Menlo Church investigation finds no direct evidence or disclosures of sexual abuse
(RNS) — A 3rd-party investigation at one in all Northern California’s most distinguished megachurches that consumed its congregation and former pastor’s fractious household ended this week with a report that discovered no proof the pastor’s grownup little one had acted on his confessed attraction to minors.
“After interviewing 104 witnesses and reviewing or analyzing greater than 500,000 paperwork, Zero Abuse Venture didn’t discover any disclosure or different direct proof the volunteer in query sexually abused a baby,” mentioned the report by the agency employed by Menlo Church close to San Francisco to review its dealing with of the confession.
In 2018, one in all Pastor John Ortberg’s offspring, referred to solely as “Particular person A” within the report however recognized in earlier information studies as Johnny Ortberg, confessed to having lengthy been sexually interested in kids.
John Ortberg, a bestselling creator who performed a task in exposing misconduct by former Willow Creek pastor Invoice Hybels, didn’t report the confession to church employees or different leaders. Nor did he take away Particular person A from volunteering with kids on the church or insist the volunteer cease teaching a youth sports activities workforce.
The matter remained secret till one other Ortberg member of the family, Daniel Lavery, knowledgeable church leaders. The pastor was suspended in late 2019 and was allowed to return, however the congregation was not advised in regards to the household connection between Particular person A and their pastor.
“ … Zero Abuse concludes that the choice of the Senior Pastor to not confide in church leaders or others the dialog he had with the volunteer, in addition to the choice of the church Elders to not be absolutely clear about this example, precipitated important injury to the Menlo neighborhood,” the report states.
The report discovered leaders had harmed the church by withholding key info from congregation members, together with that the church volunteer who had confessed to being interested in kids was associated to Menlo pastor John Ortberg. Zero Abuse Venture was additionally crucial of Ortberg, who resigned in the summertime of 2020 after months of controversy on the church.
The report additionally discovered flaws within the church’s little one safety insurance policies and really helpful a sequence of adjustments, together with that the church undertake a restorative justice course of in an effort to rebuild belief.
The assessment by Zero Abuse did uncover an unrelated incident of sexual misconduct by a employees member at Menlo. Through the assessment, the church discovered a employees member had allegedly solicited nude images from a teenage boy whereas serving on employees at one other church.
“We suggested and assisted Menlo in reporting this case to the authorities and in addition suggested Menlo to terminate the employment of this particular person,” Zero Abuse said in its report. “Menlo did terminate this particular person’s employment and communicated this case to its neighborhood and the general public.”
Zero abuse additionally discovered that Particular person A was typically alone with particular person youth group members, together with giving them rides dwelling, however discovered no proof of grooming or abuse. On the time, church guidelines didn’t ban volunteers from being alone with kids or youth of the alternative intercourse.
The report additionally raised concern a few laptop computer belonging to Particular person A, which had gone lacking at one level. A number of witnesses reported that Particular person A was involved about their search historical past being reviewed, due to visits to websites about individuals who had been interested in kids. Particular person A denied any criminal activity to the witnesses Zero Abuse spoke to.
“In our dialog with him, Particular person A additionally denied doing something unlawful with the laptop computer. Nonetheless, he did decline our supply to look at the laptop computer,” the report said. The report additionally said the proof “helps a conclusion that Particular person A’s laptop computer had a search historical past associated to his attraction to kids.”
Zero Abuse really helpful Menlo Church take a lot of steps, together with hiring a full-time little one safety director, strengthening its little one safety coverage and increasing its obligatory reporter coaching.
Church leaders plan to carry an open home on Sunday (Oct. 17) to debate the report. In addition they apologized for a way church leaders acted.
“We mourn the harm we’ve got precipitated, and we hope the completion and findings of this investigation are the subsequent steps in a therapeutic journey,” John Crosby, the church’s transitional pastor, and David Kim, chair of the church session, mentioned in a letter to the congregation.