The California megachurch recently rocked by revelations its former pastor, John Ortberg, had allowed a volunteer with an attraction to children to work with minors is dealing with yet another scandal.
Ortberg resigned from Menlo Church in July, after it was revealed that Ortberg had allowed his son, John “Johnny” Ortbreg III, to volunteer with children. This reportedly continued after Johnny had told his father about “an unwanted thought pattern of attraction to minors.”
Now a Menlo worship pastor, Michael Bryce Jr., has been fired for repeatedly asking for nude photos from a teenage boy while working at a previous church in Oklahoma.
In a statement this week, Menlo said Bryce confirmed that he had solicited the photos. Yet it added that the Oklahoma City Police Department (OCPD) had decided not to file charges for two reasons.
One, police were unable to determine whether the victim was 16, 17, or 18 years old at the time the photos were solicited. Two, there was uncertainty about whether the solicitation had occurred within OCPD’s jurisdiction.
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“While this is positive news for Michael, we recognize and sympathize with the victim who was solicited,” Menlo’s statement said.
In an interview with The Roys Report, Menlo Church executive team member Sue Kim-Ahn added:“Because the victim is somebody unknown to our church family, but Michael is somebody known to our church family, there could be a natural tendency to sympathize with the person who is known. We wanted to emphasize that our greater concern is for the victim.”
According to Menlo’s statement, the allegations against Bryce first came to light in March.
After hearing news about a prominent Christian leader engaged in a pattern of sexual misconduct, Bryce’s victim—now a young adult—experienced “unexplained anger,” the statement said. It added that this caused the man to seek help from a therapist and eventually to contact Menlo.
According to Kim-Ahn, the church reacted to the abuse allegation quickly. On March 19, four days after hearing the accusation, Menlo Church fired Bryce, citing “inappropriate behavior online.” The church also contacted Oklahoma City Police.
The church’s statement described Bryce’s decision to solicit nude photos from a teenager as “poor judgement . . . which was compounded by his withholding of this information while he was hired at Menlo Church.”
It added: “Neither action is consistent with our expectations of our staff. While we recognize that nobody’s perfect, our church staff are key leaders in our church family.”
The statement acknowledged that Bryce’s past actions have been difficult for congregants to reconcile with “the Michael they knew.”
“This is a reminder to all of us that we live the already-not-yet life, completely forgiven by Jesus and still needing sanctification each day,” the statement said.
Menlo Church said knows of no other sexual misconduct incidents by Bryce. However, the church said a forensic specialist will examine Bryce’s computer. And it encouraged anyone with concerns to contact a campus pastor or an outside party, Zero Abuse.
Jackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.