Lick­ing county minister leaves church over re­la­tion­ship with teen

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Sheri­dan Hen­drix shen­[email protected]­patch.comm @sheri­dan120

A Lick­ing County pas­tor has left the church he helped start af­ter ad­mit­ting to church of­fi­cials that he had an in­ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ship with a mi­nor more than 30 years ear­lier.

John Schouten, 59, the for­mer pas­tor of Vine­yard Grace Fel­low­ship in Heath, left the church in Oc­to­ber. Church lead­ers re­ceived an email in June de­tail­ing a re­la­tion­ship that Schouten had with a teenage girl while he was a teacher at Lib­erty Chris­tian Acad­emy in the 1980s.

“The de­tails of this sin­ful and il­le­gal re­la­tion­ship from three decades ago were dis­cussed at a large church meet­ing ear­lier this year,” said Mark Weaver, a church mem­ber des­ig­nated as spokesman by church of­fi­cials and Schouten.

At the time, Schouten was in his mid-20s and the girl was in her teens.

When school of­fi­cials dis­cov­ered the re­la­tion­ship, the Pataskala school fired him. The girl’s fam­ily did not want to take le­gal ac­tion at the time.

Sev­eral years later, af­ter the girl had grad­u­ated, the two re­sumed their re­la­tion­ship and had a child. Weaver said the girl’s iden­tity will not be re­leased to re­spect her and her fam­ily’s pri­vacy.

Weaver said the re­la­tion­ship took place be­fore Schouten founded Vine­yard Grace Fel­low­ship.

The church con­sulted with an at­tor­ney, who de­ter­mined the statute of lim­i­ta­tions for any charges had passed. The church was not ob­li­gated to take le­gal ac­tion re­gard­ing the in­ci­dent.

Schouten ad­mit­ted to hav­ing the re­la­tion­ship when con­fronted by church lead­ers. Weaver said the email did not come from a church mem­ber.

“Mem­bers had strongly di­ver­gent views on how to pro­ceed,” Weaver said. “Af­ter weeks of in­tense con­ver­sa­tions and prayer, the church lead­ers and John Schouten parted ways.”

Schouten has openly dis­cussed his life as a for­mer drug ad­dict and adul­terer be­fore he be­came a Chris­tian with the church in count­less ser­mons, Weaver said.

Schouten was paid the rest of this year’s salary and next year’s as a sev­er­ance with the church.

His wife, Mar­i­lyn, who worked at the church as a sec­re­tary, also left the church.

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