A 65-year-old Indiana pastor has stepped down from his role in the church after admitting he had an affair with a 16-year-old girl in front of his entire congregation.
Pastor John Lowe II stepped down from the New Life Christian Church after being confronted on stage by Bobi Gephart, a 43-year-old woman who came forward with a microphone to tell their church in Warsaw, Indiana, how he'd groomed her as a teen, starting when she was 16 – the legal age of consent in the state.
Pastor Lowe II had just told the church that he ‘sinned' 20 years ago by committing adultery, without mentioning how old the woman or girl was at the time.
He begged for the church's forgiveness, then received a standing ovation.
The pastor and his wife Debbie have now both resigned from the church
Bobi then stormed towards the stage with her husband, Nate, to say it ‘was not just adultery' because she was so young at the time.
‘For 27 years I lived in a prison… 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 and not realizing what had been truly done to me.
‘I would still be in a prison if my brother had not just approached me 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.'
Turning to Lowe, she continued: ‘I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor. Do you remember that? I know you do.
‘You did things to to my teenage body that should have never been done. If you can't admit the truth, you have to answer to God. You are not the victim here.'
Bobi's husband Nate then added: ‘This is a lie. This is not just adultery.
‘It's another level. It happened for nine years. When she was 15, 16, the grooming started.'
He presented a pearl necklace that his wife had been given by the church and a ‘purity ring' that he said the pastor gave her during their affair.
Bobi Gephart and her husband Nate. They told the congregation that the church was built ‘on lies'
Nate returned both items and said the pair ‘were not stretching the truth', but encouraged other women who had been these ‘gifts of the ministry' to return them too.
As the couple left the stage, the pastor then faced angry calls from the congregation.
‘If you did it you need to admit it!' said one angry church-goer.
Another yelled: ‘We need to hear from our pastor!' A third then cried out: ‘Give him the microphone!'
Lowe returned to the stage.
At first he said: ‘I told you I committed adultery and that it went on far too long.'
A member of the congregation then shouted out: ‘You didn't tell us she was 16!'
He then relented: ‘It was wrong. I can't make it right. I can't make it better. That's just the way it is.
‘It's not all true but it did happen, yes.'
Because the legal age of consent in Indiana is 16, Lowe is not likely to face criminal charges for the relationship.
He has stepped down from the church and has been scrubbed from its website.
In a statement, the church said: ‘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.
‘In anticipation of Pastor Lowe’s public confession during our church service, the woman in question and her family were invited to be present.
‘She did attend and, together with her husband, also addressed the congregation, indicating that improper sexual conduct first occurred when she was 16 years of age and continued into her twenties. She tearfully described living with deep shame and pain over the ensuing years.
‘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.
‘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.
‘Our brokenness extends to Pastor Lowe, his wife and family as well.
‘For 42 years, 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.
‘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.'
Pastor Lowe II and his wife have children the same age as Bobi.