FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Whenever he would abuse her or cheat on her, Abbey Plummer said her ex-husband would always end up calling his parents.
“He was abusive,” she said of her ex-husband. “He was physically abusive. And mentally abusive.”
“His parents would cover it up,” Abbey Plummer continued. “They didn’t know every single incident, but they knew the majority. He was never held accountable. Other people from their church would come. They’d always say they’d handle (her husband’s actions) ‘in house,’ but nothing was ever done.'”
“It was total gaslighting, total manipulation,” Plummer continued. “When people around you are acting like everything you’re going through is not that big of a deal, you begin to think, ‘Am I the crazy one?’
That’s how Plummer described life in the Warsaw church of Pastor John B. Lowe II, who made national headlines last month when he confessed on video to “adultery” in front of his congregation toward the end of a Sunday service.
The video included the woman Lowe confessed to having a years-long “affair” with coming forward and telling the New Life Church and World Outreach congregation she was 16 when it started. It quickly went viral and sent social media abuzz.
Many – including one member of the congregation who wished to remain anonymous and others who commented on social media – wondered how this secret relationship could’ve been hidden for so long.
To four former church members who spoke to WANE TV, it came as no surprise.
They each talked about a culture they believed included suppression of information for the greater good, one where the sins or abuse of those in the church would be downplayed by leaders or dealt with from within – if at all – and never be talked about publicly lest it end the church’s mission.
Those former members told us they felt that anyone within the church wanting to speak out was made to feel guilt, shame or the burden of being the ones standing in the way of pastors John and Debra Lowe’s attempts to save souls and keep people from eternal damnation.
“People who haven’t been under (the Lowe’s) leadership or abuse, they don’t understand how that can happen,” said Plummer, who was married to one of their sons from about 2002 to 2007. “They have this power over people.”
“If you haven’t been a victim of abuse, it’s hard to understand,” she added. “It’s almost like Stockholm Syndrome.”
WANE TV reached out to New Life and the Lowes via phone and email for this story.
No messages were returned.
A team from WANE TV went to the Lowes’ home in Warsaw last week.
One of the Lowes’ sons, John Bryan Lowe III, confronted the team there. John Bryan Lowe, who was not married to Abbey Plummer, currently preaches at New Life Christian Church & World Outreach.
He declined to take any questions from WANE TV or comment on any story.
“There are no words of healing I can offer,” John Bryan Lowe said.
He also told WANE TV his parents would not take any questions nor return any messages for any story. The team from WANE TV asked if he’d pass along a letter with contact information to John and Debra Lowe should they change their minds.
John Bryan Lowe said he would try.
The Lowes have yet to contact WANE TV.
Little is verifiably known about John and Debra Lowe before they came to Warsaw.
According to a video profile and text story titled “The Lowes: In and Out of Love,” which was previously hosted on the 700 Club’s website, Debra Lowe was “abused as a child…ran away from home when she was 16…turned to stripping…” and teenage John Lowe “worked as a money collector for his drug dealing brother.”
That video profile, which includes on-camera appearances from Debra and John Lowe, is no longer available on the CBN website. A cached version of the written part of the profile remains here.
The profile includes a video depiction of a “younger” Debra Lowe regaling how she met John Lowe. According to that depiction, one night after a failed relationship, Debra Lowe professed to a friend at a bar that she would grab the next guy who came through the door and make him hers.
That happened to be John Lowe, according to the profile.
They were married five weeks later, but it was a tumultuous relationship. Describing himself in the written profile, John Lowe states: “Who did she marry? A maniac. A guy who has a temper problem; a guy who doesn’t know how to be tender or gentle; a guy who doesn’t know how to communicate; a guy who’s selfish and got married out of lust.”
Divorce loomed. After a failed pregnancy, John Lowe put “all of his attention on football and other women,” the profile said. Then, during an Easter service – somewhere – John Lowe pledged himself to God in front of his wife.
The two remained together.
According to Abbey Plummer, that video profile story may contain some embellishments, but it largely remained the gist of what the Lowes told people for years. Plummer said John Lowe grew up in West Virginia while Debra Lowe hailed from New York.
They’d tell people God told them to go to Indiana and start a church there – sight unseen, multiple former church members, including Plummer, said.
They did so in their basement before eventually moving into a school and then the current New Life Church facility off of U.S. 30 in eastern Warsaw.
Their story was one of almost rags to riches – maybe more in the vein of sinners to saints – that attracted so many others to come there, according to former members.
Kelly Thompson’s father was looking for a new church at the time.
Somewhere along the line, he found John Lowe preaching out of the basement of a home on Washington Street in Warsaw. He brought Kelly Thompson to these church services when she was 17 years old, she said.
“I attended the very first church service in John Lowe’s basement,” Kelly Thompson said. Two years later, she married her husband, Michael. “We were the first wedding John Lowe officiated. Debbie sang at my wedding,” she added.
Four months later, Kelly and Michael moved to Florida. Their involvement with the church, though, did not end. They received tapes of services and sent money back to the church. Later, they moved to Minnesota. Their daughter, Sarah Thompson, remembers running away with her sister, Laura, for an entire day.
Sarah Thompson said her parents called the church asking for prayers. When she and her sister returned, they decided to move the family back to Warsaw.
“The church is the reason we moved to Indiana,” Sarah Thompson, now 34, said. “We were beyond broke, but my parents were like, ‘We’re moving.’ I think they thought God told them, ‘We need to go back to that church.'”
Kelly Thompson said the family did move to Warsaw in 1995, and they immediately ended up at the church with several kids in tow. They were welcomed with open arms.
“We jumped in with both feet,” Kelly Thompson said. “We were already like family with the Lowes. We were in the inner circle.”
Life as a part of New Life Church
The Thompsons began to rise in the eyes of church leadership.
Kelly Thompson became a leader of women’s ministry. Michael Thompson became a pulpit usher – which was almost like a security guard during services.
“During worship, everybody is facing the stage,” Kelly Thompson said. “Michael had to face the congregation and be on the lookout for any intruder or outsider who might be there to harm Debbie or John. If someone came in with a gun, he was to jump in front of the bullet.”
Today, Kelly Thompson said she’s embarrassed she got sucked into New Life Church. She studied business in college and was raised in an educated family. She and her husband became so entrenched in the church, though, that being asked to step in front of a bullet for church leaders seemed logical.
“When your whole life is the church, to be in leadership and recognized and rewarded by the pastor and his wife, it becomes your paramount goal,” she said. “You quickly learn to shut off critical thinking.”
Authority was to never be questioned. John Lowe had been chosen by God to lead the people, and his judgment was always final, Kelly Thompson said.
“It was either John Lowe or a visiting pastor that taught once that the Greek form of the word ‘why’ means chaos,” Kelly Thompson said. “You were never taught to ask ‘why,’ you were just taught to follow.”
According to Thompson, the Lowes garnered support from people slowly, almost as if they built people up or saw how far they would go for the church.
“What it is, they test it out,” Kelly Thompson said. “They see if you’re willing to go above the norm, and if you do, they give you more responsibility. They ask for a bigger sacrifice, and if you happily meet it, they incrementally pull you in closer and closer.”
“We bought that, when you’re living a life of faith in God, it’s scarier to disobey or question,” Thompson added. “Nobody wanted Michael to have to jump in front of a bullet, but if he did, you’re just proving the depth of your faith. If my husband was killed protecting the pastor, he’s just become a martyr. I’d rise up as this widow who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Later, Kelly Thompson would begin to see a side of the Lowes and others within the church that would make her question their devotion to the teachings in the Bible.
Abbey Plummer began attending New Life Church at 14, she said, and like many she got taken in by the atmosphere and teachings.
Her cheerleading coach at the time attended the church and recommended it to her and her teammates. The first time she and her teammates went, they witnessed a “Glory in Fire” demonstration – which is a dramatic production of people dying and showing whether they went to heaven or hell based upon their sins.
Plummer described John Lowe as nice enough, maybe on the arrogant side with a harder exterior. Debra Lowe was much warmer, much more friendly, Plummer said.
“When I first started going to the church at 14, there were some allegations against someone at the church at that time, and I think half the people left,” Plummer said. “Over the years, more and more stuff would come out. Every couple of years, an “allegation” would come out, the church would split, and a new crop of people would come in.”
No criminal charges were ever filed in connection to these allegations Plummer remembers.
Plummer said confessions before the congregation – such as what Lowe did in the video that went viral – were not uncommon. She witnessed unmarried women who had gotten pregnant go before the congregation to confess their sins.
Plummer said she and her friends, like many teenage girls before and after them, also partook in a “purity” ritual.
It was dubbed a “purity covenant.”
That purity covenant is actually a series of classes leading up to the big event, both Plummer and Kelly Thompson said.
In one of the first classes, a mix of teenage boys and girls were brought together and made to say the names of female and male genitalia to each other over and over again, Kelly Thompson said.
This caused Kelly Thompson to pull her children out of the covenant right away, she said. Abbey Plummer said she did not experience that particular class during her covenant.
At the end of her purity covenant, Abbey Plummer and her friends all bought prom dresses, got made up and even walked an aisle before friends, family and other church members. Then, they were given a “purity ring” to be worn until their wedding day.
In essence, they were pledging to abstain from sex until then.
In John B. Lowe’s viral video, the husband of the woman Lowe confessed to having an affair with is seen giving back – in disgust – the purity ring she received at the church. He makes mention that Lowe gave it to her and she wore it during the times she and Lowe had sex.
During her involvement in the church, a teenage son of the Lowes approached Plummer and her friends. She said he was outgoing. Extroverted. Charismatic. Flirtatious.
Plummer broke her “purity” promise.
“I felt guilty about it, I’m not sure he did,” Plummer said. “I felt extreme guilt. That’s part of the reason we eloped.”
They were 19 when they tied the knot.
Guilt would become a running theme former members were made to feel, according to those we spoke with.
Lots of talk about sex, money and damnation
Sermons at New Life Church were skewed toward sex, the women interviewed in this story told WANE TV. It was an overarching topic at the church, one that came up during Sunday services as well as in youth ministry meetings, each woman told WANE TV.
“They preached too many sermons on sexual purity and always geared everything around sex,” Sarah Thompson said. “I remember thinking as a kid, ‘They talked about sex a lot.'”
Kelly Thompson also said sermons revolved around sex more often than not.
“There was always an emphasis on sex,” she said. “John Lowe would even say, ‘You all get mad at me for talking about sex all the time, but if you saw how many people are getting divorced like I see you wouldn’t believe it.'”
Sarah Thompson said she was not physically abused while there – she was louder and more outgoing – but remembers there being a lot of physical contact at the church. There were times some in her circle would try to give her massages or backrubs or tickle her. Moments of physical contact that she at the time maybe didn’t think inappropriate in the moment, but wonders about now.
“I have suffered sex abuse since then, and I think it was partially due to being around people like that, people sexualizing young girls,” Sarah Thompson said. “I was not equipped with the skills to go into adulthood and intimate relationships to say no.”
Sexual purity was huge, she added.
So was giving.
“The offerings were as long as the sermons,” Sarah Thompson said. “It was always giving, giving, giving.”
Kelly Thompson and her husband constantly gave money, she said. Money the family did not have, and today she sees the church’s view of giving as a scheme to increase funds.
“Tithing is everything,” Kelly Thompson said. “You were blessed by giving, God would give you blessings if you gave, and if you didn’t give it was cruel to the congregation. We would even have 90 percent Sundays, where you weren’t supposed to give just the 10 percent tithe the Bible talks about, but you were asked by God or the pastor to give 90 percent.”
Looking at it through new eyes, Kelly Thompson called it a “racket.”
“It’s this loop,” she said. “I mean, what a pyramid scheme. We want you to give us your money, so we can reach the world, to bring in more people, who can give us more money, and if you give us more money God will give you more money so you can give us more money.”
The Lowes were there to save souls, and questioning how they did things got in the way of saving souls, Sarah Thompson said.
Any feelings that something may be amiss in what was happening within the church came from something else, something not divine.
“If (problematic feelings) came up, you were supposed to be, ‘That’s the devil. Send him back down!'” Sarah Thompson said.
According to Sarah Thompson, people were told that if they came forward with accusations the church would close.
“When you tie someone’s eternal salvation or damnation to it, you’re just stuck there,” Thompson said.
Sarah Thompson remembers being at the church nearly every day as a kid, and then wanting to sing. She wanted to be on the church’s worship and praise team.
The church wouldn’t let her, though, because they were reserving a spot for her sister – at the behest of one of the Lowes’ sons.
Devolving into abuse
Abbey Plummer said she came home from college one day, stayed with a friend in Warsaw, and then got married to the Lowes’ son.
They then drove to the church to tell John and Debra Lowe.
She felt she did the right thing, she said. They were having sex. They had to get married.
Plummer stated the abuse started shortly after.
“He choked me on numerous occasions,” Plummer said. “When our dogs would have accidents he’d rub my face in dog pee in the carpet. He threw stuff once and knocked a candle warmer down, and then held my face down to clean the wax off the floor. He drug me by the hair.”
“I was in college the whole time, and I had written a paper, and back then we had these disks to save things on,” she continued. “He got mad and threw the laptop and threw the disk and it sliced my nose. I went to school where a worker asked, ‘What happened to your face?’ I just said I bent down and scraped it on the way up.”
“The bad one was with my dog,” Plummer said. “We had her for a couple of years. Then we got another, and the landlords found out, and we were only allowed to have one, but he knew I wanted my dog.”
According to his confession, Plummer said:
“When I was at work, he took both dogs out to a field, and tied her to a tree with a dog leash and took a lead pipe and smashed it in her head. She rolled down the hill, and she was still moving so he did it again. Then he put her in a Walmart bag and put her in his truck and dumped her out of the bag on the road to make it look like she got hit by a car.”
That was an accusation that did not surprise Sarah Thompson when she heard about it.
“I watched (him) kick a couple dogs in front of me back in the day,” she said.
Plummer said she told John and Debra Lowe about the abuse. They may not have known about every single instance, but she said they knew enough. They would always try to lessen the severity of what happened, according to Plummer.
“With the affairs, it got to the point of, ‘Oh, it happened again?'” Plummer said describing the Lowes’ nonchalant reactions.
Other people in the Lowes’ inner circle, other church members, would come and tell her that it was okay, according to Plummer.
“They would just initially make it sound like, ‘This is something we need to deal with, but we need to keep it in house,'” Plummer said. “They would not say anything, or downply it so much, you almost got to the point where you think, ‘Am I overexaggerating?'”
Plummer described how people within the church would react without emotion or seriousness when told about the abuse:
“They’d be like, ‘Oh, he cheated on her again? Oh, he killed her dog?’ It got to the point where I thought, ‘There must be something wrong with me because nobody in my circle is acting like it is a big deal.'”
“It wasn’t until I finally started telling people out of that Lowe circle, and (these people) were like, ‘You need to get out of there, now. You are not safe,'” Plummer said. “(The Lowes) never said that to me. It was never, ‘We don’t want you to get divorced, but this is not safe.'”
“I was of course never encouraged to call the police for the things he did to me,” Plummer continued. “You don’t want to make the paper for that.”
And that’s part of why Plummer thinks it took so long for the woman to come forward with accusations against John Lowe. She says it took years to get herself out of the situation or to even think clearly.
“I regret not going to the police,” she said. “He was intimidating, and I always worried he’d do something to my mom and my friends. I didn’t want any repercussions.”
When she first separated from her ex-husband, Debra Lowe begged Plummer not to leave her son. She wrote her a letter asking Plummer to stay.
“I know you must really be hurting right now,” the handwritten letter given to WANE TV that Plummer said came from Debra Lowe reads. “Dad and I are here for you. Please let us help. I know (my son) has hurt you honey, but it takes 2 to make a marriage work.”
The letter goes on to say that Plummer is facing “a life and death decision” regarding her marriage, warns Plummer not to give “Satan the open door leading you by your flesh and emotions” and that “Satan only comes to steal what has value. Your marriage has value!”
“You will regret any decision you make out of hurt,” the letter reads.
Plummer’s plan, though, took her to a new job in South Bend.
Once the video of John Lowe went viral, people began coming forward.
Mainly on social media, then to traditional media outlets. More accusations of abuse or control regarding New Life Church and its leaders came over social media. Protests began to happen and the church shut down its social media presence – which has since come back online.
Laura Bohnke, the daughter of Kelly Thompson and sister of Sarah Thompson, is one of those who came forward with allegations of abuse.
She said a man began grooming her when she was 11-years-old.
She said the 18-year-old behind it was Abbey Plummer’s future husband.
“He preyed on me when puberty began,” she wrote to WANE TV. “He would pull me aside and say things like ‘I’ve noticed your breasts are bigger than your sister’s already. That’s a beautiful thing.’
Bohnke shared her story on Facebook in the aftermath of the viral video.
“He was brave and unashamedly bold in his abuse,” she wrote on Facebook and to WANE TV. “I remember a time my mom was buckling my little siblings in the car and he was on the other side, with his hand on my leg and up my Monarch (the name of the school run by the church) uniform skirt with everyone there. ‘You need to shave your legs,’ he told me before leaving.”
“He knew I was uncomfortable and wanted him to stop,” Bohnke wrote. “That’s when he would tell me that God knew we were going to get married, that what he was doing was okay because of that.”
“He even told his parents he believed this, too,” she added. “I was an incredibly shy child and I remember having to sing on stage with his mom because he lied and told her I wanted to be closer to her and do something special because she was going to be my mother-in-law.”
This particular son of the Lowes “molested me in school, in church, and at his home. His family knew he had a problem controlling himself sexually and did nothing about it, allowing children to be abused,” Bohnke wrote.
She kept quiet for years. She always wanted to do the right thing, and what the man did to her created a mix of “incredible shame” and “debilitating guilt” that kept her from coming forward, Bohnke said.
“This cult’s power to make you feel guilty for each of their wrongdoings is what keeps us victims silent for so long,” she wrote.
The family left the church in 2002. Still, it wasn’t until 2005 that she felt safe to talk about what happened. She was 16 then, and she told her then-boyfriend.
Eventually, she and her family went to the police.
Coming forward for anything at the church was difficult, even prior to going to police, Kelly Thompson said.
“We were taught, if you were to come against or critique leadership, you were really critiquing God’s decision to put these leaders over you,” Kelly Thompson said. “It’s almost proving your faith in God by following a flawed leadership. You don’t want to get out of God’s protective covering so you don’t question authority.”
“Also, it’s so flattering and ego-boosting,” Kelly Thompson said. “Most people don’t read the Bible on their own, so they just assume everything is right, so if the pastor is doing immoral or illegal or just off-color things, and he’s doing it loud enough and with enough bravado, it’s okay.”
Bohnke provided WANE-TV with a copy of an Indiana Department of Child Services report which includes details about an interview she and her mother, Kelly Thompson, had with a family case manager.
The report indicated that Det. Todd Sautter and Investigator Charlene Johnson of the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department were present during the interview, which took place at the sheriff’s department.
The man in the report is identified as one of the Lowes’ sons, the same one who married Abbey Plummer, though WANE TV is not naming him because he has not been convicted of a sex crime.
The report reads:
“Laura reported that (the man) fondled her breasts when he would hug her from behind and from the side. (The man) frequently told her not to tell anyone about the touching and he would make inappropriate sexual comments to her. Laura reported she no longer has contact with (the man) as the Thompson family has left the church.
FCM (family case manager) met with Kelly and notified her of the results of the interview. She agreed to prohibit contact and FCM also referred Laura to Bowen Center for Counseling. Sautter subsequently met with (the man) who denied touching Laura inappropriately. (The man) told Sautter that he and Laura had a boyfriend/girlfriend type relationship and there was no touching. (The man) refused to take a polygraph test.”
The report also states that per Det. Sautter, the report will be filed with the prosecutor, though there are parts that are redacted.
“Sautter, Johnson and FCM all agreed that Laura was truthful and (the man) had sexually abused her as (redacted). The report is substantiated based on Laura’s statement. Case is closed.”
Indiana Department of Child Services officials could not comment on this specific report.
WANE TV filed an official records request with the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department seeking any police report or call logs involving Laura Bohnke (then Thompson) in 2005 or 2006. That request was officially denied, because:
“There is no record of a police report by this agency,” a sheriff’s official wrote to WANE TV.
An email sent to the Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton asking for records detailing whether officials ever spoke to or received a report about Laura Bohnke’s claims against the man identified in the DCS report was answered thusly:
“As you may know, the Indiana State Police have an ongoing investigation relating to the subject of your request. I cannot disclose any information during an open investigation. Thank you for your inquiry.”
Kelly Thompson said the man in the report was heavily involved in children’s church worship during her time at New Life Church.
“The church had the children in various ages split into different rooms, and he would go from one room to the next, and he’d lead worship there,” Kelly Thompson said. “It seems so predatory now.”
It’s not clear what is in the redacted parts of the report, but Kelly Thompson said she wished she had been more aggressive in pursuing action.
“I think both of us would do more now,” she said.
In the livestream video, John B. Lowe confesses to adultery. He said he had an affair. It had been 20 years ago, but an affair nonetheless. Some in the video stand and applaud. As the video unfolds, some church members surround him and pray.
Based on the public comments included on that livestream video, that reaction to the confession caught some individuals off guard.
Others who were not so surprised shared their stories with WANE TV or over social media about how church members would constantly rally around other members in an effort to protect the image of the church.
One notable example of this rallying around a church member can be seen in the case of Dylan Houser.
Houser is currently serving prison time after being convicted of felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.
In the aftermath of the Lowe confession, a woman posted her story on Facebook, talking about how Houser had groomed her at 13 and began to sexually abuse her at 14. He was the leader of the church’s security team, a well trusted member of the church and trusted by the woman’s family, she wrote.
According to Kosciusko and Wabash county court documents, Houser began having sex with the girl when he was 21-years-old. The woman wrote in her post that Houser “was very good at manipulating situations to get me alone with him.”
“He instilled so much fear to keep the secret,” the woman wrote.
According to court documents, eventually her father found out and police did get involved.
Court records show Houser pled guilty to two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor in Kosciusko County and one count of sexual misconduct with a minor in Wabash County. Indiana Department of Corrections records list his earliest possible release is 2024.
Court records also show church members came to his aid at his sentencing in Wabash County in 2019, writing letters in his support, asking the judge for leniency and at times painting the relationship as consensual – even though Indiana’s age of consent is 16.
“While at church services, Dylan would be serving on the security team and stationed in the hall outside the sanctuary,” a registered nurse wrote in one of the letters. “(The girl) would constantly be in the hallway with him.”
“She would giggle but not return to service. They would be in the hallway laughing and joking,” the letter continued.
“Did Dylan do something wrong? Yes!” one letter from a then-church member reads. “But there are many people who have responsibility in this.” The letter partially blames the girls’ parents for allowing the girl to hang around Houser.
Another letter comes from “marriage mentors” at New Life Church, who met with Houser and his wife for eight weeks in the wake of the charges levied against him. They wrote to the judge of how the couple’s “love for one another is precious.” “They are learning more and more what it means to ‘lay down one’s life for another’ and give for the other person rather than take for themselves,'” the letter reads.
For his part, in a letter to the court, Houser takes responsibility for what he did. Court records show he’s tried to get his sentence modified – which was denied – and has recently requested he be able to serve the rest of his term in a probation program.
“Not a single person reached out to me or my family offering help or prayer,” his victim wrote in her Facebook post. “When court rolled around, 17 families from the church wrote in to the judge. Defaming my character, and my parents character. Explaining how it was my fault, how it was a mutual relationship, how he is just a man that had an affair but he’s changed and he’s a good person.”
Kelly Thompson began noticing things happening that were not in her view of the Bible.
“This might seem small, but I was a person who took my obedience to the Word seriously,” Kelly Thompson said. She added: “One time, we took kids and other people from (New Life Church) shopping to help feed people for Thanksgiving. We went to Aldi and we were pushing carts and baskets around buying food.”
“Well, after we got all this food together, John Lowe wanted to take a photo for the newspaper, and that’s not Biblical. I was all about, you know, when you give, ‘Do not let your right hand know what the left is doing.'” You’re not supposed to give to be known.”
Her reaction to the situation was:
“I pulled my kids out of that photo, and I just went to another room. Then, (John Lowe’s daughter) came out, and told me he really wanted me in the photo. She said he was really mad I wasn’t going to be in the photo. I remember being afraid in that moment, not knowing how this is going to play out in front of my kids, but I wanted my kids to see me take a stand in front of God.”
Kelly Thompson added that she felt as if “I was having to choose Pastor Lowe’s way, or God’s way.”
After pulling her kids from the purity covenant, she pulled them from the church’s school, Kelly Thompson said. Then the Thompsons stopped sitting where they usually sat at service. They pulled the family out of other ministry activities.
Soon, her family stopped attending every service, Kelly Thompson said.
“In a cultish church like this, you have to leave slowly,” she said. “When we left, we left quietly. We didn’t want to spread any gossip.”
Sarah Thompson says her parents thought their children were not as in tune to what was going on within the church at the time. They thought they had left before the children could notice the problems. Then, her sister’s accusations came out.
“They feel bad,” Sarah Thompson said. “I don’t think they knew how much that church affected us until recently. There have been lots of talks, a lot of them saying things like, ‘I didn’t know you guys knew,’ or ‘We didn’t know you guys were picking up on that.'”
Looking back, Sarah Thompson says “the feeling is one of relief.”
“There were nights where I’d see (the Lowes) shopping at Glenbrook Mall, and I worked there, and I would have to hide from the Lowes if I saw either one of them, and I’d sit there and cry.”
“I had recurring dreams while I went to church there, dreams where I was heaving a heavy weight on my shoulders,” Sarah Thompson continued. “It was like Atlas, heaving up the world. I think my subconscious was under a lot of stress there.”
“Once you leave, you’re just glad you made it out,” she said. “You count your blessings.”
Abbey Plummer no longer lives in the area and is remarried with children.
Years later, she commented on a Facebook post about her time at New Life Church. It prompted a text message from Debra Lowe, who Plummer hadn’t heard from in years. Plummer provided a screenshot of the text to WANE TV.
“It really saddened me to see what you said, and I was wondering if you would take it off the Facebook feed,” the message said. “There’s been so many years since the young and dumb and hurtful things of the past and I don’t think it helps anyone to see it on social media.”
“I pray that what ever (sic) hurt (my son) caused you during those years, that God would heal as well as the hurts he also had from that time,” the message continued.
Plummer is not surprised about anything she’s heard but is surprised something substantial actually happened.
John Lowe resigned as pastor. The Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into whether a crime occurred. The Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office began the investigation, but then handed it off to the Indiana State Police due to a “conflict of interest,” a media release said.
In Indiana, 16 is the age of consent unless it involves a special relationship, according to Indiana law.
Indiana code says that’s “a person who: (1) has or had a professional relationship with a child less than eighteen (18) years of age whom the person knows to be less than eighteen (18) years of age; (2) may exert undue influence on the child because of the person’s current or previous professional relationship with the child; and (3) uses or exerts the person’s professional relationship to engage in sexual intercourse, other sexual conduct (as defined in IC 35-31.5-2-221.5 ), or any fondling or touching with the child with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the child or the person; commits child seduction.”
At issue is whether the statute of limitations has run out, or is now extended due to John B. Lowe’s video confession.
“Usually, they’d cover everything up,” Plummer said of the church. “All you’d ever hear is what (the Lowes) wanted you to hear.”
And to those who may question the motives of the woman who came forward, or for those current or former church members who feel sympathy for John Lowe, for the ones who tried to protect him and surround him as these accusations came to light, she asks, “why?”
“He’s had 27 years to confess it,” Plummer said. “And you have no idea what they’ve told (the woman) in the past, or what they made her believe.”