Megachurch pastor Jack Schaap of First Baptist Church of Hammond in Indiana has been fired for an undisclosed "sin" and it has been revealed that the church and an affiliated college is being investigated by local authorities as well as the FBI. An extra-marital affair, possibly with a teenager, might be the reason for Schaap's dismissal, according to various sources.
"At this time, we deeply regret the need to announce that First Baptist Church has dismissed our pastor, Dr. Jack Schaap, due to a sin that has caused him to forfeit his right to be our pastor. First Baptist Church is in full cooperation with our local authorities in their investigation of this matter. Our church grieves over the need to take this action and the impact it will have on our people," the church shared in a press release.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich shared with local publication the Times of North West Indiana that a criminal investigation had been launched into the church along with Hyles-Anderson College, although he declined to comment on what specifically they were looking into.
"They met with us. They did the right thing," Buncich said of church officials. "They have cooperated fully."
"We ask that everyone pray for the families involved and pray that the situation will be handled in a Christ-honoring manner. We look forward to the days ahead as we continue to service the needs of our surrounding community and the Chicago area," First Baptist Church of Hammond added in its statement.
Schaap, 54, had been serving as pastor of FBC Hammond since Feb. 2001, succeeding the late Rev. Jack Hyles who passed away after a heart attack the same year. A graduate from Hyles-Anderson College, he went on to preach and teach at the college, becoming vice president before eventually deciding to become a pastor.
Eddie Wilson, director of public relations for the church, shared with the Chicago Sun-Times that the church does not believe Schaap is being investigated for anything criminal, but is still cooperating with the sheriff's department "for the sake of transparency and honesty."
"They're trying to reconcile their marriage," Wilson said of Schaap and his wife, Cindy, whom he married in 1979. Mrs. Schaap is the daughter of the late Rev. Hyles, the pastor who built First Baptist Church and helped found Hyles-Anderson College. "The church will move on and begin the process of calling a new pastor," the public relations director added.
Wilson refused to comment on the specific allegations against Schaap, but highlighted that "church bylaws state adultery is grounds for dismissal."
Other reports, however, have indicated that the matter might be more serious that suggested.
The reason why both the church and Hyles-Anderson College are being investigated, Times of Northwest Indian columnist Mark Kiesling claims, might be "for an alleged dalliance with a teenage girl associated with the church's college."
Kiesling writes that "sources close to the investigation say the girl was taken to Illinois and Michigan for Schaap's interludes." A detective involved in the investigation also has reportedly said that there are indeed criminal charges being made, since if the case solely concerned adultery with another woman, the police would not have to get involved.
Ed Stetzer, a Christian pastor, speaker and missiologist ponted his Twitter followers Wednesday morning to Kiesling's commentary, tweeting: "@JackSchaap1 Pastor, FBC Hammond, IN & SIL of Jack Hyles joins a growing list of Fundamental Baptist molestors bit.ly/OCUboo #Speak!"
The Lake County Sheriff's Department has not officially stated, however, whether Schaap is being investigated for possible molestation.