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regarding Jack Schaap

August 2, 2012 2 comments

I am extremely busy and will be so for the foreseeable future, and I have a backlog of topics that is almost stifling. But the firing of Jack Schaap, now former pastor of First Baptist, Hammond, IN, was something I couldn’t let pass unmentioned.

In the interest of full disclosure I will say up front I attended a church pastored by a Hyles graduate for a couple of years in high school, and attended the school attached to the church, and it was a miserable experience, and that has colored my impressions of all things Hyles. That has been one of the reasons I haven’t written much about the Jack Hyles branch of midwestern Fundamentalist Christianity.

The best article I’ve seen on the Schaap firing is an article from the NWI Times (Northwest Indiana, I’m guessing), written by Mark Kiesling [link]. Here are the facts as best I can tell:

  1. Jack Schaap has been fired
  2. He is accused of having a sexual relationship with one or more underaged girls
  3. He may have met with one of them in Michigan, where she was transported from Indiana by a Schaap operative; for this reason the FBI is involved.

Another article says this all came to light because Schaap left his cellphone in the pulpit after a service, and the person who found it saw that it contained a picture a girl had sent Schaap that was incriminating.

Before I proceed let me note the following:

  1. Schaap is Jack Hyles’s son-in-law; Hyles died in 2001 and was survived by sons who were or had been pastors.
  2. Similar but not identical charges had been made against Hyles by Voyle Glover; his is the book Kiesling refers to in the linked article.
  3. Hyles and his sons had been accused of adultery and of having third parties procure and support women for them. It was not clear to me when I last looked at the details that these charges could be substantiated; at one point there were links to them from the Wikipedia entry on Hyles, but that has since been cleaned up to reflect a more neutral editorial voice.

I’m not particularly interested in the sordid details here; I’m lukewarm on the First Baptist leadership’s response [link], since they don’t name the sin for which Schaap was fired and they refer any inquiries to a spokesman rather than signing their names to the press release. I think that’s cowardly, and it undermines any goodwill they get for firing him and saying so in a press release.

I’m more interested in the question of how this disaster might have been prevented or at least detected without say the benefit of Schaap’s absent-mindedness regarding his cellphone. And I think this comes out somewhat nicely in Kiesling’s piece: if the pastor of a church of 15,000 people is doing one-on-one counseling sessions with an underage girl, that’s a warning sign, and some responsible party should have been asking pointed questions.

The pastor of a church of a thousand people is typically a very busy man. He’s doing a very difficult job. And it’s safe to assume that the bigger the church the busier the pastor, for better or worse. And Schaap was the head of a ministry complex, including a church with services in English and Spanish, two high schools, and a college. He must have been an extremely busy man. If he was doing one-on-one sessions with anyone someone should have been asking questions.

What’s the takeaway here? Well, first of all, stay away from churches that are so big that nobody knows that the pastor is doing. Second, it’s always worth trying to find out what your pastor is doing; what he’s doing isn’t as interesting as whether or not you can find out. If you can’t, it’s worth asking why. Third, it’s worth knowing how busy your pastor is. Chances are the answer is “very.” And this can be good and bad; e.g. a pastor who is a lousy father is a lousy pastor, and a pastor who’s too busy to be a dad is a lousy dad. And finally, it’s worth trying to find out who your pastor is really accountable to. If he isn’t really accountable to anybody, he’s an accident waiting to happen.

 

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