Hammond Church: Fired Pastor Admitted Sex With 17-Year-Old
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Updated 08/02/12 – 7:07 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Officials First Baptist Church of Hammond., Ind., said Wednesday night fired Pastor Jack Schaap admitted to having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl who is a member of the church, prompting their decision to fire him this week.
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards reports, at a meeting with members of the congregation Wednesday night, church officials acknowledged Schaap is being investigated for misconduct with a 17-year-old girl. The age of consent in Indiana is 16.
Published reports say the church does not expect charges to be filed in the case.
Cameras were not allowed in the meeting, but the congregation was told Schaap admitted to an inappropriate relationship with a minor.
Terry Duff, chairman of the church’s Board of Deacons said he was informed of the conduct last Wednesday, then met with the board of deacons two or three times before confronting Schaap on Saturday. Duff said Schaap, who is married to the daughter of the church’s founder, admitted having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Officials offered no other details of the misconduct on Wednesday, noting they have brought in local and federal law enforcement officials to investigate.
“He had an inappropriate relationship with a minor, and that’s all I can say at this time,” Duff said.
Asked if he is concerned Schaap might have had inappropriate relationships with other young members of the church, Duff said, “We have no idea at this time. That’s why we’re asking anybody, anybody who has information to please come forward and let us know.”
Interim Pastor Eddie Lapina has worked extensively at the church’s youth ministry, and said he never saw any hint of inappropriate conduct.
Lapida said a message has been sent.
“He has suffered greatly thus far, and if there … have been criminal acts, then the law will take that into account as well,” Lapida said.
Schaap had been pastor at First Baptist for 11 years, and had grown the church to 40,000 members worldwide. About 15,000 people attend services each Sunday.
The board of deacons voted unanimously to dismiss Schaap after learning the details of the relationship with a young woman who is a member of the church.
Wednesday afternoon, Duff said “this has been the most difficult week of my life.”
Duff would not respond to reports that a cellphone photo of Schaap with a young woman led to his dismissal, saying the church has turned over all information to law enforcement officials.
“We started our investigation a week ago tonight,” Duff said.
Duff did say the decision to remove Schaap was decisive after learning what happened. Now the church, he insists, is committed to the truth.
“No wrong-doing will be covered up. The minute we found out about this, we responded,” Duff said. “We are going to do what is right, no matter what the cost or consequences are to the First Baptist Church.”
The church says it has 40,000 members – among them, Jesus Perez, who said Schaap counseled him at a church-sponsored substance abuse center.
He said he still has faith in Schaap, despite the allegations.
“I believe he’s a great man,” Perez said.
Still, Perez said Schaap made a mistake, one which cost him the leadership of the enormous Hammond church.
Duff said, “I’ve been in this church my whole life, and it’s broken our hearts.”
Lapina said “We need to watch each other, we need to make sure that nobody … gets the feeling that they’re above reproach.”
Law enforcement officials would not comment on the status of their investigation.
Schaap is said to be trying to reconcile with his wife, who is the daughter of church’s founder.