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On Sunday, Pastor John B. Lowe of New Life Christian Church in Warsaw, Indiana confessed to sexually assaulting a child decades ago.

Actually, he didn’t come out and say that. He only confessed to “adultery.” It was only when the victim took the stage moments later to correct the record—she was 16 and he assaulted her—that he finally acknowledged it.

And then the church embraced… the pastor.

First, watch the final few seconds of the church’s Sunday livestream, beginning at the 1:36:55 mark:

You can see Rowe talking about how God wants to give you “the saving knowledge of Christ.” Seconds later, the video cuts out. The livestream is over.

But someone in the church audience kept recording the service on her phone, and that’s where everything took a bizarre turn. (This video was shared on Facebook by Maisey Cook. A rough transcript was published at OrangeBean.)

Let’s walk through everything that happens here.

At the 1:30 mark, Lowe introduced himself to the crowd (for some reason) before confessing a sin:

… That’s why I’m here today. To follow the Biblical process of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. If God wants anything out of us, as we just heard, it’s to bring healing to all who are involved.

I committed adultery. It was nearly 20 years ago. It continued far too long. It involved one person, and there’s been no other, nor any other situation of unbecoming conduct for the last 20 years. 

I will not use the Bible to defend, protect, and deflect my past sin. I have no defense—I committed the adultery. To say it plainly, I didn’t make a mistake, I didn’t have an issue, I didn’t have an affair, I didn’t make a misjudgment. I sinned. I need to say that and you deserve to hear it.

I have been asked why did I wait so long to deal with it? Why hide it all these years? The answer? There is no good answer. I told myself for years silence served to protect everyone: the other person, those closest to her, from the hurt and from the public embarrassment, and I’d like to think that was true. But the truth is that silence was to protect myself as well. 

While applying church discipline for sexual failure, for repentance, confession, and restoration, I myself had not been disciplined for sexual misconduct. I will not use the Bible to defend myself or to beat you into Scriptural submission. 20 years ago, I repented. Now, the day for this fresh hurt, I ask you to forgive me for the deep wound I have caused. 

I make no excuse for my sin. The betrayal of dear friendship, trust, and love is beyond my ability to express. The church is engaged in a healthy, biblical process to restore your trust to the ministry here at New Life. Meanwhile, I hope you believe God called you here… Perhaps for such a time as this.

To believe. To forgive. To heal. So that God can reveal His goodness in you. For the next few weeks, while this church is in this biblical process, please be in a lot of prayer. Stay faithful in Jesus.

To my wife and family who I have deeply hurt, I have confessed my sin. They have gracefully forgiven me and expressed their love to me, which also is deeply humbling.

To those that I sinned against, many years ago and recently, by keeping this in the dark, and to those of you who are wounded from this fresh hurt. To you, the church, I repent for the adultery and my silence. Please forgive me.

In accordance with our church by-laws, I’m stepping aside, stepping down, from ministry responsibilities and have committed to the Lord and now to you, that I will submit to the process and recommendations of this board.

That speech was followed by a round of applause from the congregation. And why not? Here was a pastor who did something unethical, repented for it privately a long time ago, is repenting for it publicly now, and is literally giving up his job to deal with the ramifications. What else could anyone ask for, right?

The only problem is that he left out the most glaring details.

He actually alluded to them a bit—his story went from confessing to adultery to calling it “sexual misconduct.” But he went down that path so discreetly, church members may have missed the sleight of hand.

Then, at the 6:40 mark, a young husband and wife came on stage. The man said, “If you love us, please let us talk.” And then the woman began telling the real story of what really happened.

For 27 years, I lived in a prison. It was not 20 years.

I lived in a prison of lies and shame. Lying to protect the Lowe family for years. I thought I was a horrible person, having suicidal thoughts, not realizing what had been truly done to me. That I was a victim and I would still be in a prison if my brother—and many of you know him…—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. With T-shirt and underwear on.

People knew but they were too afraid to come forward. And they have now. The lies and the manipulation have to stop.

I was a prisoner and you kept me in your prison. I am a prisoner no longer. 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 could bring to your remembrance.

You did things to my teenage body that had never and should never have been done. If you can’t admit the truth, you have to answer to God. You are not the victim here.

I tried to tell someone but all that was done was cover-up. No one ever came to to me. No one every helped me. No one ever got me counseling. I have wanted to talk to somebody all of these years and never… You have! You have somebody that you’ve talked to. I never have.

The church deserves to know the truth: This church has been built on lies. But no more.

The lies need to stop. I could give story after story after story to what you did to me.

At this point, she spoke to a young man in the crowd: “Michael, I—your dad is not the victim here. A partial truth is not true.” Her husband appeared to say to Michael, “She was telling the truth. Don’t you dare call her a liar.”

Then she continued:

If I would have gotten counseling, your dad would be in prison. It might not be the way that every time you covered up [unintelligible] my best friend was my age when your associate pastor was molesting his two daughters. And you know that! You sent him to be a pastor at another church. We can call [the two girls] right now. They sat down with you. You sent [girl] away. Don’t look at me like that. You know the truth…

Then her husband chimed in:

Listen. My wife—this is not just adultery. It’s another level when it’s a teenager. And I will not let this man talk about my wife like that. It happened for nine years. When she was fifteen, sixteen, the sexual [unintelligible] started. And it lasted until she met me and we started dating. This is the truth and that’s all we’re going to say…

He then dropped a necklace on a podium, saying it was a “ministry gift.” He also returned the “covenant purity ring which she wore while this man had sex with her.” Then, after saying “We’re done,” the two of them walked off stage.

For a moment, some members of the congregation appeared to turn on the pastor. You can hear shouts of, “If you did it, you need to admit it.”

Lowe responded, “I told you I committed adultery. I told you it went on far too long.” Both points miss the bigger issue, though: He’s accused of sexually assaulting a child.

Confronted once again by a voice in the crowd, Lowe admitted she was 16. “It was wrong… That’s just the way it is… It’s not all true, but that did happen, yes.” He didn’t elaborate on what may not be true.

Then he closed with, “It’s been 20 years… I guess it doesn’t count for anything. We love them. I deeply hurt them. I deeply hurt you. I ask you to forgive me, and that’s all I can do.”

Others in the congregation shouted out, “We love you.” And then the church embraced him in a giant group prayer, laying their hands on him.

They embraced him. There’s nothing that can’t be forgiven when you’re a Christian pastor, apparently.

In case you’re wondering, 16 is the age of consent in Indiana. But sexual assault is still sexual assault. Regardless of the legal implications here, a pastor confessed to sexually assaulting a child, then had the audacity to refer to it as “adultery” and portray himself as a victim. And his church embraced him.

All this occurred on the same day the Southern Baptist Convention reckoned with its own sexual abuse crisis with the release of a massive investigation. The big takeaway was that abuse was prevalent and most people in positions of power did absolutely nothing to put a stop to it. They were more interested in covering up the crimes than addressing them head-on.

If nothing else, acknowledge the courage of the woman who spoke out. After living in a self-described prison for decades, she got up on stage in front of Lowe’s church and described what he did to her as a child. She confronted him, his son, and a congregation full of Christians who don’t give a damn about her physical or mental well-being.

This story is still gaining traction, but the church’s Facebook page has already been shut down, presumably as part of damage control. Their Instagram page is still up though, and the most recently post, ironically, lets everyone know that an upcoming “Marriage Matters” class has been canceled.

***Update***: According to a local news station, “The Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed to WANE 15 on Monday that there is a pending investigation into the matter.”

***Update 2***: The church has now put put a statement that basically parrots what the pastor said. It downplays the seriousness of what he did and still refers to it as “adultery.”

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.