Popular megachurch pastor and author John Ortberg, a mainstay speaker at Christian conferences, author of several best-sellers and pastor of the 4000 member Menlo Church in Menlo Park, California, has resigned after months of sustained scrutiny and scandal over how he handled a pedophile’s presence and role in his church.
In a statement posted on the church website, The Elder Board informed the congregation:
As leaders called by the congregation to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and his Church, the Elder Board and John take seriously Paul’s counsel in Acts 20:28 to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
In this spirit, John shared with the Elder Board on several occasions his love for the church and his willingness to resign if the elders believed his presence had become a distraction from the mission of our church. In recent days and after a process of mutual discernment with John and in consultation with the Presbytery, it is with a heavy heart that the board unanimously concluded that John should resign as Senior Pastor of our church. He agreed and tendered his resignation last week.
Our decision stems from a collective desire for healing and discernment focused on three primary areas. First, John’s poor judgment has resulted in pain and broken trust among many parents, youth, volunteers and staff. Second, the extended time period required to complete the new investigation and rebuild trust will significantly delay our ability to pursue Menlo’s mission with the unity of spirit and purpose we believe God calls us to. Third, in this coming season John needs to focus on healing and reconciliation within his own family. For these reasons, we believe Menlo Church should return our focus to our ultimate mission: helping people find and follow Jesus.
The scandal began 18 months ago when a church volunteer told Pastor Ortberg that he struggled with sexual attraction towards children, but had never acted on it. Ortberg did not act on this information for over a year and did not take steps to prevent the volunteer from further interaction with children. After many months had passed, the volunteer then told another person, a writer at Slate, who happened to be Ortberg’s Son, Daniel Lavery.
Ortberg’s son, Laverly, turned his Father into the elders and the breech to the board. After he felt the investigation into the whole affair was not being taken seriously and thoroughly, he revealed that the volunteer was his brother, who happened to be Ortberg’s other son.
The fact that Ortberg did not tell anyone of his son’s sexual attraction towards minors and did not do anything about it for almost two years, or that even it was his son in the first place, caused a breach of trust and a scandal within the church, culminating with the resignation of Ortberg.
The Elders, who informed that John’s last Sunday would be August 2, closed their letter with this request:
As we look to the future, we fully believe in the redemptive testimony and witness God has planned for him, his family, his ministry, and our church. We have spent years praying for and loving the Ortberg family and ask that you continue to keep them in your prayers in the days ahead.