The former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond has confessed to having sex with a member of the church when she was 16, board members told the congregation Wednesday night.
The Board of Deacons addressed the church Wednesday to explain their sudden decision to fire pastor Jack Schaap, who had led the church for the past 11 years. The church plans to fully cooperate with an FBI investigation into allegations that multiple sexual encounters involving the same girl took place across state lines.
"Stick with us," the board asked of the 15,000 member congregation, according to the WGN.
Schaap's affair was outed accidentally, a former church member told CBS Chicago.
“Jack Schaap had left his cell phone on the pulpit and a deacon had seen it on the pulpit and had picked it up to bring it back to him,” Trisha Kee, who maintains a Facebook group for ex-congregants, told the station. “From what we understand, the deacon then saw a text come through from a teenage girl in the church, and it was a picture of Jack Schaap and this girl making out.”
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich says that his department began a criminal investigation into the church and its Hyles-Anderson College Tuesday after talking with senior church representatives, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Eddie Wilson, director of public relations for the church, told the Chicago Sun-Times that adultery is grounds for dismissal in the church's bylaws. He told the newspaper that Schaap and his wife are "trying to reconcile their marriage," and said that the church will now "begin the process of calling a new pastor."
Schaap and his wife Cindy, the daughter of a beloved former pastor, have been married for more than 30 years and have two children. Schaap has made a career writing advice books about dating.
The First Baptist Church of Hammond faced a similar scandal in 1991 when a deacon was convicted of molesting a 7-year-old girl in her Sunday school class.