Jared Olivetti, senior pastor at Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, Indiana, was placed on leave last week by the governing body of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. News of the action was announced in a letter Thursday from the denomination and reported by the IndyStar.
In early December, allegations that Olivetti had covered up sexual crimes committed by a teenage relative were published by local media. Yet Olivetti preached at Immanuel as recently as January 2, the church’s sermon archive shows.
The Roys Report left a message seeking comment from the church but did not immediately hear back.
This past Sunday, January 9, David Hanson, senior pastor at Southside Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, preached at Immanuel.
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“My being here today is one of the hardest things I’ve done because there’s a certain amount of failure for me to be standing here today,” Hanson, a longtime friend of Olivetti’s, said during the sermon. “This is not where I envisioned or want to be, yet this is exactly where the Lord has placed us today. I grieve with you and don’t pretend to be able to fill in in any adequate way.”
Olivetti helped plant Immanuel Reformed in 2007.
An ecclesiastical trial against Olivetti is pending. The letter from the denomination’s Synod Judicial Commission acknowledges “the gravity of the accusations” and states that Olivetti is to remain on leave until the church’s judicial process is over, the newspaper reported.
Three other elders also face ecclesiastical charges. Charges were dropped against two former elders who resigned after the presbytery investigated.
Pastor Hanson told the West Lafayette church on Sunday that he’d known Olivetti and one of the other elders facing charges since they’d met in college in the 1990s.
“Just to be very, very clear, I dearly love and admire and cherish my friendship with the Olivettis,” he said. “. . . But as dear as the last 25 years of friendship are with so many of you, how much dearer the eternity that we have to spend together, and that the Lord has plans and purposes for all of us that he is working out. So we come to the Lord this morning seeking his comfort, seeking his guidance, seeking the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst. . . .”
Olivetti is accused of using his authority to interfere with his church’s investigation into a teenage boy’s abuse of other children at the church. Parents previously told the IndyStar the teen abused their children multiple ways, from touching over and under clothes to oral-genital contact and penetration.
Denominational authorities appointed an ecclesiastical judicial commission months after the first allegations surfaced. Church documents show the commission considered charging Olivetti with leading the church in a way that’s contrary to God’s law, but the presbytery didn’t pursue the charges.
Shawn Anderson, pastor of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church in Kokomo, Indiana, was one of the presbytery’s investigators. He said the presbytery appointed him and two others to bring formal charges against Olivetti. However, Anderson said the presbytery ultimately “waited to see how the synod would handle the complaints that came before them.”
Since the synod decided to take jurisdiction, the matter was removed from the presbytery’s responsibility, Anderson said.
Olivetti’s church trial on the synod’s charges is expected to start in March, the IndyStar reported. The other charged elders are to face trial separately.
Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.