Good read. Chicago magazine reporter Bryan Smith’s in-depth look at the culture of First Baptist Church of Hammond Indiana in Let Us Prey: Big Trouble at First Baptist Church:
Last September, Schaap, 54, a married father of two, pleaded guilty to taking a 16-year-old girl he was counseling at First Baptist across state lines to have sex. Denied bond, he awaits sentencing in the Porter County Jail; the minimum term is ten years.
But Schaap is not simply one of those rogue evangelists who thunders against the evils of forbidden sex while indulging in it himself. According to dozens of current and former church members, religion experts, and historians interviewed by Chicago—plus a review of thousands of pages of court documents—he is part of what some call a deeply embedded culture of misogyny and sexual and physical abuse at one of the nation’s largest churches. Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church—many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools—who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.
Smith gives a solid history of the troubled church, weaving up to the present, giving voice to former members and victims of Hyles men who preyed on obedient, isolated and unquestioning congregants, while noting the number of predators who have been tied to this church. He focuses on Schaap, the most recent disgraced leader, and at some the fallout from Schaaps arrest and guilty plea.
Walking into federal court last September for a hearing about his alleged sexual misdeeds with a minor, Jack Schaap smiled and looked relaxed. Wearing a gray blazer, a red patterned tie, and dark pants, clutching a Bible in his left hand, he stopped in front of the TV cameras and planted a long kiss on his wife, Cindy, 52.
Before the judge, if Schaap wasn’t exactly defiant, he was far from submissive. He said that he didn’t know he had broken “man’s law” but knew he had violated “God’s law.” With that, he entered a guilty plea—and was immediately escorted to Porter County Jail to await sentencing.
Back at First Baptist, prayers for “Brother Schaap” have been asked for and received. (Similar concern has yet to be expressed for his victim.) One of Schaap’s adult children, Kenneth, has mounted a letter-writing campaign to the judge.
Eddie Lapina, a Hyles-trained church fixture, is acting as interim pastor while a committee searches for Schaap’s replacement. Among his moves: announcing in October that fully a quarter of the church’s staff had been laid off.
Hyles-Anderson College appears to be struggling, too. About 1,000 students are currently enrolled, down from 2,700 in its heyday, according to admissions director Joe Peete, who gave a Chicago intern a tour of the premises in late October.
Meanwhile, the church’s lawyer, David Gibbs, has called for other victims to come forward with their stories. He promises that “there will be no cover-up. There will be nothing swept under any rug. . . . This is a moment when we need, as people of integrity, to be honest in all of this. So [authorities] have asked us to come in and conduct a thorough investigation. And it shall be done.”
Critics are skeptical. “They will no doubt tighten the reins some,” says Glover. “But all that needs to happen is for the right pastor to come along—i.e., a man with a strong, charismatic personality who is a leader—and boom! They are right back in the same trap.”
Media coverage of the years is mentioned, as well as books written by former members.
Smith generously includes comments by Jerri Massi of Blog on the Way. Jerri has tirelessly documented the IFB culture. The outstanding efforts of the Facebook group, Do Right Hyles-Anderson, populated with many former members who faced spiritual, emotional and sexual abuse in the Hyle kingdom, is also featured. The closed world of Independent Fundamental Baptists can no longer silence the voices of it’s abused. Leaders at First Baptist Church of Hammond chose not to be available for this article. Those who know the church expect leaders to come out swinging: shooting the messenger, demeaning those willing to go on record and discounting the damage done to so many lives.
Update: Schaap sentenced to 12 years in prison
Jack Schaap – Polished Shaft sermon