Prosecutors in Warsaw, Indiana, are investigating a confession made by Pastor John Lowe II of New Life Christian Church and World Outreach that he engaged in an improper sexual relationship with a member when she was just 16, which continued for nine years.
Jody Hill, an assistant to Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton, told The Christian Post on Tuesday morning that Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct do not allow their office to disclose "any information regarding alleged misconduct." But she did confirm that "law enforcement is involved in investigating."
In what church officials are branding as a "messy" situation, Lowe Sunday resigned after confessing during the service that he committed adultery with one person two decades ago.
His confession initially drew a standing ovation from his congregation. He quickly drew their anger minutes later after a younger woman walked to the pulpit with her husband and tearfully revealed that the pastor took her virginity on his office floor when she was just 16 while she sported a purity ring.
The woman said she was triggered to confront Lowe after her older brother asked her two weeks prior about the time he saw her in bed with their pastor.
"I was a victim, and I would still be in a prison if my brother … had not approached me just two weeks ago with what he had seen as a teenager that bothered him all these years — his pastor in bed with his younger sister, a t-shirt and underwear on," she revealed.
"People knew but were too afraid to come forward. And they have now. The lies and the manipulation, they have to stop," she added. "I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor. Do you remember that? I know you do, and I have plenty of other stories that I can bring to your remembrance. You did things to my teenage body that should have never been done."
"I tried to tell someone. But all that was done was cover-up," she added. "No one ever came to me. No one ever got me counseling."
In a statement published by the church Monday, officials denied knowing anything about the abuse.
"This long-held secret first came to light when a woman in the church came forward and disclosed the relationship to various people within the church. When confronted by others in church leadership concerning that report, Pastor Lowe confessed privately that the adultery did, in fact, occur," the statement reads.
"To all concerned, please be assured that, until now, none of this was disclosed to or known by any of the staff, ministers or personnel of New Life. As with the church in general and the public at large, we too are responding to this without anticipation; praying and striving only to see that the Lord's good, perfect and eternal plans will ultimately and visibly prevail. Life is messy. Believers are messy. Church is messy. God is not."
While the age of consent in Indiana is 16, a person who is at least the age of 18 in a position of supervision or trust that engages in any sexual activity with a child over the age of 16 but under the age of 18 commits child seduction, according to state law. It comes with a maximum penalty of 1.5 years in prison; and up to a $10,000 fine. Prosecution for this crime must begin before the victim reaches 31.
The accuser claims that the abuse occurred over 27 years ago when she was 16, which would mean she is over the age of 31.
Church officials made it clear in their statement that they are grieving for the woman, their church, and the pastor and will minister to all parties as much as possible.
"In the wake of what has now been revealed, we are hurting and broken for a woman who has lovingly attended and served in the church for many years, as well as for her husband and family," church officials said. "It is our deepest prayer and commitment to love, support, encourage and help her through a process of healing in any way in which we are able."
The statement notes that the church must also minister to Lowe and his family.
"Our brokenness extends to Pastor John B. Lowe II, his wife and family as well. For 42 years now, New Life has taught and preached a Cross-driven message of repentance, forgiveness and restoration; a ministry of reconciliation which has been both led and modeled by Pastors John and Debbie Lowe," the church said.
"As healing occurs in their hearts, their marriage and family, we are committed to demonstrating the same support, encouragement, counsel and forgiveness that has come to define the collective heart and ministry of this body."