Pastor of Hammond mega church fired for adultery - FOX 32 News Chicago

Pastor of Hammond mega church fired for adultery

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HAMMOND, Ind. (FOX 32 News) -

Pastor Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Ind., has been fired and is now under criminal investigation because he had a relationship with a teenage member of the church.

Schaap, 54, was pastor of the First Baptist Church since 2001, and was fired by a deacon board on Tuesday, according Eddie Wilson, director of public relations for the church.

Wilson said Schaap is under scrutiny for an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old. Schaap is married with two children.

"He was very open and very ashamed and very, very sad by his actions," Wilson said.

Former parishioner Tricia Kee, who maintains a Facebook page for people who have left the church, said Schaap's behavior was discovered because he left his cell phone laying around.

"One of the deacons saw the phone, picked it up and saw a text from this girl, and a picture with her and Jack Schaap," Kee said. Kee said the girl was in counseling with Schaap because she had been sexually abused.

FOX Chicago News learned information about the affair was sent to the Lake County Sheriff's department to determine if the girl was 18 at the time of the relationship. The FBI is also investigating because of allegations that the girl might have been taken across state lines.

The Sun-Times reported on Wednesday evening that no charges would be filed, because the girl was 17; in Indiana, the age of consent is 16.

Wilson said Schaap was in seclusion with his wife, Cindy, daughter of Jack Hyles, the pastor who built the First Baptist Church and co-founded Hyles-Anderson College in Schererville.

"They're trying to reconcile their marriage," Wilson said. "The church will move on and begin the process of calling a new pastor."

While declining to offer details on his firing, Wilson said church bylaws state adultery is a sin - a violation – and constitutes grounds for dismissal. On Wednesday evening, parishioners attended a meeting about the issue but wouldn't say much to reporters gathered outside.

Sheriff John Buncich confirmed the church contacted him and Schaap's actions were under investigation by detectives.

"I can't confirm the name of the individual who's subject of the investigation," Buncich said, adding more information would be forthcoming Wednesday.

A press release from the church stated: "Our church grieves over the need to take this action and the impact it will have on our people. We ask that everyone pray for the families involved and pray that the situation will be handled in a Christ-honoring manner."

One of the early mega churches, First Baptist Church, 507 State St., has more than 15,000 members, Wilson said.

It's famous for its church outreach that in the 1970s used more than 200 buses to round up parishioners and bring them to church from across the region.

"I'm surprised that this happened," former member Cherise Williams said. "It's a big, nice church. [I'm] shocked that it happened."

Jack Schaap had been pastor of First Baptist Church for more than a decade.

"The pastor made an error - obviously made a mistake," Wilson said. "He was a charismatic leader, and he helped a lot of people in their struggles. Obviously there's still a fondness there for him. The one thing we want to be sure we bring is reconciliation to him and his wife. They are off together trying to reconcile their marriage, and we wish them the best."

According to the church website, Schaap graduated from Hyles-Anderson bible college in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in pastoral theology.

He and Cindy Hyles married in 1979 and Schaap began teaching at Hyles-Anderson. The couple have two children. He became vice president of the college in 1996 and became pastor at First Baptist after Jack Hyles' death in 2001.

The church continued to grow under Schaap, and in 2005 it moved into a new 7,500-seat auditorium.

Pastor Schaap has gained publicity in the past. In an online video he speaks about his encounter with a reporter when asked about marriage:

"We heard that you believe that man should be in charge of their wives. I said no sir. I said God said that. He said husbands are the head of the wife. I said you got a problem with that, I've quoted the bible maybe you ought to take it up with God," Schaap said.

First Baptist is holding a meeting Wednesday night to discuss Schaap's firing. Wilson said it will be a painful gathering.

(Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)

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