Cult in Festus? Some people ring alarms about new church

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Former members of a church that is getting ready to open in Festus say it’s a cult and warn people to stay away.

They claim the group’s leader, Anthony Merseal, misrepresents his credentials; teaches a mix of Christianity and the occult; holds strange rituals; and condones polygamy.

Merseal, who was born in 1985 and now calls himself Anthony Benjamin, has a criminal record and served probation for a felony assault charge tied to a 2008 incident in Bonne Terre.

He has led a number of groups he called churches over the past decade or more and bought an old church building at 410 Moore St. in Festus in August 2023, according to records from the Jefferson County Assessor’s Office.

One of Merseal’s groups is called St. Sophia’s Antecedent Orthodox Church, which has begun holding some activities in the Festus building for its small group of members. So far, no service open to the general public has been held there, but Merseal recently announced plans to hold St. Sophia’s first public service on Sunday, May 5.

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