Screenshot by NPR
In this screenshot from a Facebook Live video of the church service by Maisey Cook, a woman takes the stage at New Life Christian Church and World Outreach in Warsaw, Ind. with her husband to tell her story of how Pastor John Lowe II had sex with her she was 16 years old.
Screenshot by NPR
Pastor John Lowe II admitted a grave sin in an address to his church on Sunday, saying he committed adultery and asking for their forgiveness. But then things took a sudden and dramatic turn: A woman stepped forward to say Lowe had sex with her when she was only 16.
Lowe's initial remarks at New Life Christian Church and World Outreach in Warsaw, Ind., had seemed to satisfy the congregation. He received a standing ovation after he confessed, calling for privacy and healing and saying he was stepping down.
But as Lowe set the microphone down, a woman and her husband approached the stage and picked the mic back up.
'You are not the victim here,' woman tells pastor
The woman told her own story, of a teenager whom the pastor repeatedly sexually victimized, and of a sexual relationship that extended into her 20s.
"I lived in a prison of lies and shame" for 27 years, she said.
"I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor," the woman told Lowe, who stood at the front of the pews.
"You are not the victim here," she said, saying he had not admitted the full truth of what he had done.
She added: "You did things to my teenage body that had never and should have never been done."
For years, the woman said, she had wanted to speak about the issue, but people were either too afraid or wanted to cover up the incident.
"This church has been built on lies, but no more," the woman said. "The lies need to stop."
Video of the interaction quickly went viral
The interaction was captured on video and shared to Facebook by a churchgoer who said, "This is the truth." She added, "This is what the church stopped streaming for their live video."
Lowe had depicted his actions as an isolated incident, and one that he repented 20 years ago. "It was nearly 20 years ago. It continued far too long," he said.
But the woman and her husband cast it in a different light.
"My wife — it's not just adultery," her husband told the congregation. "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 15, 16, the sexual grooming started. It lasted until she met me and we started dating. This is the truth."
She recently decided to come forward, the woman said, after her brother asked her about something he had seen as a teenager that long bothered him: the sight of "his pastor in bed with his younger sister, a T-shirt and underwear on."
Lowe and the church responded to the allegations
Church members immediately asked Lowe to come back to the microphone to answer the accusations. He reiterated, "I told you I committed adultery."
"Did you do it?" a man asked.
"Yes," Lowe said.
"You didn't tell them she was 14 years old!" a woman yelled.
Lowe responded by clarifying that the woman had been 16 at the time.
The New Life church says Lowe officially resigned on Monday. In a statement, it added, "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."
The revelations have drawn the notice of prosecutors. The Kosciusko County prosecutor's office has "confirmed it was investigating the claims," local TV news WANE reports.
When contacted by NPR, a representative said on Tuesday that the prosecuting attorney, Daniel Hampton, "is not permitted to disseminate any information regarding alleged misconduct," citing Indiana's rules of court.