Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Ind., is facing at least 10 years in prison and an additional 10 years of supervision upon release for taking a teen girl across state lines for sex. Lurid details of the illicit relationship have been revealed as the minister awaits sentencing, which is expected next week.
Schaap's attorney and state prosecutors worked out a plea deal after the married father of two pleaded guilty last year to the federal offense, although he claimed he had no idea that it was illegal to transport the minor, an FBC member who was 16 at the time, out of state for sex.
As part of the sentencing process, a memorandum was presented to the court by prosecutors that revealed the content of some of the 637 text messages exchanged between Schaap, 55, and the unnamed 17-year-old parishioner who had initially turned to the minister for counseling. Among those messages, sent between June 21 and July 21, were texts from Schaap claiming that Jesus Christ had sanctioned their relationship, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"You opened your heart wide to me – you made me more than a Pastor/Rescuer – you made me your friend your confidant, your beloved. You gave me your trust, your heart, your love, + your affection," the former megachurch pastor wrote in messages to the girl, according the 23-page document shared by the Tribune.
Schapp wrote in another text, reportedly referencing a counseling session with the girl, "You have affectionately spoken of being 'my wife.' That is exactly what Christ desires for us. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!"
During the case, it was alleged that Schaap and the girl had sex in his office at the church in July 2012, while a youth conference was underway on the premises. The minister's relationship with the teen initially came to light when a church deacon found a text message on Schaap's cell phone that included a photo of him and the girl kissing.
The court document, which also cited 25 phone calls between the minister and the teen, was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond and claims Schaap groomed the girl while juggling duties for the 15,000-member FBC Hammond congregation – which he claimed in his defense stressed him out and contributed to his actions.
Schaap was fired in August 2012 by First Baptist Church Hammond after 11 years of service, which also included being superintendent of the church's schools. He said during court hearings that "extreme stress, exhaustion, depression, burn-out and several other medical maladies" were a result of working over 100 hours every week.
While prosecutors argue that U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano should ignore Schaap's attempt to "explain away" his actions, a First Baptist Hammond representative told The Christian Post that feeling overwhelmed by his work was no excuse for Schaap's actions, which the minister had classified in a previous church board meeting as adultery.
"Yes, he was under a tremendous amount of stress such as anyone who runs an international ministry. However, this does not excuse his behavior," said Eddie Wilson, a spokesperson for the church. Wilson told CP that Schaap was "a gifted leader" who helped the church grow and develop new ministries, "but this does not give anyone the right to justify sinful actions."
Prosecutors claim Schaap has caused irreparable harm to the victim and her family. The girl's parents, who submitted statements for the memorandum, claim a First Baptist Hammond pastor suggested that they refrain from visiting the congregation "for [their] safety."
FBC brought on John Wilkerson, who previously served at First Baptist Church of Long Beach in California, as its senior pastor in January.
Schaap is expected to be sentenced on March 20.