Eastview Christian Church hires law firm to conduct investigation after pastor resigns
Eastview Christian Church in Illinois announced Sunday that they have hired an attorney from the law firm Wagenmaker & Oberly to conduct an investigation after Mike Baker, the church’s longtime senior pastor, recently resigned over allegations that he covered up sexual misconduct by his son, Caleb Baker, while he was an employee at the church.
“We as a church have retained Kelly Fabian Story with Wagenmaker & Oberly as the lead of a trauma-informed third-party investigative team,” Jim Karch, an elder at Eastview Christian Church announced at the end of a service at the church on Sunday morning.
“In addition to the investigation, though, she also helps develop restorative justice and reconciliation plans for churches that have experienced trauma to aid in rebuilding trust, and caring for victims,” he said. “She expects the process, this investigation process, to take three months. That's important for you to hear as well.”
The allegations that Mike Baker covered up his son’s sexual misconduct erupted last month after Central Christian Church announced that they fired Caleb Baker after he was caught in an extramarital affair with another church staffer.
While Mike Baker disputes allegations that he covered up his son’s sexual misconduct while he was a pastor at Eastview Christian Church, Brook Yarbrough, a former colleague of Caleb Baker at Eastview Christian Church, alleged in a Feb. 22 statement on Facebook that Caleb Baker was “let go” as an employee of the church in 2016 after it was disclosed that he was involved sexually with multiple women at the church.
Eastview Christian Church elders said in an earlier statement, they only became aware of allegations of abuse against Caleb Baker after he left the church in 2016.
“In 2016, after Caleb Baker left ECC, the Elders first became aware of specific allegations of possible abuse through letters that purported to be written by victims of abuse. The Elders at the time acted. However, the purported authors of those letters denied that they wrote the letters and stated they had not been victims of abuse,” the statement said.
It was not until July 2022 that they got a complaint from a former employee alleging an abusive culture in 2016. Since receiving that letter, the elders said they started an independent investigation that will continue in light of the revelations about Caleb Baker’s affair at Central Christian Church.
When the Eastview Christian Church attempted to have Mike Baker questioned as part of the investigation, elders alleged that he chose to resign instead and independently insisted he was not involved in a coverup of his son’s indiscretions.
“When people say Mike Baker is covering things up, I didn't know. What I do know is that at Christmas time, we resolved — one of the most trusted members of our staff ever — resolved that there's no conclusion here. Can't prove or disprove these allegations and I thought it was done,” Mike Baker said about an attempt to investigate initial rumors of the allegations against his son while he was working at Eastview in 2015.
“And then early in January (2016), there was another allegation that came and I went down immediately to my son, and I said, you need to resign. I can't deal with this anymore. This is breaking my heart, and we just can't let it destroy me,” he recalled.
The former megachurch pastor said after he told his son he needed to resign, he had a job offer from Central Christian Church within two or three days “in a crazy turn of events.”
“I'm just gonna be straight up true, whatever allegations were in this second time. I said I don't want to know. … I will tell you the honest truth, [I] was completely in the dark. I didn't mislead anyone because I didn't know anything,” he continued. “Should I have dug a little deeper? Maybe. But anyway, so Caleb goes off and he starts a new career, and he does really, really, well until two weeks ago when he confesses to having an affair. Devastation. Blows my socks off.”
Karch said Eastview Christian Church wants to “provide a clear and safe path for victims, we wanted to communicate that we want them to be able to communicate directly and without the involvement, Eastview’s, leadership or elders.”
He added that anyone who wants to report an instance of abuse or concerns related to abuse to the investigative team can send that report to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Now that we have a third-party investigator in place, we plan to secure a victim advocate and solidify a pathway for outside counseling services for victims related to the investigation. And I just also want to establish a rhythm with you,” Karch said.
To ensure that the church remained transparent, Karch said different members of the elder team will provide weekly updates on the investigation over the course of the “next few weeks.”
“While we have consistently tried to take this posture of humility, we want to ask, I want to ask today for you to join us. God has something to teach each of us in this moment to speak individually, with each of us. And in that posture of humility, may we sit and listen and not rush past this time,” Karch said.
“This is going to feel like a long process. This is going to feel like a longer process, and we are praying that on the other side of this, we, as a church, will be deeper, more mature, more authentic in our walk with Jesus than ever before, and that is where I'm putting my hope,” Karch said. “We have that to look forward to as a church. Praise God for where He will take us, and that's what matters.”
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