Licking county minister leaves church over relationship with teen
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.