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HOW THE “GOSPEL” SPREAD: Here are just eight of the men affiliated with First Baptist Church or educated at Hyles-Anderson—most of them pastors—who scattered around the nation committing crimes.
1. Tedd Butler, 47
2. Christopher Settlemoir, 29
3. Charles V. Shifflett, 61
4. Joseph D. Combs, 63
5. Chester Mulligan, 47
6. William A. “Andy” Beith, 40
7. Craig Sisson, 52
8. Kerry Martin, 56
On a cool Sunday evening in mid-October, I drove to Hammond to sit in on a First Baptist service. I pulled onto Sibley Avenue and headed toward the church, a mammoth red-brick structure hard by the railroad tracks that takes up an entire city block and looks from some angles more like a big-box store than a house of worship. The surrounding blocks bustled with activity. Traffic guards directed cars into a gravel parking lot. Yellow buses lined back streets and alleys.
I’m sure that I was marked as an outsider, even though I had taken the advice of former members and worn a suit and tie. (I had also been instructed to carry a Bible—the King James Version—but I couldn’t find my mother’s and so arrived empty-handed.)
I entered a bit after the 6 p.m. start time, ducked past the crimson-coated ushers, and found a seat in what I eventually realized was the section reserved for the deaf. The church’s $27 million, 7,500-capacity auditorium, which once strained to fit the congregation, was dotted with empty patches. While most of the lower level was filled, sections of the sweeping balcony were deserted.
I sat in the pew, gazing at the colonnaded pulpit, bright white under a spotlight—the spot where Schaap had given his infamous “Polished Shaft” sermon. Tonight’s guest preacher, Freddy
DeAnda, a trim 30-something who is spoken of as a candidate for the top job, made no references to sex. But neither did he dwell on compassion. Instead, he spoke of doing more for the church, of stepping up, of trying harder.
It was a fine sermon, and the people around me—men in suits and ties with neatly combed hair, women in tastefully modest dresses, children sitting quietly beside them—smiled and nodded. The ushers, standing in back throughout the 90-minute service, occasionally whooped, like cowboys at a rodeo, at something they found particularly inspiring. If the members of the congregation were heartbroken about what was happening to their church, they didn’t show it on this night.
And at the end, awash in an old-time hymn, hundreds of them, expressions blank, unhesitatingly made their way to the front of the church. They prostrated themselves on the football-field-wide bank of stairs there. And they prayed.
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This story has been revised to reflect the following:
Correction on 12.11.12: The print version of this story, appearing in the January 2013 issue of Chicago, incorrectly stated that former First Baptist Church member Julie Silvestrone Busby received marriage counseling from Schaap in 2004 and 2009. The sessions lasted from 2004 through 2009.
Also, the girl whom Schaap counseled across state lines was 16 when the abuse began.
Photograph: (Mulligan) courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana