First Baptist Church of Hammond in Indiana has become more united than ever in the wake of Pastor Jack Schaap's dismissal, a spokesman for the church told The Christian Post.
The church community was rocked recently by Schaap's dismissal, which came about following his admission of adultery with a young teenager. Investigations into the scandal surrounding the former pastor are continuing, the church spokesman confirmed, but the quick action by the church has allowed its members to come together during the difficult time.
"People are very pleased at how fast our deacon board acted in the dismissal of our former pastor. Seems like that has helped them, the fact that they made the right choice and they are very open," said Eddie Wilson, spokesperson and public relations director, to CP in a phone interview on Monday.
Last week, the church's board of deacons revealed that Schaap, 54, had admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a school girl who is currently 17. The girl, however, would have been just 16 years old when the inappropriate relationship began. Schaap had led the 15,000-member congregation for the past 11 years, and has not yet made a public comment since the FBI launched an investigation into his relationship.
The Lake County Sherriff's office revealed that Schaap is being investigated along with Hyles-Anderson College, where the former pastor was once a vice president, and where the teenage girl took classes. It is unclear whether the pastor will face criminal charges since the age of consent in Indiana is 16, but the married father of two was still removed from his position for committing adultery.
"The investigation is still open, and they are saying that he could be charged at any time, but there are no new findings. We speak to the local authorities just about every day, just to find out what's being done," Wilson added, revealing that the church has little information on Schaap's current whereabouts, though they believe he is out of state.
The First Baptist Church public relations director explained that the church is still waiting to see how legal proceedings progress, and then they will be holding a pulpit committee to choose a new pastor.
"But the church is actually more unified today than it ever has been," Wilson continued. "There's a sense of commitment on the member part to see that the church goes forward. We are 125 years old, a big congregation, and they are all very committed to making sure that the church succeeds. You get a real sense of unity, commitment, hope – it's not all doom and gloom. The past two Sunday services have been exciting, they have been powerful."
Wilson revealed that for the past couple of weeks the church has installed an interim pastor to fulfill the day-to-day business side of the church, but they have been bringing in some of the leading pastors from the Independent Baptist movement to come and speak at the pulpit.
"Over in the past we have had Dr. Jack Trieber, who pastors over in St. Claire California at a large Independent Baptist Church. He came in and preached a message of love and hope, which was a very much needed message for our church," Wilson concluded.