A video circulating on Facebook shows how disturbing stories of abuse in the church remain hidden until forced out.
In the video, Pastor John Lowe II of the New Life Christian Church in Warsaw, Indiana, receives a standing ovation after confessing to his congregation that he committed adultery 20 years earlier and that the relationship lasted “way too long.”
“I have no defense,” he said. “I committed adultery. To put it plainly, I made no mistake. I had no problem. I wasn’t having an affair. I have not misjudged. I have sinned. I have to say that, and you have to hear it.”
After asking the congregation for forgiveness for the “deep wound” he had caused and saying that he would resign, the community stood up and applauded him.
The moment was reminiscent of when Andy Savage’s megachurch gave him a standing ovation after his confession, minimizing his assault on a 17-year-old.
“You’ve done things to my body that should never have happened and never have happened.” – Abuse victim.
But immediately, the mood changed when a woman came to the microphone with her husband and gave a much darker reading of the situation.
She said she had been victimized by Lowe when she was 16 and had spent 27 years in prison.
“You’ve done things to my body that should never, ever have happened,” she said as male members of the Church, including the pastor’s son, gathered around her, seeking her silence.
“The church must know the truth. This church was built on lies, but no more. The lies have to stop.”
This week, a statement from the church clarified that “the long-held secret first came to light when a woman stepped forward and revealed the relationship to several people in the church.
“When confronted by others in church leadership with that report, Pastor Lowe confessed privately that the adultery had indeed taken place. The woman in question and her family were present together. They addressed the congregation, pointing out that inappropriate sexual behavior started when she was 16 and continued into her 20s. She described life with deep shame and pain in the years that followed.”
Eternity is bringing this story not to spread gossip but to draw attention to how churches can be complicit in shaming and minimizing the voices of women victims of sexual abuse.
Only after the woman’s husband took the microphone and said what happened was way beyond adultery and threw down the chastity ring his wife had worn while the pastor was having sex with her did members of the congregation demanded that Lowe answers the charges.
“Churches are ill-equipped because we focus on forgiveness rather than responsibility.” – Kylie Maddox Pidgeon.
Christian psychologist Kylie Maddox Pidgeon spoke about this phenomenon during a recent webinar on domestic violence in the Anglican Church.
“I am reminded of a study discussed in The Conversation in 2019 that outlined some ways churches are complicit. And when I read it, it gave voice to what the women in my treatment room were saying,’ she said.
“It said that churches are ill-equipped because we focus on forgiveness rather than responsibility, which puts more burden on the victim or survivor to get over it or forgive them.
“Churches can have a culture that prioritizes men’s voices, be it preaching, teaching, or leadership, creating an unconscious bias that men are more credible or more likely to be believed. While basically, all the research tells us to consider women.
“And [the abuse] has probably been going on for some time because she’s not used to being believed in that ecclesiastical environment. The layers on women should submit to men, and women should not be preachers, and teachers can ensure that women who experience violence have that extra life of voicelessness. ‘I have no position here; I am not trusted or not believed. I don’t have a platform to speak out about what’s happening to me.'”