The internet community of former Independent Fundamentalist Baptists has been buzzing none stop this week, when news that IFB rock star leader Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church Hammond had been fired.
Churchgoers and students at Hyles-Anderson Bible School had initially been told their pastor of 11 years was on medical leave. A Facebook group called Do Right Hyles-Anderson formed earlier this week has just reported that Schaap is in custody.
Schaap was fired Monday night after admitting he had an improper relationship with a young woman, believed to be underage. It is also believed the teen was transported across state lines to meet up with the 54-year-old Schaap who has two adult children. The Indiana Lake Country Sheriff’s department and FBI are involved in the investigation.
If it is true Schaap was taken into custody tonight, the 15 thousand members of First Baptist may not yet be aware. Over 1 thousand went to a church meeting earlier tonight to learn what was going on.
HAMMOND | A somber crowd of people filed into First Baptist Church’s Wednesday night Bible study service with feelings of hurt and disappointment.
Several church members said they were praying for Pastor Jack Schaap, who was fired from his role as the church’s leader Monday after allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a young girl surfaced.
Most declined to comment prior to the service and said they were praying for the Schaap family.
More than a thousand people filled the church during the Bible study, which was led by the Christian Law Association’s David Gibbs Jr.
Heartfelt “amens” were spoken throughout the crowd as Gibbs vowed to fully investigate the scandal that left many shaking their heads.
He asked anyone who may have any additional information to bring it forward to the church immediately.
Abuse experts and former members are urging people to not go to church authorities but to go directly to police.
It is extremely unusual for leaders in the closed system of Independent Fundamentalist Baptists to take the step of going to authorities with information and issuing a press release.
Church officials told media Wednesday it was unlikely that charges would be filed against Schaap for his involvement with the underage girl.
Church spokesman Eddie Wilson said the girl is 17. The age of consent in Indiana is 16.
“There has been a lot of conjecture regarding the girl in the press,” Wilson said, adding that the girl and her family are church members. He said she isn’t a student at the Schererville-based Hyles-Anderson College, where Schaap was the chancellor until he was relieved of his duties. “We don’t expect charges to be filed against him (with regard to statutory rape).”
Oh. That opinion may be different in the morning. That there would be misconduct isn’t a surprise to people knowledgable about the IFB movement, it was that Hammond First Baptist Church contacted police and fired their superstar.
While news outlets have been all over this story, the best information and background is out on forums and blogs.
Stuff Fundies Like helped get the news out with this post and in it’s forum under Fundy News and World Report. The Fighting Fundamentalist Forum thread Hyles-Anderson College has been going none stop. Conservative Babylon has a concise round up of news reports, online chatter and the scramble by First Baptist Hammond to scrub it’s web presence of anything Schaap.
Columnist Mark Kiesling isn’t hiding his scepticism. Jeri at Blog on the Way who has helped abused IFB men and women says that the unprecedented step of church leadership going to authorities is a CYA move.
And yes, a lot of us are sure that the sudden helpful, transparency policy of FBCH, a church with a history of stalking and harassing child victims of sex abuse and their families, is traceable right back to the Jerry Sandusky and Penn State case.
Please don’t make saints out of the FBCH deacon board. That church has covered a multitude of sins against children and women. Schaap should have been rebuked and expelled long ago.
Jeri doesn’t mince words, which makes sense when going up against the IFB legalistic sub-culture. Blog on the Way is a good place to start if you want to learn about the Independent Fundmentalist Baptist movement.
Update: 24 hours later and no news of an arrest. Interesting the church spokesman said police”the church does not expect there to be charges filed in the incident,” a FB IFB former member says Schaap is in custody according to a police source and police say an investigation is ongoing.
A couple more interesting links – Stuff Fundies Like has the audio of the church meeting up and a sobering explanation of the lawyer brought in by the church; ‘the fixer’. The Wartburg Watch has a video of the 10th anniversary of the Schaaps ministry at First Baptist Church Hammond. Mrs. Schaap speaks at the end of the video, her demeanour and remarks are sad, especially in light of the events in her life the past two weeks. chucklestravels has advice for anyone who has been abused at First Baptist Church Hammond – do not go to church leadership or the lawyer the church brought in, explaining why it is important to go to outside authorities.
The FBI confirmed the agency is investigating – Schaap was interviewed Wednesday.