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Jeff Jakes, lead pastor at Orangewood Church and Christian School in Maitland, Florida, resigned today over sexual misconduct allegations. Orangewood Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) — a Fundamentalist sect.
The probe was conducted by GRACE, an independent Christian organization that investigates claims of abuse and misconduct within religious institutions. GRACE said it spoke to 76 witnesses and surveyed more than 600 Orangewood community members.
It began after a former intern, Katherine Snyder, accused Jakes of abusing his position as youth pastor in 1998 by expressing romantic feelings, making comments about her body and detailing his own fantasies when she was 18. The behavior, she said in a Facebook post in February, continued while she attended college.
The report validated Snyder’s claims and criticized Jakes for saying he regretted “confusing” the former intern, a description GRACE said “marginalizes her dignity and robs her of the honor she deserves in bringing very painful events to light.”
Jakes has previously denied Snyder’s allegations.
One former associate pastor explained to GRACE that the Maitland church had handled the claims against Jakes “by considering it a ‘private sin’ and not a ‘public sin’.”
In its letter reacting to the findings, church leaders admitted “some of our earliest public statements only made matters worse” for victims, “including the use of a term like sexual misconduct without a full understanding for what that term means.”
Church leaders’ initial framing of Snyder’s allegations against Jakes — as nonsexual or, in one elder’s description, an “inappropriate emotional relationship” — angered Snyder, who said he touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable, such as kissing her cheek or caressing her hair.
While the church said it would accept Jakes’ resignation, it added that he could return to preaching in the future.
“It should be noted that the Session has found that Jeff is not disqualified from future pastoral ministry,” the church wrote in its letter. “After a time of counseling, study, healing and restoration, we believe Jeff can effectively serve in pastoral ministry.”
GRACE also reviewed claims of sexual abuse in the mid-’90s from at least three former students against then-Orangewood school coach Timothy Manes, concluding the school mishandled these allegations as well, including by not reporting them to authorities.
Among other recommendations, GRACE said Orangewood should provide funding for counseling received by victims of past sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse from members of the Orangewood community as well as ongoing training for staff.
No one will face criminal charges, and it is likely that Jakes, after spending time in sackcloth and ashes, will rise from the ashes of sexual improprieties and pastor again. Can’t keep a God-called preacher down, right?