NOTE: Repeated attempts by WANE TV to get comment from John B. Lowe II and his wife, Debra Lowe, for stories about New Life Christian Church & World Outreach have been met with silence. Last week, WANE TV went to the door of their home. There, their oldest son and current church preacher, John Bryan Lowe III, told a team from WANE TV he will not make any comment on any story and his parents will not respond to questions. WANE TV left a letter asking for comment from the Lowes, should they ever change their minds.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Today, she is a 28-year-old theological seminary graduate working in higher education and living in Los Angeles.
A video that went viral this past May, though, brought her right back to being a 6-year-old girl in the basement of her Warsaw home one night when she was sexually abused.
Jessi Kline is sharing her story about a son of former New Life Christian Church & World Outreach head pastors who she said molested her, and she claims those pastors – John B. Lowe II and his wife Debra Lowe – knew about the abuse yet never went to police.
The one who did the molesting was the Lowes’ middle son, according to Kline and official government documents.
“They said, ‘Don’t go to the authorities, we’re going to handle this internally,'” Kline said the Lowes told her and her family after the allegations came to light. “‘We’re going to do this the biblical way.'”
John Lowe and the Warsaw church made headlines worldwide recently when he confessed to “adultery” on video after a sermon.
That confession to his congregation was interrupted by a now 43-year-old woman who said she was 16 years old when Lowe, who would’ve been in his late 30s at the time, took her virginity on the floor of his office.
The video garnered more than a million views, and on social media more stories of abuse at the hands of church members began to spread. One of the first and more prominent stories to make the rounds was Kline’s, who spoke to WANE TV after consulting legal counsel.
She said the Lowes’ middle son molested her while babysitting her and her older brother.
WANE TV is not naming the Lowes’ son accused of the molesting because he has not been charged with or convicted of a sex crime, but in the past he has been named in at least two Indiana Department of Child Services reports alleging sexual abuse.
That includes a report from 2007 that has details of what happened between he and Kline. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Prior to her interview and prior to WANE TV obtaining a report with the Lowes’ son identified as a suspect in the molesting, Kline agreed to refer to him as a “church member” in interviews.
She has publicly and to WANE TV identified this church member as the Lowes’ middle son, who is now 39 years old.
“My parents needed a babysitter for my brother and I, and this church member was a male, but it’s me and my brother and what not, and this church member was a very trusted part of the New Life inner circle,” Kline told us. “So this church member was my babysitter, someone that we trusted and we knew and we loved. Someone I personally looked up to. I thought this church member was amazing. Little did I know there was a dark side to this person.
“This church member was with us in the basement,” Kline told WANE TV. “I think we were playing video games. It was dark, and the next thing I know he asks me if I want to play a game. So he sends my brother upstairs to get a drink, and during that time he asked me to come over to him on the couch and get on top of him, where he proceeded to teach me how to kiss and various other sexual acts.”
Kline’s brother, Taylor English, remembers the Lowes’ middle son bringing over packs of Mountain Dew or Mountain Dew Code Red and having him go upstairs to grab one from time to time during the handful of times he babysat the children.
According to the child protective services report – provided to WANE TV by Kline, along with her own redactions – Kline and her parents met with a family case manager and now-retired Det. Steve Adang of the Warsaw Police Department multiple times.
While Adang watched, the family case manager asked Kline what happened between her and the Lowes’ son the night she was molested.
“(The family case manager) ascertained that (the Lowes’ son) kissed Jessica on the lips and put a pillow over her face while he fondled her feet,” the child protective services report said.
Later, Adang interviewed the Lowes’ son, the report said.
“(The Lowes’ son) admitted to Adang that he kissed Jessica and had her lay on top of him. (The Lowes’ son) also admitted to covering her face with a pillow and being aroused by her feet,” the report said.
According to Kline, the Lowes’ son told her never to say what happened. If she did, she would get hurt, he would get hurt and that Pastor John B. Lowe would be mad at her – something scary for a child whose entire existence at that point had been the church, Kline said.
“(The Lowes’ son) was older, very charismatic, very funny and really well-liked,” Kline told WANE TV. “Like I said, (he) was such a part of the inner circle of New Life, and New Life was my entire life, I automatically put him on a pedestal, like the Lowe family.”
Finding favor from the Lowes was something people in the church strove for, according to Kline.
“The way they practiced their religion, if you want to call it that, was charismatic,” Kline said. “Their personalities were larger than life.”
“They’re very glamourous, very confident, and you couldn’t help but want to please them, to be close to them and be liked by them,” she continued.
Kline kept silent about what happened for years, but eventually she told her best friend. A few more years passed, and during a party not held at the church, an adult overheard Kline’s best friend talking to another child about what happened.
That adult then went to Kline’s family, who were in the middle of a church service that very night, and pulled them aside to tell them what happened, according to Jessi Kline and her mother, Kris Phelps-Kline.
Church leadership was also alerted.
Jessi Kline was 13 by then. She knows it was a night in September 2006.
Some of this is detailed in the child protective services report provided by Kline.
Phelps-Kline told WANE TV she remembers asking her daughter about the molesting and listening to the specifics. Then she remembers meeting with John and Debra Lowe along with Phelps-Kline’s husband.
“We waited until the end of service, and someone got John and Debbie Lowe, and brought them to their office,” Phelps-Kline said. “We were in there, the four of us, and we told them what we were told. They called (their son) and asked him to come back.”
According to Phelps-Kline, they told the Lowes’ son about the accusations and he confessed.
“(The Lowes’ son) said ‘Yes, it was true,'” Phelps-Kline said.
Jessi Kline remembers being involved in at least parts of that meeting, as well.
“The thing is, though, John (Lowe) was not surprised, whatsoever,” Kline told WANE TV. “I was there in the room when John Lowe called (this son). When he did, it was so nonchalant. It was, ‘Hey, Jessi’s here, you need to come down. You need to come down right now.’ He was so unsurprised and so unemotional.”
“(The Lowes’ son) comes back, and they meet the adults, without me in the room for a bit, where he confesses to the church leaders,” Kline continued. “(He) admits it to my family and to the Lowes, and then I was asked to go in there and face him, sit in front of him, hear out his apology and tell him I forgive him, because according to the Lowes, I needed to forgive like Christ forgave, because essentially if I don’t do that there is eternal damnation.”
“So it’s forgive my abuser right now or go to hell,” she added.
Her mother remembered having to do the same thing, on the spot.
“I made a really good Christian, trying to follow forgiveness and everything,” Phelps-Kline said. “Forgive and say it out loud and the feelings will follow. Well, the feelings have NEVER followed, I can tell you.”
While all of this happened, Klines’ brother was with the Lowes’ oldest son, John Bryan Lowe. At the time, he was the head youth pastor. Today he still preaches at New Life Church.
“He took me to his apartment, and I think just to get me away while these things were being discussed,” Taylor English said.
At no time was there any talk about going to the police or law enforcement, both Kline and Phelps-Kline said.
In fact, that was discouraged, Kline and her mother said.
Phelps-Kline worked at the church helping to run the school there. According to Indiana law, people in positions of authority – such as teachers and pastors – are required to report any signs or accusations of child abuse to authorities.
“The (family case manager) asked why the Klines did not report the sexual abuse. Both indicated they were unaware they had to report and Pastor Lowe did not advise them of such,” the child protective services report reads.
According to the child protective services report, Phelps-Kline had contacted a counselling ministry in Texas to help their daughter and the Lowes’ son. The Lowes’ son, however, never participated in any counselling or therapy, according to the report.
“It was, ‘Let’s get (their son) some help, let’s deal with this ourselves,” Phelps-Kline said, talking about the Lowes’ approach to the situation. “I had no idea I had a responsibility to go to the police. I had these two people I looked up to saying, ‘Let’s take care of this. We’ll get him help and we’ll get Jessi help.'”
“Months went by, and nothing happened,” Phelps-Kline said.
Jessi Kline said in the months before going to police, she had counselling sessions with the Lowes’ oldest son.
“I trusted him and loved him, and was desperate for help and he offered it to me,” she said.
Phelps-Kline and her family had attended the church for 17 years up to that point, she said. As things played out, though, she knew they could not stay. The straw that broke the camel’s back for her was when she saw the man accused of molesting her daughter working in the nursery during one service.
“I stopped the pastor and asked, ‘Why is he in there? He should not be taking care of anyone’s children after what he’s done,'” Phelps-Kline said. “John Lowe said, ‘Well, there’s nobody else. Nobody is volunteering. You go in there every service and take care of the kids so he won’t have to.'”
The next day, Phelps-Kline called church members who were heading up children’s services. She said she told them what happened between the Lowes’ and her daughter.
“(Pastor Lowe) got wind of this and called an emergency meeting of all the leadership of the church, and he said, basically, that we were making a mountain out of a molehill, that (their son) barely did anything, and we were makin a big fuss,” Phelps-Kline said. “Debbie left the room crying, and all these women went and took care of her. One person stood up and asked, ‘Who is checking on the Klines?'”
“Nobody. Nobody came forward,” Phelps-Kline said. “Nobody did (expletive).”
Both Jessi Kline and her mother say they went to the Warsaw Police Department with the molesting accusations after the Lowes’ son did not attend counselling and nothing happened to him.
Since the video of John B. Lowe went viral, Kline said she has requested copies of her report from the police. Police have yet to tell her whether they can find it or not. WANE TV reached out to the Warsaw Police Department with the same request but has not received a response as of yet.
WANE TV also reached out to the Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office requesting any reports regarding Jessi Kline or the Lowe’s middle son.
“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,” Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton wrote to WANE TV.
Officials in the child protective services report substantiated Kline’s claims, the report said. It also noted a report would be forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.
Another woman who came forward with molesting accusations against the Lowes’ middle son, Laura Bohnke, ran into a similar situation with law enforcement.
She went to the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, her claims were substantiated by the department of child services, and no charges were ever filed. After the viral video came out, Bohnke had trouble finding out if police reports or recordings of her interview with police even existed anymore.
“The Warsaw Police Department, the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department and the Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office should answer for their inaction,” Kline said.
Phelps-Kline said she fell ill after leaving the church, believing it was due to the stress of everything that transpired.
“We lost a church we had attended for 17 years, all of our friends, all of my children’s friends,” Phelps-Kline said. “Basically we had to start all of that part of our life all over again.”
Today, Phelps-Kline is a hospice nurse. She no longer attends a church after her experiences with the Lowes. Her daughter forwarded the viral video of John Lowe confessing about his “affair” with a 16-year-old, and she watched how the church’s history unraveled in a public way.
John Lowe stepped down as head pastor. His oldest son, John Bryan Lowe still preaches at the church. John Bryan Lowe said his parents will not comment to or take any questions from the media. The Indiana State Police are investigating whether John Lowe committed a crime.
While trying to track down her police reports in the aftermath of the John Lowe video, Jessi Kline said she reached out to the Indiana State Police to see if they could do anything. She said she was told no. But once state police opened up an investigation, they reached out to her for more information, Kline said.
For her mother, the viral video made old pain new again.
“It tore open the whole wound,” Phelps-Kline said. “I realized how much I closed the door on it and never dealt with it. It’s been fresh again.”
Jessi Kline, who went on to graduate from Fuller Theological Seminary in California, said she remembers crying while watching the viral video and being filled with a mix of emotions.
“Finally, this man is showing others his true self, this malicious sinister person, who hurts people for his own gain and own power,” Kline said. “And (the woman who came forward) gave me the gift of being able to come forward again, as a 28-year-old who wants justice and is ready to pursue justice.”
Jessi Kline has one simple message about what she wants to see happen now.
“I would like to see the church shut down,” she said. “None of the Lowes should have any kind of power there.”
“The church has been a source of extreme pain and abuse, not only to the victims and family of the victims, but to the entire community and it should no longer be in service,” Kline continued. “I think John Lowe and his son should turn themselves in, I think they should pay restitution and I think they should serve prison time.”