Eastview Christian Church pastor resigns after son is fired from Central Christian Church for adultery
Mike Baker, the longtime senior pastor of Eastview Christian Church in Illinois, has resigned from the megachurch weeks after his son, Caleb Baker, was fired from his job as a pastor at Central Christian Church after he was caught in an extramarital affair with another church staffer.
“Caleb Baker, our lead student pastor and associate preaching pastor has been involved in an extramarital relationship for the past six months. And it involved a woman on our staff,” Cal Jernigan, lead pastor of Central Christian Church in Phoenix, Arizona, told his congregation near the end of his sermon at the megachurch on Feb. 19.
“They made a decision to be involved in something that is clearly considered sin in the Bible, known to be destructive. They kept it hidden for months on end and eventually, though, it came out. [It] did not come out by confession. They were discovered,” he said.
Jernigan said he was informed about the affair on Feb. 12 and the details shared with him at the time left him “absolutely devastated … to my core.”
“I just sat there in silence and in disbelief. I was then and I am still absolutely heartbroken over what was told to me on that phone call,” he said.
After discussing the situation with his elders, they made the decision to fire Caleb Baker and the woman he was involved with in the affair.
“I and the other leaders of this church cannot turn a blind eye to this and act as if it didn't happen or that somehow we didn't know or we didn't find out,” Jernigan said. “What I also can't do is get up here and spin this for you some way that makes it sound less horrible and, therefore, painfully and with profound sadness, both of them have been released from our staff.”
Caleb Baker’s firing from Central Christian Church and the discovery of his affair quickly snowballed into a conversation online about why he left his job as a pastor at Eastview Christian Church in 2016 where he worked for his father.
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” after it was disclosed that he was involved sexually with multiple women at the church.
“In 2016, while I was on staff at Eastview, Caleb was let go after multiple women in our congregation came forward disclosing inappropriate sexual relationships he initiated. Instead of being honest and transparent about this, leadership chose to let our staff and congregation believe he was choosing to leave to join a new church staff instead of being terminated directly for his misconduct,” Yarbrough wrote. “Despite asking lots of questions and continuing to raise concerns about what was happening, I was told to be quiet and to stop asking questions and then had the privilege of throwing a go away celebration party and standing in front of our students to announce his send off, knowing something wasn’t adding up.”
She said once she found out the true reason Caleb Baker left Eastview Christian Church, she began making plans to leave as well after serving there for 10 years.
“I was not going to continue to perpetuate the nepotism and system that allowed for this predatory behavior to happen — because that’s exactly what it was. When leaders use their platforms to take advantage of the people they commit to serve, this is abuse. In the church, this is specifically called clergy sexual abuse and I was not going to stand for it,” she said.
Yarbrough further alleged that Central Christian Church was “warned” about Caleb Baker’s history prior to his hiring as a pastor. The Christian Post reached out to Central Christian Church for comment about this allegation but did not receive a response by press time.
“A little over six years later, this behavior has now repeated itself. While Central did an outrageously better job being honest about what has happened than Eastview, they have still fallen short of owning their part in this sexual abuse against their staffer,” Yarbrough alleged. “They chose to take a pastor on their staff after being warned about his misconduct and placed him in a position of power where he could then continue this pattern of behavior.”
In a statement released last weekend, Eastview Christian Church elders said 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, they said 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.
“Since receiving the July 2022 letter, the Elders initiated a process for a third-party to conduct an audit of Eastview as a workplace. The report from that audit was completed in January 2023, but the Elders determined that the audit was not thorough enough. Thus, the Elders requested a second, more detailed audit.
“This second audit request was finalized by the Elder team in the beginning of February, before the recent allegations on social media. The Elders requested that the audit evaluate current workplace culture, HR policies and procedures, and the ELT [Elder Leadership Team] policies and procedures with respect to power dynamics, harassment, and employee on/off boarding to determine whether any unknown fear or power culture exists,” the church leaders said.
“The combination of these most recent allegations by ECC former staff and the news of Caleb Baker’s admitted affair with a staff member of Central Church in Phoenix, Arizona, have reinforced to the Elders that it is best to continue forward with the independent third-party audit,” they added. “The goal will be to evaluate the current health and safety of our church staff and workplace culture and determine past facts and errors by church leadership. If additional facts come to light, the Elders will forward those to the audit team.”
The Eastview Christian Church elders said they were committed to working with their lead pastor through the investigation but he insisted that “there is nothing to investigate.”
“Regrettably, Mike submitted his resignation as the Senior Pastor of Eastview Christian Church. The Elders did not call for his resignation,” they explained. “… Because the Elders were not aware of everything that transpired involving Caleb Baker’s departure and want to be transparent in the process, we reached an impasse. We love and support Mike and Sara Baker. Our hearts break for their family, and we pray for healing for the Baker Family as well as the Church they loved so well.”
In response to the statement released by Eastview Christian Church elders, Mike Baker insisted in a video posted on YouTube that the church did not give him an opportunity to defend his family nor speak directly to the congregation. He also disputed allegations that he covered up his son’s behavior.
“In 2016 my son left Eastview Christian Church. In that previous fall leading into Christmas there were rumors and friends of people saying that Caleb was having sexual relationships. Now that's no big deal if you work at State Farm, but if you work in a church, it's a big deal. It's a sin, and all sin, sex outside of marriage is a sin,” he said.
Mike Baker said he entrusted the allegations to “some very trustworthy staff members” and they could not prove or disprove the allegations.
“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,” he said.
“And then early in January, 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,” Mike Baker recalled.
He 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.”
He urged the people on social media attacking his family “like it's the Valentine's Day Massacre” to stop and think about his son’s two daughters and his wife.
“All I will say to Caleb's former workers who are out there spreading the lies and the gossip, and untruths, maybe they think it's the truth, but it's not,” he said. “I will say this to them: If you really care about trauma victims and girls who have been mistreated, and girls who have done nothing, but they're taking the brunt of the pain, what about Caleb's wife? What about my granddaughters?”
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