(RNS) — A 3rd-party investigation at considered one of northern California’s most outstanding 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 baby had acted on his confessed attraction to minors.
“After interviewing 104 witnesses and reviewing or analyzing greater than 500,000 paperwork, Zero Abuse Undertaking didn’t discover any disclosure or different direct proof the volunteer in query sexually abused a baby,” mentioned the reportt by the agency employed by Menlo Church close to San Francisco to check its dealing with of the confession.
In 2018, considered one of 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 youngsters.
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 workers or different leaders. Nor did he take away Particular person A from volunteering with youngsters on the church or insist the volunteer cease teaching as 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 case, induced 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 youngsters was associated to Menlo pastor John Ortberg. Zero Abuse Undertaking was additionally essential 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 baby safety insurance policies and beneficial a collection of modifications, together with that the church undertake a restorative justice course of with a purpose to rebuild belief.
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The assessment by Zero Abuse did uncover an unrelated incident of sexual misconduct by a workers member at Menlo. Throughout the assessment, the church realized a workers member had allegedly solicited nude pictures from a teenage boy whereas serving on workers 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 acknowledged 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 usually alone with particular person youth group members, together with given them rides house however discovered no proof of grooming or abuse. On the time, church guidelines didn’t ban volunteers from being alone with youngsters or youth of the alternative intercourse.
The report additionally raised concern a couple of 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 have been interested in youngsters. 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 acknowledged. The report additionally acknowledged the proof “helps a conclusion that Particular person A’s laptop computer had a search historical past associated to his attraction to youngsters.”
Zero Abuse beneficial Menlo Church take a variety of steps, together with hiring a full-time baby safety director, strengthening its baby safety coverage and increasing its necessary reporter coaching.
Church leaders plan to carry an open home on October 17 to debate the report. In addition they apologized for a way church leaders acted.
“We mourn the damage now we have induced, 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.
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