Indiana megachurch fires pastor amid police investigation into church, college

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HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) -- A northwestern Indiana megachurch has fired its pastor amid a police investigation into the independent Baptist congregation and a college it operates.

The First Baptist Church of Hammond said in a news release Tueday that pastor Jack Schaap committed "a sin that has caused him to forfeit his right to be our pastor." Church representatives said they were cooperating with police, but offered no specifics on the allegations against Schaap.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich told The Times of Munster that his department began a criminal investigation of the church and Hyles Anderson College after talking with high-ranking representatives of the congregation. He declined to identify the target of the investigation.

First Baptist elected Schaap its pastor in February 2001, a month after the late Rev. Jack Hyles died of a heart attack.

Schaap, now 54, is a Holland, Mich., native who came to northwestern Indiana in 1977 to attend and graduate from Anderson College, which Hyles founded four decades ago. He met and married Hyles' youngest daughter, Cindy, and served the church as an assistant youth director, bus captain and mentor to young students. He preached and taught in the college, and was its vice president for four years before becoming pastor.

Hyles' charismatic leadership as pastor of the church beginning in 1959 helped it grow into a megachurch with hundreds of church buses transporting thousands of worshippers across northwest Indiana and Chicago's south suburbs to what it bills as the "World's Largest Sunday School."

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