value on safety for all at our church."
Gunnare said Crow arranged counseling with the woman through his own private agency, Immersion Direction. He also noted that the woman was not a member of Lutheran Church of Hope and that the accused was suggested as a spiritual counselor by her own pastor.
"The counseling agency the defendant worked for was not, and is not, connected to or supported by our church," Gunnare said.
Still, Lutheran Church of Hope, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation, is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with Immersion Direction and Crow.
The woman contends in her lawsuit that Crow introduced himself as "a qualified minister at Lutheran Church of Hope" during her first video conference with him.
Gunnare noted, however, that they did not meet at the church for subsequent counseling sessions.
In a report by the Wartburg Watch in November 2021, the woman, who is said to be an attorney, shared an email she received from Crow after she decided his counseling sessions were too unorthodox.
“I am broken to have caused pain, and it grieves me abundantly that you feel violated. I am so very sorry,” Crow reportedly wrote. “I fully respect your decision and appreciate your explanation; which I am not owed. Thank you for sharing it and wishing me goodness. I see now how my attempt to relate by disclosing my own experience created discomfort, pain, and crossed boundaries. That was wrong, and I am sorry to have caused you harm.”
The woman also alleges that during her second session of in-person counseling with Crow on or about April 18, 2021, at a co-working office space, “Asa shared that his ‘love language’ is ‘physical touch.’
It was during this meeting that the idea of lying in bed naked together came up.
“During this meeting, he also shared that he engages in unusual physical practices with his spiritual director, a woman. The two have sat on each other’s laps, straddling each other, he explained while pressing their hearts together during counseling. He also shared that he had shared a bed with his spiritual director while they were both naked, but did not have sex,” the woman recalled. “I expressed shock and asked what his wife thought about this. He shared that they ‘have boundaries’ in place. Asa’s conduct made me uncomfortable. When sharing it with friends, they commented that this sounded like early stages of sexual abuse.”
The woman said during her final meeting with Crow on May 2, 2021, she asked him how he and his spiritual director came up with their unusual counseling practices.
“He explained that he’d sought spiritual direction in part because his mother had suffered from a borderline personality disorder and was not physically expressive of her love toward him. Asa’s spiritual director instructed him to ‘go home and write down everything you want me to do to you physically,’” she wrote. ...
“I asked Asa whether he believed his spiritual director sexually abused him. I shared that I believed this was sexual exploitation for a counselor to offer to engage in sexual activities with someone who is emotionally dependent and seeking advice,” she added.
The woman’s lawsuit accuses Lutheran Church of Hope of negligence in hiring Crow because he had prior sexual abuse allegations against him in Texas and Colorado.
"Defendant Lutheran Church of Hope acknowledged that it had not contacted references in Defendant Crow’s application materials to learn about his history as a pastor, counselor, or teacher in other states," the lawsuit says.
Gunnare noted that Crow, who worked at Denver Seminary in Colorado from 2015 to 2018 as coordinator of chapel and student enrollment, had passed a background check.
"Our church properly and fully screens all potential staff before hiring them, including a full background check, which the defendant passed," he said in his statement to the Des Moines Register. "The defendant worked part-time at one of our satellite campuses, and resigned before we learned of the plaintiff’s allegations against him."