“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” ― George Washington
Have you ever wondered what the back story is behind the headlines? Some readers mentioned the John Schouten incident when his story appeared in the Christian Post.
Here are the two stories from CP.
- VGF Church Founder John Schouten Resigns Over ‘Illegal’ Sexual Sin Before Conversion
- VGF Church founder had illegal relationship with teen student, impregnated her after graduating
Lets take a look at a few of the claims from these articles.
- Pastor John Schouten, founder of VGF Church, the largest church in Licking County, Ohio, has parted ways with his church after he was confronted with what was described as a “wrong, evil, and illegal” sexual sin he committed more than 30 years ago before he became a Christian.
- The Newark Advocate reported that the church leaders were notified of the allegations against their pastor in an email during the summer and struggled with how to handle the situation. Schouten, who previously admitted to abusing drugs and cheating on his wife, Marilyn, during the early years of their marriage, has routinely talked about the wayward life he lived before becoming a Christian.
- Church leaders told the congregation in a recent email that Schouten offered to resign once church leaders were told of his actions but they did not accept it. They chose instead to place him on paid administrative leave while leaders made a decision.
- It was noted that Schouten committed “wrong, evil and illegal” acts that only involved one accuser and took place before his spiritual conversion in the 1980s.
- But this week, a former Liberty Christian Academy student who knew both Schouten and the female student in question came forward to disclose more details about the situation to 10TV.”John would have been 25. He started sleeping with her when she was 14, she was a senior when I got there,” the former student, who chose to remain anonymous, explained. “He got her pregnant while his … pregnant wife Marilyn was working at the school.””I wanted to vomit [when] I heard that he was a megachurch pastor,” the student added.
- (Schouten) he kept quiet about the fact that he had an illegal and adulterous relationship with a teenager during the 1980s.
- since the crime was committed before the church was founded, the lawyer determined that the church didn’t have reporting responsibilities. The lawyer also advised that the statute of limitations on the crime had expired.“These were all moral issues essentially left, not legal issues,” Weaver said. “There are some odd facts here and it doesn’t quite line up with the stories you hear at other churches.”
So, we are left with an impression from Schouten that this was a 30 year old *incident* that happened before he was a Christian.
Where did this *adulterous and illegal* relationship take place? Who knew about it then and when and how did they know it? Thankfully, Mary (not her real name) will tell us. I know her real name and I know why she wants it protected.
High school days at Liberty Christian Academy
I enrolled at Liberty Christian Academy in 1985 my sophomore year of HS. It was against my will and forced by my parents because they feared I would not be able to resist the “world” in the public HS. It was likely the most devastating thing that had ever happened to me and has affected my confidence and self awareness for my entire life. I had visited Liberty Christian Academy in 1984 again forced by my parents. I heard a rumor about a student and a teacher but I was unaware of who and figured it was just school gossip.
When I started to attend Liberty Christian Academy in 1985 the rumors started again. This classmate was never very friendly to me personally and we never developed any type of relationship that I would have been someone she would have confided in. I was severely depressed my first year at Liberty Christian and even attempted a weak suicide attempt. But I made it through my first hearing this rumor on and off all year.
Honestly, Mr. Schouten was my favorite teacher. He taught Bible and never acted inappropriate around me or any of us during the school day that I noticed. He would get us into intense deep biblical debate and really made me question and grow my faith. I loved the bible and wanted to learn. So I would tell my classmates to quit telling these rumors. I blew it off. I had never personally been sexually abused and had lived in a very protective religious “bubble” my whole life. I was very naïve of such things.
So in my junior year 1986-1987, a wonderful music teacher reached out to me. I believe in hindsight, it was her reaching out to me and seeing my talent and love for music I had lost when I was taken out of my public school that probably made the school bearable and saved my life. I had been deep into the music program at my public school. I was the main choir, orchestra, musical and choral piano accompanist and I loved it. I was devastated when I was forced to leave my passion behind. I was a very shy kid and music had been how I found to fit in.
I did a bit better this year. Again at the lunch table there were becoming more and more details shared about the sexual and physical aspects of my classmates activities with my favorite Bible teacher. I began getting angry that the classmate was obviously spreading these lies. I couldn’t fathom the good looking, clean cut Bible teacher who spoke so strongly about morals, God’s Word and our spiritual growth could possible do something like this. He had NEVER been inappropriate with me or anyone I had seen. This rumor really started grating on me. I pushed it away and told my friends it couldn’t possibly be right and my classmate should not be saying stuff about our teacher. I felt is was very “un-Godly” of her. I just kept quiet.
My favorite teacher, John Schouten was the brother in law to the very intimidating Principal, David McIlrath. David reminded me a lot of my dad. I always saw my dad as distant and intimidating so I was growing up so it felt normal to me. I loved my dad. My dad was a large financial contributer to Liberty Christian Academy and even went on a 2 week long hunting trip with Mr. McIlrath in the mountains of Wyoming. So I really trusted that they all were good people, and amazing Christian teachers. I looked up to all of them with a great deal of respect.
Mary reported the rumors to David McIlrath, the head of the school.
My senior year 1987-1988 I again was sitting at the lunch table and the rumors started up again. Something inside said, “Mary, you have to tell David McIlrath. If this isn’t true a good, godly teacher may have his reputation ruined.” I told my parents of the rumor and they told me to call David McIlrath and he could take care of it. We trusted these people as reputable Christian leaders of the school. I called Mr. McIlrath and told him I didn’t think it was true but that the kids have been talking about a sexual relationship between my classmate and Mr. Schouten. He thanked me for telling him and said, he would look into it and handle the situation. He felt good about my decision and believed all would be OK.
The student and Schouten were kicked out of the school. (Dee will refrain from commenting but is gnashing her teeth regarding the student getting kicked out as well.)
The next day I walked into my first and favorite Bible class to find an empty desk and my classmate not there. I felt sick to my stomach. All the kid were in a flurry of discussions, rumors etc. I heard one student say if they found out who the student that told on Mr. Schouten was, she would beat the shit out of them. I was terrified, confused, upset and most importantly realized it was true. I think I went numb and the rest of my senior year a blur. I just wanted out of there. I figured David McIlrath was working with the parents and the authorities. I never saw Mr. Schouten again. My parents figured David was taking care of it too and is was the school’s business. Once I graduated, I thought of my old classmate at times and just wondered whatever happened to her.
Two decades later, Mary discovered that her former teacher had been a pastor for 15 years.
Fast forward approximately 20 years on a Friday and I am reading my twitter feed of my favorite abuse advocates as I do frequently and there was the article about John Schouten. My husband asked what was wrong because I began trembling. I felt sick to my stomach. I never knew my classmate got pregnant with his child. I never knew he didn’t pay for his crime. I didn’t know he had been a PASTOR for the past 15 years!!!!! It felt like everything was spinning around me.
I have experienced so much in the churches in my area since my HS days. Things that are so horrible I can’t ever speak of it. But here the past came back and I realized yet again I was deceived and lied to again by a religious institution. A thousand questions raced through my mind. A thousand questions are still going through my mind. I just happen to have a passion and have studied church “abuse” in my local area the past 2 years. So, here it is and I want the whole truth this time. We all deserve the whole truth this time, we did 30 years ago.
Mary was startled that Schouten was claiming he had not been a Christian while at the school since it seems he claimed to be.
In this article John and Marilyn Schouten give a “fairy tale” version of their marriage. It sound more like something out of one of those Cheesy Christian books. This is the first time I read this and my jaw keeps dropping. All I can think of is the fantasy con artistry in the article.
He never mentions being a bible teacher, or a Christian boys basketball coach at our school. He never mentions that his pregnant wife at the time he was molesting my classmate was the girls’ cheerleading coach at Liberty Christian Academy. I think these are important details to this story.
“When you are not raised in it reading the Bible, the concept of worship, singing, and praying is foreign, he said.”
This line just floors me. He led in-depth biblical discussions about the Charismatic gifts, grace, mercy, and many other doctrinal issues. He would ask thought provoking questions about God and speak with such authority that made so much sense. It didn’t appear foreign at all the years I sat under his teaching. This seems to be a Disneyland version of someone else’s life? (1983-1988)
Yet he went to Promise Keepers in 1995 and “discovered a higher truth?” (Ed:This is when Schouten allegedly became a committed Christian) What? What truth did he preach to us?
He went to Vineyard Leadership Institute in Columbus and then started Vineyard Grace Fellowship.
Mary read the news accounts of his story and was astounded by the *fairy tale* he presented.
So the church did know as late as 2016 that John and Marilyn had serious marriage problems including drugs and infidelity. He claimed it was “before he was saved.” Well, he rewrote history and the church bought it….. My question is, what was it that drove that story into the media in that year? Why not in 1999 or sooner? I don’t know just a question.
Who did he start the church with? Jack King one of the current elders listed on the church website was the husband of the late, Lauren King who was our art teacher and close friends with the McIlrath’s during the years this took place at Liberty Christian Academy. I would be curious to the names of the other founding elders, donors and leaders in 1999 to see how many were connected to Liberty Christian Academy. Did the McIlrath’s John’s brother and sister in law help fund VFG? These are my questions. The current leaders are stating no one knew ever!
(From the church) Weaver said in Schouten’s sermons, he frequently referenced his “rebellious and sinful” actions, including drug use and infidelity, before becoming a Christian later in life. Schouten and his wife, Marilyn, talked to The Advocate about it as part of a 2016 story about themselves and their church.
Weaver said Schouten talked about that part of his life as a way of reminding church members about the teaching that sinners can be forgiven if they seek forgiveness and repent. However, Weaver said the specific details of those incidents were never discussed.
Mary looked at the claims made in the Christian Post.
1. The leaders were sent an email by one of my former classmates this summer when they found out John was a pastor.
“Church leaders told the congregation in a recent email that Schouten offered to resign once church leaders were told of his actions but they did not accept it. They chose instead to place me on PAID administrative leave while leaders made a decision.”
Why wasn’t his resignation taken immediately? Why was he paid and now being the rest of this year and all of next year? He should be paying back the money he took as a polished liar. My classmate is out of the state of limitations. and can’t press charges against the teacher
2. Mark Weaver stated
“ The incident in question happened well before John Schouten was a Christian.” He was married but had not come to Christ. He came to Christ several years later. And of course, he became a pastor several years after that. He’s nearly 60’s years old.”
WHAT?? With the years they are talking about John should be over 80 years old!! Are these people unable to add? John was 30 years old 1988 when we graduated and I told on him. So he wasn’t a Christian when, and when did he convert and when did he become a pastor? Fishy…..
3. Mark Weaver stated:
“ When asked if the illegal sexual sin could be classified as rape or sexual assault and if it a was a one time or repeat occurrence with the same person, Mark Weaver states, “We described it the way we described it so we can protect the privacy of the person involved.”
(Mary) So what does describing it for what it was have to do with protecting the victims privacy? How else did they initially describe it to the church? For who’s benefit is my question.
4. Mark Weaver stated:
“ The parties have gone their separate ways and the church will continue on with its mission, and I imagine John and Marilyn will continue on with their work as well,” “ He further noted to the Advocate that despite their differences, Schouten and church leader are still friends. Most of the leaders of the church remain friends with John and Marilyn…..”
(Mary) My questions are what work does the church wish the well in and why are the church leaders and the Schouten’s remain “friends.” Isn’t that a conflict of interest?
5. There are more stories that will be forthcoming.
Mary sent me a couple of emails but I think I will save it for another post.
6. In this article in the Columbus Dispatch, Schouten claimed that he conceived a child with the former student several years after graduation. Mary denies this.
(Mary) This is a lie, she was 19 and it was right after she graduated not several years.
7. Are the Schoutens starting a new church?
(Mary) I am told that John and Marilyn Schouten have started up a new church already (yeah, that’s quick) supposedly called Redeemer Church. I couldn’t find a website yet. I think it is just people meeting in his house like he started VGF.
8. What ever happened to McIlrath?
Well, it appears that the McIlraths are related to John Schouten!! According to Mary:
John is the brother-in-law to David Schouten and brother to his wife, Marilyn (Schouten) McIlrath.I have been told in recent years David and Yvonne divorced and she is still running the school and David started another school of some sort. He has also for many years run a ranch called the Eagle’s Nest for underprivileged kids. They started a charter school and got in trouble for tax and illegal issues there. It was Patriot Prepatory Academy.
He has also started a school for troubled kids known as Briar Patch (how cute…) (Dee: Dang, I can’t use the photo of him unless I pay! It’s not worth it.)
I think Mary’s comment sums it up nicely.
This is the Briar Patch facility for troubled youth that he started up. I hope he treats those kids better than those at LCA.
Summation by Dee:
If I wasn’t leaving for Israel on Monday, I would start making phone calls to the involved parties. I guess it will have to wait. if all goes well, and Mary reminds me in two weeks, I will try to get more information. If McIlrath did not report this to the authorities, then he should have. Therefore, I am worried about the safety of children under his care. Maybe someone could reassure me.