Australian televangelist John McMartin, a former megachurch pastor and denominational leader, has reportedly been sentenced to an Intensive Correction Order involving three weeks of community service, after being found guilty of assault with an act of indecency.
The order requires McMartin to complete 120 hours of community service, according to Christian news site The Other Cheek. It suspends a 16-month jail term, which McMartin still would be required to serve if he breaches the terms of the Intensive Correction Order.
McMartin founded multi-site megachurch Inspire Church in Hoxton Park near Liverpool and was senior pastor and CEO at the time of his arrest. Authorities charged McMartin in November 2020 over a “sexual incident” in 2013 with a 19-year-old staff member of his church, as The Roys Report (TRR) previously reported.
Sydney-based editor John Sandeman of The Other Cheek reported details after observing McMartin’s latest court hearing.
“In sentencing, the age difference between the complainant and McMartin—19 years old and 58 years—and the abuse of trust because of his position as pastor of the church that was the centre of her and her family’s life, were taken into account,” wrote Sandeman.
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In a statement to TRR, Sandeman noted that the magistrate gave an ex tempore judgment at the latest hearing “so the written record in any case will be delayed.”
The woman reportedly told police McMartin groped her at his home while his wife was out of the country. According to evidence presented in the case, McMartin kissed the young woman’s neck, rubbed her stomach and leg, and put his hands down her blouse to fondle her breasts.
McMartin had testified in his own defense in December, saying he gave the teenager a massage, but denied touching her sexually. The trial judge later found him guilty.
Following charges brought by authorities in fall 2020, McMartin stepped down from his roles at Inspire Church, then resigned a year later.
A spokesperson for Inspire Church told TRR: “We are sorry for all the hurt and pain the last two years of controversy have caused to the families concerned, and to many other people in our congregation. We applaud the woman’s bravery, for being prepared to relive this incident before the courts and apologise
that this occurred to her within the church community, which should be a place of safety.”
McMartin also had been the New South Wales state president of Australian Christian Churches (ACC), formerly called the Assemblies of God in Australia, from 2008 to 2018.
Reactions online question light court sentence
In his reporting from inside the courtroom, editor Sandeman noted that McMartin appeared “tense and worried” when an Intensive Correction Order was initially tabled as an option.
However, after the magistrate issued his sentence, the convicted former pastor seemed positive. “When the hearing finished a smile crossed his face as he left the courtroom,” reported Sandeman.
Observers in Australia and elsewhere expressed dismay that the judgment against McMartin seemed light compared to the severity of his crime.
Former Inspire Church member Stephan Winter commented, “In many churches, the shepherd of the flock is not properly managed (nor is there) governance in place. I feel sorry for those that have been affected by the shepherd’s behaviour.”
Another reader, Erik Pederson, stated: “That sentence is a complete joke.”
And a commenter on Twitter viewed the order from victims’ perspective, saying: “Imagine what that kind of sentence says to any other women/girls he sexually assaulted.”
The reader added: “I see that Inspire Church in Sydney still have many photos, videos, and sermons of their apparently unrepentant founding pastor, John McMartin, up across their social media. Almost like women do not matter AT ALL.”
In their statement, Inspire Church noted that their new leadership plans to “ensure the church has the highest standards of governance and compliance.”
This article has been updated to include a statement from Inspire Church received after initial publication.
Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.
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