A Virginia megachurch pastor has returned to the pulpit—again—and says he’s “moving forward with legal action,” following an ongoing saga that began last year when he was caught in a prostitution sting.
Appearing before his congregation on Sunday, John D. Blanchard, pastor of Rock Church International in Virginia Beach, said the accusations against him were “demonstrably false” and part of “smear campaigns against me and this church.”
“But today I’m here to announce enough is enough,” Blanchard said, adding, “You can dress up a lie. You can twist it. You can misrepresent it. But I’m sorry, a lie is still a lie.”
Blanchard didn’t state what specifically he denied. He was originally arrested in October 2021 during a sting in which an officer posed online as a teenage girl offering sex at a motel. Authorities alleged Blanchard and 16 other men had been “soliciting sex from minors.”
Shortly afterward, a former church employee also accused Blanchard of sexually assaulting her and suing her after she went to police.
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In October 2022, the charges against Blanchard were dropped, and Blanchard returned to preaching.
However, last month, state delegate and attorney Tim Anderson began calling attention to details in the police report underlying the criminal charges against Blanchard. Anderson publicly stated he believes “there’s no excuse not to prosecute this case.”
Under public pressure, Blanchard again stepped away from leading Rock Church. But this past Sunday, he returned defiant.
“(P)articular organizations and individuals have made it very clear that they intend to destroy our church, my family, and this ministry,” Blanchard said.
“They’ve really left us no other choice but to fight for the truth . . . Under the counsel of the leadership, we are moving forward with legal action. This matter will be addressed in a court of law.”
Blanchard and his wife, Robin Blanchard, are the senior pastors of Rock Church. Anne Gimenez, Robin Blanchard’s mother, co-founded the church and was its senior pastor from 1999 until the Blanchards took that role in 2013. Gimenez remains the church’s bishop.
The pastor at a nearby Southern Baptist church criticized Rock Church’s “poor handling” of the situation.
“The Biblical qualifications for pastors are clear,” Brent Hobbs of New Song Fellowship escribió on Facebook. “Above reproach is the standard. I continue to call on Rock Church to commission an independent, third party investigation of his actions, with full cooperation and access to all related evidence, producing a public report at its conclusion.”
Hobbs added he believes the woman alleging sexual assault.
Hobbs said he’s aware of Blanchard’s previous suits alleging defamation and said he has “no idea” if he’ll be sued for speaking out.