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John Ortberg’s Former Megachurch Terminates Worship Leader for Soliciting Nude Photos

By Jackson Elliott
Menlo Church Michael Bryce
Michael Bryce, former worship leader at Menlo Church. (Source: YouTube/Menlo Church)

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 ElliottJackson 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.



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11 thoughts on “John Ortberg’s Former Megachurch Terminates Worship Leader for Soliciting Nude Photos”

  1. Grainne Mcdonald

    Hardly just “ poor judgement “. His behavior should be called “sinful” and unbefitting of a church member, let alone a leader. Jesus was severe in His condemnation of those who lead His little ones astray. This leader has damaged another in a way which could have eternal consequences for the victim. Corinthians has a serious view of such sin. At least the Menlo church has removed this man but seems to have fallen into the usual “ we are all sinners” mantra.

  2. To me, “poor judgement” sounds like the time my six yr old decided to put some blankets below the bunk bed and then jump from the top bunk. Sprained ankle. Isn’t “poor judgement” a phrase used to describe when someone harms themselves through bad decision-making? It’s a very “soft” phrase for an evangelical church to use for homosexual clergy sexual abuse, possibly of a minor.

    1. Thank you for pointing out that this is “homosexual clergy” sexual abuse of a young man. I am tired of the line our culture rams down our throats that homosexual and straight abuse are equal. They are not according to what is in the scriptures. In the O.T. God put up with a whole lot of straight sexual sin, but not any gay practices at all. There is no history of a town or a tribe of Israel being almost entirely wiped out because of straight sexual abuse. But he did not tolerate bi-sexual sin at all.

      I am also tired of the line coming from the church that ignores the power differential between leaders and the flock. Affairs and all other forms of abuse within a church or parachurch organization are examples of people gaining power to leverage it over others. This is never a consensual situation, not that that is any excuse either. When God set up the rules for a nation there was zero tolerance for affairs and all manner of homosexual sin. These were crimes of a capital offence kind. This is a fact that we should not ignore just in order to fit into politically correct culture.

      1. You comment regarding homosexual and strait abuse not being equal is true and should be pointed out more considering the times we live in.

        Homosexuality has always existed, however, when that vile sin is excepted by a society as a whole, judgment is coming, soon.

        God didn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for adulery, lying and theft. God destroyed because sexual perversion, homosexuality in particular, was excepted as the expectable way of life.

        True born again Christians know better.

        1. God also destroyed the town because of their abuse of the poor. But given what else we know it is obvious that if you were straight and poor you did not want to step foot inside the place, less you get gang raped by the men there. This should be obvious to everyone. There may have very well been other abuses of the poor, but gang raping really takes the cake.

          This is one of the messages that I must deliver. And how frustrating it is that over on Wartburg Watch I cannot do so. There is a pro-gay bias over there that refuses to look at facts or even dare consider that just practicing LGBTQ anything is actually another form of abuse, even though the scriptures make it clear that it is both self-abuse and abusing the one that you are sleeping with. On another thread here I just posted up this which is professional references to the high, high rate of child molestation in that community:

          This same post talks about how 1/3 of victims are boys and 1/3 of offenders are gay men and that the total number of female offenders is very small, less than 1% among many other things from certain studies on pedophilia:
          One – The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy published a study on the same topic, which discussed “the proportional prevalences of heterosexual and homosexual pedophilia.” The study commented on a study that found that “the percentage of the homosexual pedophiles would be 45.8.” Even adjusted downward for exhibitionists, “this would still indicate a much higher percentage (34 percent) of homosexuals among pedophiles than among men who prefer physically mature partners.”
          Two – The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology refers to homosexual pedophiles as a “distinct group.” The victims of homosexual pedophiles “were more likely to be strangers, that they were more likely to have engaged in paraphiliac behavior separate from that involved in the offense, and that they were more likely to have past convictions for sexual offenses. . . . Other studies greater risk of re-offending than those who had offended against girls” and that the “recidivism rate for male-victim offenders is approximately twice that for female-victim offenders.”
          Three – A study in Archives of Sexual Behavior found that homosexual men are attracted to young males. The study compared the sexual age preferences of heterosexual men, heterosexual women, homosexual men, and lesbians. The results showed that, in marked contrast to the other three categories, “all but 9 of the 48 homosexual men preferred the youngest two male age categories,” which included males as young as age fifteen.
          Four – A study on pedophilia in the Psychiatric Journal of the University of Ottawa reported: “According to the literature, findings of a two-to-one ratio of heterosexual to homosexual pedophiles have been documented.”
          Five – The Journal of Sex Research reports a study that included “199 offenders against female children and 96 offenders against male children. . . . This would indicate a proportional prevalence of 32 percent of homosexual offenders against children.”
          Six – A study of male child sex offenders in Child Abuse and Neglect found that fourteen percent targeted only males, and a further 28 percent chose males as well as females as victims, thus indicating that 42 percent of male pedophiles engaged in homosexual molestation.
          Seven – The best epidemiological evidence indicates that only 2 to 4 percent of men attracted to adults prefer men (ACSF Investigators, 1992; Billy et al.,1993; Fay et al.,1989; Johnson et al.,1992); in contrast, around 25 to 40 percent of men attracted to children prefer boys (Blanchard et al.,1999; Gebhard et al.,1965; Mohr et al.,1964). Thus, the rate of homosexual attraction is 6 to 20 times higher among pedophiles.”
          Eight – The stark imbalance between homosexual and heterosexual child molestationswas confirmed in the Archives of Sexual Behavior study itself, which divided 260 pedophile participants into three groups: “152 heterosexual pedophiles (men with offenses or self-reported attractions involving girls only), 43 bisexual pedophiles (boys and girls), and 65 homosexual pedophiles (boys only).” In other words, 25 percent of the offenders were homosexual pedophiles–or 41 percent if those who molest girls as well as boys are included.
          Nine – Homosexual pedophiles sexually molest children at a far greater rate compared to the percentage of homosexuals in the general population. A study in the Journal of Sex Research found, as we have noted above, that “approximately one-third of had victimized boys and two-thirds had victimized girls.” The authors then make a prescient observation: “Interestingly, this ratio differs substantially from the ratio of gynephiles (men who erotically prefer physically mature females) to androphiles (men who erotically prefer physically mature males), which is at least 20 to 1.”

  3. He may have done other things. Predators rarely try something just once, but they do get better at hiding it. To be continued….

  4. If more churches would react like Menlo did when this latest incident came to light, the greater church would be a lot healthier and Julie would have less to write about. The contrast with places like Sovereign Grace Ministries could not be more striking.

  5. “And it encouraged anyone with concerns to contact a campus pastor or an outside party, Zero Abuse.”

    Why not just encourage them to contact the police? Why a filter if someone suspects a crime? Police investigate crimes.

  6. What’s “already not yet”. Is that some sort of trade name?

    Making great show of harshness on mere “poor judgment”.

    Making great show of “good news” for Bryce when John III could simply have been released from the diseased concept of family duty imposed, Piper style, by his dad.

    Even their “worship” needs its own pastoring.

    Even their “campus” needs its own pastoring.

    Bryce could see Menlo was a great place to “compound”.

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