Opinion: John Ortberg and the Problem of Replatforming Leaders After Scandal

By Julie Roys
John Ortberg resign
John Ortberg preaches at Menlo church in 2020. (Video screengrab via Menlo Church)

In 2020, popular Christian author and pastor John Ortberg resigned from Menlo Church, after admitting he’d allowed his adult son, who’d confessed an attraction to children, to continue to volunteer with minors. Ortberg also didn’t inform his congregation or other church leaders of his son’s attraction—something Menlo’s elders called a “betrayal of trust.”

John Ortberg The Ascent
John Ortberg is a featured mentor with The Ascent. (Screengrab)

Now, just 18 months after his resignation, Ortberg is giving church leaders lessons in “Craft and Character” as part of a leadership program offered by The Ascent, a Christian consulting group.

Last week, Nancy Beach—former programming director at Willow Creek Community Church and a “coach” with The Ascent—posted on Facebook that she had just led a cohort with Ortberg.

“I love coaching this Craft and Character cohort!” she wrote. “That’s John Ortberg . . . who mentored us all day yesterday. What a gift!”

I respect Nancy Beach. As one of the first to speak out about Bill Hybels’ abuse, she has consistently shown uncommon courage and grace.

Give a gift of $25 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Untwisting Scriptures: Wolves, Hypocrisy, Sin Leveling and Righteousness” by Rebecca Davis.  to donate, click here.

Similarly, Ortberg was one of the first high-profile leaders to publicly support Beach and Hybels’ other victims in 2018. This was at great risk to Ortberg personally and showed bravery, as well.

Yet, I am stunned Ortberg is so promptly returning to ministry after what happened at Menlo, and even mentoring leaders on character.

Ortberg apparently is also consulting with churches, and potentially returning to preaching.

Just recently, Eric Parks, a pastor at Forest City Church in Rockford, Illinois, announced to his congregation the “top secret” news that he and other pastors were flying to California to consult with Ortberg about Forest City’s emerging discipleship program.

Parks added, “We’re hopeful that might lead to getting (Ortberg) in our pulpit every now and again.”

A familiar pattern for evangelical leaders

Ortberg’s return follows a familiar pattern in evangelicalism. A leader becomes embroiled in scandal at one location—then takes some time off and replatforms somewhere else.

It’s what Mark Driscoll did when he planted The Trinity Church in 2016, just two years after decimating Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

It’s what Luke MacDonald, James MacDonald’s equally abusive son, did after leaving Harvest Bible Chapel in 2019. After a quick stint at a church in Los Angeles, Luke returned to Chicago, and now is starting his own church.

It’s what Bryan Loritts did after leaving a church in Memphis where, at minimum, he horribly mishandled the sex crimes of his brother-in-law—and at worst, participated in a cover-up. Loritts went to a church in New York, then California, and then to J.D. Greear’s The Summit Church in North Carolina. And for a year during that time, Loritts also touted a fake doctorate.

Though Ortberg probably doesn’t deserve mention with some of these egregious and repeat offenders, his return still highlights the same problem.

There is no true process in evangelicalism for qualifying leaders once they’re disqualified. Instead, the compromised leader generally leverages his extraordinary gifting, charisma, and relational capital to gain critical mass. And voilá, he’s back.

Who’s holding leaders to account?

In Ortberg’s case, some might argue he’s completed a restoration process.

Following revelations in 2019 that he had failed to protect minors from an unnamed church “volunteer” with an attraction to children, Ortberg took a leave of absence. During that time, he met with church members, staff, volunteers, and elders to listen, apologize, and try to rebuild trust.

In February 2020, about two months after Ortberg was placed on leave, Menlo’s elders announced: “The Board has full confidence in John as our spiritual leader and together we look forward to him preaching again . . .”

Yet at the time, neither the elders nor Ortberg had revealed the identity of the “volunteer” in question to the congregation. And months later, the church was stunned when one of Ortberg’s children disclosed on social media that the “volunteer” was Ortberg’s son, who had served at the church for years.

At that point, it became clear that an initial investigation Menlo had commissioned had been woefully incomplete and the elders ordered a new investigation. They also announced that trust had been so profoundly broken that it was better for Ortberg and the church to part ways.

In a statement in July 2020, the elders wrote: “John’s poor judgment has resulted in pain and broken trust among many parents, youth, volunteers and staff. . . . (T)he extended time period required to complete the new investigation and rebuild trust will significantly delay our ability to pursue Menlo’s mission . . .”

Similarly, a second investigation later found that Ortberg’s decision not to share his son’s revelation with other leaders, and the elders’ decision “not to be fully transparent,” caused “significant damage to the Menlo community.” (Fortunately, the investigation also found no direct evidence of child sexual abuse by Ortberg’s son.)

Yet, this train wreck didn’t preclude Ortberg from promptly returning to public ministry.

Ortberg resigned from Menlo in July 2020. Four months later, he was listed as a mentor for a cohort on “Craft & Character” with The Ascent.

How Ortberg went from the debacle at Menlo to mentoring Christian leaders, without any formal process of restoration, is beyond me.

Yet, in evangelicalism, it seems the only qualification for leadership is the ability to attract followers. And evangelicals are quick to follow charismatic leaders, regardless of past scandals.

Pastors promoting disqualified pastors

The willingness of other pastors and Christian organizations to replatform compromised pastors, even when it’s premature or unwise, contributes to the problem. Sadly, this problem doesn’t appear to be a concern at The Ascent.

Two of Ascent’s mentors are Carey Nieuwhof and Larry Osborne—two prominent pastors who platformed Mark Driscoll long after his abusive behavior became common knowledge.

The Ascent ortberg
Listing of “Featured Mentors” for The Ascent (Screengrab)

Nieuwhof’s irresponsible podcast with Driscoll in 2020 ranked among Nieuwhof’s top 10 podcasts for that year.

The podcast has since been removed. But in 2020, Nieuwhof turned a deaf ear to people like Shawn Coons, a pastor from Indianapolis, who tweeted: “I made it about halfway through this interview before I couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe I missed the part where (Driscoll) acknowledges (more than ‘I’m not Jesus’) his abuse and grave wrongdoings at Mars Hill.”

Similarly, Larry Osborne featured Driscoll for years on his regular slate of conference speakers. Osborne has even less excuse than Nieuwhof. He served on Mars Hill’s Board of Accountability in 2014 and had a front-row seat to Driscoll’s horrific abuse there.

Even so, Osborne continued to platform Driscoll, even after I published an article on the issue in 2019 and Osborne’s conference lost several sponsors. Osborne finally stopped platforming Driscoll in 2021, likely due to the popularity of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcasts. Around that time, I also began reporting on Driscoll’s continued abuse at The Trinity Church. 

Yet to my knowledge, Osborne has never publicly apologized for platforming Driscoll all those years. Even if he did, it would be too little, too late.

But Osborne, Nieuwhof, and Ortberg aren’t the only mentors at The Ascent who raise concerns. Also included as a mentor there is Michael Todd, the megachurch pastor whose spitting stunt recently made national headlines. It’s hard to believe this man is considered a leader of leaders but apparently he is.

The Ascent Michael Todd ortberg
Listing of Featured Mentors at The Ascent (Screengrab)

But what’s happening at The Ascent is the tip of the iceberg.

Pastors need real accountability

Just last week, I learned Bryan Loritts is speaking at the upcoming 2022 Baptist Missions Conference alongside respected authors Lee Strobel and Sheila Walsh. Several observers have long suspected that J.D. Greear’s dogged defense of Loritts signaled Loritts was being groomed for a large platform among Baptists, and this is an indication they were right.

Promotional image for 2022 Baptist Missions Conference on March 25-26 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Loritts also is speaking at disgraced pastor Luke MacDonald’s church in honor of the church’s one-year anniversary.

Promotional image for one-year anniversary service of Good News Church in Palatine, Illinois on Feb. 27, 2022.

And in just a few days, Mark Driscoll will headline Jimmy Evans’ XO Marriage Conference at Ed Young’s megachurch in Texas.

Promotion for the XO Marriage Conference at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas. (Screengrab via website)

The ever-revolving platforming of disqualified leaders in evangelicalism is almost too much to bear—which brings me back to John Ortberg.  

Again, I don’t think Ortberg belongs in the same category as some of the others I’ve mentioned. And his judgment error while at Menlo, though serious, doesn’t preclude Ortberg from returning to ministry, especially if there’s repentance, affirmed and demonstrated over time.

Yet there needs to be some process—if for nothing else, to assure the public that Ortberg is in a good place and qualified to lead.

Unlike many evangelical leaders touched by scandal, Ortberg pastored a church in a denomination, which has governing bodies. Recent scandals have shown these bodies can fail miserably when it comes to holding pastors accountable. But this would have been a wonderful opportunity for Menlo’s denomination—A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO)—to provide a publicly affirmed path to restoration.

I reached out to Ortberg, the Menlo elders, and the ECO, asking if any such restoration was done, but did not receive a response.

In lieu of church bodies providing true accountability, the job now falls on us. Disqualified pastors continue to headline conferences because we attend them. They consult because we seek their advice. And they have a big megaphone on social media because we follow and like them.

In short, they regain their platforms because we give it to them.

But until they’ve sufficiently shown that they’ve resolved past issues and earned back trust, which takes time and a community willing to affirm the process, we should not support them. Let’s raise the bar. And hopefully as we do, these scandals will become fewer, and the reputation of the church will become stronger.

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discussion

46 thoughts on “Opinion: John Ortberg and the Problem of Replatforming Leaders After Scandal”

  1. It seems like Nancy Beach has a real problem here: Hybels very bad & Ortberg so good that she will partner w/ him. Astonishing!!

    1. Gabriela Serrato

      I agree with this comment. Nancy Beach and John Ortberg were quick to point the finger at Bill Hybels. However, I don’t disagree with their point of view.
      Nevertheless, I was shocked when I found out about John Ortberg deception/cover up (lying) to his church. It was very dissapointing, because it was through Ortberg that I first heard of Dr. Willard, which is my favorite author due to his explanation of the Kindom of God/Heavens. Knowing that Ortberg was well read on Dr. Willard’s teachings and knew him personally, it was very dissapointing that Ortberg failed in his character.
      The consequences of his deception I am sure is very painful and he has paid the price and will continue to do so. I do follow him in YouTube, he has a daily 10 minute devotional, which is in the lines of Dr. Willard’s teachings. However, knowing what I know of Ortberg now, I don’t think this is beneficial to Dr. Willard’s legacy of his teachings. When I watch Ortberg, I can’t help thinking of what he did to his church, community, but mostly to Jesus’s name. I don’t think he should be heading a ministry at this time.

  2. Nepotism in ministry creates a conflict of interest when it comes to discipline of moral, ethical failure. If the only way someone can make it in ministry is work for thier dad, maybe they should do something else.

    Regarding these “super leaders” without which the church seems deprived of such talent I ask…Are they relly leaders or merely just money magnets?

    Bottom line, after the truth is exposed, any Christian who patronizes churches and ministries led by disqualified leaders have only themselves to blame for what happens to them next. Twice as true for those who take a job with them.

    1. Mark, your comment is well-stated. Too often salesmanship (i.e., the ability to grow a brand or increase donations) has been equated with being spiritually qualified to be pastor. Looking the personal and home lives of some of these leaders – which the Bible instructs us to do, a la 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 – one wonders how anyone believes they are qualified to be under-shepherds of God’s church. Pastors are held to a higher moral standard, whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not.

  3. Clarke Morledge

    Julie: The problem is that many pastors don’t really know how to do anything other than work for a Christian ministries, that have a public presence. I understand the problem you describe about replatforming people too soon, but how do these people keep their family fed, after they messed up in the pulpit? Our seminaries do not help people to navigate how to leave a Christian ministry, and find work elsewhere, if (for whatever reason: good or bad) they need to leave that Christian ministry. I suppose they could work at MacDonalds and flip burgers, but generally, pastor salaries are much greater than what you get from working at MacDonalds. This creates a built-in incentive to keep people in the Christian-ministry business, even if it is determined that such a pastor is not fit, etc. to remain in their ministry job. How do you solve that problem?

    1. Clarke, well said. Pastors are often well-connected in their communities, and they should utilize such networks to find other employment in the same manner that laypersons do when seeking work. The key, as you note, is that they withdraw from public exposure, earn an honest living, and learn humility from the experience. Both the money and the fame at some ministries can be problematic.

    2. Some of these guys haven’t even gone to seminary… but I agree with your overall point. Laymen/congregations (and seminaries/training) need to develop better paths to giving public leaders a way out… (but that would probably involve some planning, rationality etc… a thing that in many places is equated with “human understanding” and therefore not of the Spirit. In evangelical-land that’s BAD, can’t have no “human understanding” goin on!)

    3. The truth is all these “scandals” involve some kind of abuse of power. So to solve the problem in the long run seminaries need to educate their students about abuse dynamics: what abuse is, how to prevent it, how to respond to it, how to support victim/survivors, the prevalence of it, etc. Also, these are not leaders that merely “messed up in the pulpit”. they behaved in ways that were potentially harmful and/or outright damaging – so allowing them to return to a public platform places others in danger – for example, Ortberg’s decisions could have allowed children to be sexually violated – now I recognize the problem with his family suffering because of his choices, and that ministering to the families of the “scandalized” in practical ways should become a serious issue that needs to be addressed – but others’ safety should never be minimized and placed lower in importance than the difficulty of a pastor finding work after being disqualified for leadership.

  4. Thank you for an excellent summary of the problem. I wonder if you see any differences in theology between the churches that are eager to restore the unrepentant to the good graces of the church and those with more robust accountability mechanisms?

  5. Thanks for this report. Always appreciate your gracious reporting. I hope these pastors truly repent and if held accountable can get restored BUT I do not believe they are worthy to be fully restored! Nancy Beach was told by me about my abusive husband at St. Andrews Presbyterian church(eco) while she is a lovely lady she knowingly preached at our church and refused to even have a brief conversation with me about my abusive husband. I truly believe her ego and paycheck were more valuable to her than standing up for an abused pastors wife and helping me with the secondary abusive I endured from my then current church! Only because if reports like yours will these men and woman feel some accountability. It will NOT come from their church.

    1. @ Carrie Nelson

      I am truly sorry all of that happened to you. I hope you found a body of believers who provided the support you needed.

  6. Well, the “fellow pastors club” must also include Dave Dummit at Willow Creek who is promoting his friend Robert Morris who will be giving the message on money this month. This despite the fact that Morris openly states that the 2020 election was stolen from the American people and prays for anyone who voted the “wrong way” (not for his Orange hero). Church officials assured me that Morris will “stay in his lane”, but has integrity been thrown aside to increase the amount in the collection plate?

    1. Robert Morris is also a big supporter of Mark Driscoll. Just this summer, Morris had Driscoll join him for a conference on preaching at Gateway. Here’s background from a piece I published last year:

      “(W)hen (Trinity) first launched in 2016, (Jimmy) Evans and Morris were on a non-local governing board for Trinity, and (Larry) Osborne was named as ‘wise counsel’ for the church.

      “Robert Morris also was the first to give Driscoll a platform after Driscoll resigned in 2014 from Mars Hill Church in Seattle for a pattern of ‘arrogance’ and abusive leadership. Just days after Driscoll’s resignation, Morris welcomed Driscoll to speak at a Gateway Church conference, urging attendees not to believe everything they read on the internet.

      “Morris stated at the time that Driscoll was ‘going through a difficulty that most of you have probably read about.’ Morris then claimed that not everything on the internet is true and added, ‘There are some pastors, myself included, and some others that you would know, that were speaking into his life — and he’s listening.’”

      Here’s the article: https://julieroys.com/megachurch-pastors-mark-driscoll-stop-abuse/

  7. Love your reporting Julie and as usual it is spot on. My wife and I after 40 years in church as tithing members have given up on organized religion (churches). We had a front row seat to MacDonald and Hybels after spending 10+ years in their churches and are so disgusted with what is going on, that we will pursue investing time in non-profits.

    1. @Neal – I’m sorry for your experience. There are many good local churches that seek to serve the Lord, though most don’t have the high profile of the megas. The local church is God’s plan for this segment of His work in the world. Tragically there are pastors who “fleece the flock,” though this is nothing new as one reads the Acts & Epistles. I would encourage you to find a good, smaller local church, where you can use your gifts and abilities for the Lord’s Kingdom and where they can minister to you. We have had the privilege of being part of a local church that loves Jesus, loves one another and seeks to love our neighbors and help them to become followers of Jesus. Our finances are open, the Church Board is chosen by the congregation (not a self perpetuating board) and ultimately accountable to the church body. We certainly aren’t perfect, but seek to live out our Lord’s plan and purpose for His church. There are many others like us, even in our own community, though we aren’t “high profile.”

  8. The recurring theme of every article on this site is money, sex, power or a combination of these. I give props to this site for reporting these stories since otherwise I suspect such stories would be buried and anyone who discussed them would be told that they are gossiping.

  9. I recently read Sinclair Lewis’ 1926 novel “Elmer Gantry” which tells of the rise of a young charming, egotistical and ambitious young man who takes on a life of (false) piousness to become a Baptist minister. In the course of his life he schemes to rise in popularity and importance while still living his immoral life of womanizing, etc.

    So many of the Big Evangelical leaders who have been caught up in scandals often follow the playbook of Lewis’ novel in how they use the ministry for their own benefit, how they cover up (or even celebrate) their sins and in how they reinvent themselves and continue in ministry. It’s a must read for anyone wanting to understand how these leaders get themselves and keep themselves platformed.

  10. The main claim of the article that there was no process of restoration is false. The author is making an argument from silence saying that she reached out to Menlo but did not receive a response and that therefore there was no formal process. Better investigative journalism without jumping to conclusions that fit prior assumptions would have yielded a more informed article. A strength of Presbyterian polity is its commitment to such processes. Menlo’s first investigation was not “woefully incomplete” but exceedingly detailed as was the second investigation. What is woefully incomplete is this article, which not only makes claims with little evidence, but also lumps all evangelical churches together into one monolithic movement that obscures the nuances of different denominations. Furthermore, adding John Ortberg’s offense to a list of other arguably more egregious misconduct cases minimizes the real damage done by the latter.

    1. I didn’t say there was no process. I explained there was a process at the end of 2019. Unfortunately, that process was followed in 2020 by the same pattern of not being transparent that had led to the initial problem. Even now, there is no transparency. I reached out to all the parties involved. None responded. If someone is going to be in public ministry after a major scandal, the onus is on that person to demonstrate to the public that he is qualified. If he is not willing to do that, then he should not be in public ministry.

    2. I personally was a victim of St. Andrews Presbyterian churches abuse/secondary abuse. They/ Chap Clark refused to hear me or meet with me regarding my husbands abuse of me. My husband was on staff with Chap Clark as lead pastor. Now why would he not meet with me? That is because my husband had raised 24 million dollars for the St. Andrews /Newport Beach building fund. Chap valued abusers money raising skills over me and my 3 children’s lives. Then I reached out to eco leaders/again. Silence.

  11. If you “respect” Nancy Beach you wouldn’t put coach in quotation marks. That choice reeks of condescension.

    “Paragraph” 15 states “Ortberg probably doesn’t deserve mention with some of these egregious and repeat offenders”. Saying someone doesn’t deserve to be mentioned after the people you just mentioned him with is astounding. It’s reminiscent of following something atrociously vindictive with “bless her heart”. Re: The condescension from earlier.

    In “paragraph” 41 you once again reaffirm what you reportedly knew all along “I don’t think Ortberg belongs in the same category as some of the others I’ve mentioned”, as a way to somehow both betray and absolve yourself of responsibility for the entirety of the article.

    1. I meant no disrespect to Nancy by putting “coach” in quotation marks. The title is unique because The Ascent has a unique format with coaches and cohorts, so I was simply indicating that I was using the title Ascent uses. But I apologize if that came across as condescending. Again, that was not my intent.

      As for mentioning Ortberg with Driscoll, Loritts, and others . . . I was trying to be charitable and note that Ortberg’s offence does not appear as grievous as theirs. Saying Ortberg “doesn’t deserve mention” was not a good choice of words. I wish I had stated it differently.

      Obviously, if I didn’t think there were parallels, I wouldn’t have included them in the same article. To clarify, I would say all of the pastors I mentioned committed offences serious enough to require a publicly affirmed process of restoration before replatforming. But Driscoll, MacDonald, and Loritts differ from Ortberg in that their failings clearly were not confined to one situation, but a pattern of behavior that’s been repeated over time. In my opinion, this suggests they are permanently disqualified from ministry, whereas Ortberg is not.

      1. Wow Julie. You get beat up by people regardless how you say something. Isnt it sad that so many people jump to a pastors defence, rather than examining what was stated. I’m amazed at how even keeled you are in responses. Bless you, you have a lot more patience than me.

  12. “Craft & Character” sounds like an acting class, at best, and a dangerous course in manipulation, at worst. On the other hand, if this is what a congregation wants from its “leader,” that’s none of my business.

  13. Sadly, this is what leadership without accountability looks like. Charisma carrie’s the day and the cult-of-personality takes over.

  14. Yes, what a disappointing editorial. It reminds me of that phrase “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

    Even though Roys admitted (a couple of times) that John Ortberg should not be placed in the same category as men like Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald, she continued to hammer away at him as if he was the same kind of nail.

    It’s not obvious to me that Ortberg did anything disqualifying. Making a decision “not to share his son’s revelation with other leaders” isn’t some kind of clear-cut wrongdoing like “do not murder.” Pastors hear about other people’s sins all the time. And there are many traditions within Christianity where in such situations the clergy is supposed to extend an assurance of pardon to the penitent and keep it confidential.

    And in this case, the son didn’t even harm anyone. He had thoughts. Can you imagine if we disciplined everyone who confessed their lustful thoughts as if they were a perpetrator of actual adultery, rape, homosexuality, etc.? Can you imagine if we began to share the “revelations of others” to people in church leadership? Maybe treating every act of confessed anger and unforgiveness the same as a unrepentant assault and murder?

    Articles like this contribute to a culture of Christians concealing their sinful thoughts, and pastors not listening to them, for fear that their whole career and family might be destroyed because they don’t report other people’s thoughts to the extent Julie Roys believes they need to be reported.

    1. Randy F McDonald

      Choosing to keep your son involved with children after he has confessed his pedophilic interests, and then—at best—lying by omission when people want to know what is going on, is remarkable. How can you trust this person not to sacrifice other children?

  15. Caren MacMurchy

    Pastor John Ortberg resigned from Menlo Park Presbyterian late July, 2020, a year and a half ago. Pastor John’s spiritual formation has been influenced for years by Dallas Willard who was one of John’s closest friends and wisest mentors. No one but the dear Lord Jesus knows the heart wrenching heartache of the Ortberg family and their wrestling with God in the agonizing grief of family decisions that deeply hurt the Body of Christ. No one knows. It’s easy to toss rocks from the cheap seats, my Friends. But please, drop the rocks and rejoice in redemption. Pastor John and Nancy walk with a limp. Blessed is the man and woman who lead with a limp. We all should.
    And after a thorough investigation, not one instance of abuse was revealed on the part of Ortbergs’ son, Johnny. Confession to temptation is light years away from practiced sin.
    Let us rejoice with Pastor John and Pastor Nancy and their beloved son who is obviously a man of tremendous self-discipline. Let us rejoice. Excuse me while I grab my cane; for I too walk with a limp. Genesis 32:22-32

    1. Great response, Caren! Thank you for saying this. I particularly appreciated the sentence: “Confession to temptation is light years away from practiced sin.”

    2. Randy F McDonald

      How lucky we are, indeed, that Ortberg’s cover up of his son’s confessed pedophilia apparently did not enable his son to abuse one of the children that Ortberg gave him.

  16. This is a problem that cannot be fixed because the problem is in the very structures that creates celebrities that are not Our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the cornerstone. He gave us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. He is the One the Only Celebrity. The systems that create the structures that lift other mere men up and put them on pedestals is the problem. You stop doing that and then when pastors fall it is much more manageable. There is no accountability because Jesus does not know these structures. They are not His Church nor have they ever been. Most of what calls itself Christian simply is not. You either see this now or you will see it at judgment day. Better to recognize it sooner as opposed to later.

  17. I am concerned that Ortberg is labeled “disqualified” here, a serious accusation. If Menlo, the denomination, or the independent investigator have used that term, it is justified for us to use it. If not, we are misusing verbiage with significant Biblical weight behind it. What is at stake is theological clarity: aligning Ortberg with pastors who have bullied, threatened, and committed sexual sin without restoration cheapens the term “disqualification.” Some of these men have tragically returned to the pulpit. By my reading, John is leading a small group cohort. I understand the author’s attempt to soften this with an admission that what John did does not belong “in the same category as some of the others” and “His judgment error…doesn’t preclude Ortberg from returning to ministry,” but the fact remains that his picture and name are in the title of an article peppered with those who are in the onerous category, and who should be precluded from returning to ministry. Has even one of the other pastors mentioned in the article confessed to their church publicly? Because John did- a fact omitted here. Neither the church, denomination, nor investigators found that John’s offense rose to the level of requiring a “restoration process.” Therefore the sentence, “Yet there needs to be some process—if for nothing else, to assure the public that Ortberg is in a good place and qualified to lead,” places the author as the arbiter above those who actually did the investigation. I think a more accurate statement would be, “I would like to know the process,” or “I think a process would be wise.” This opinion piece regrettably falls short of usually good work.

    1. Charlie Parchem

      “ Therefore the sentence, “Yet there needs to be some process—if for nothing else, to assure the public that Ortberg is in a good place and qualified to lead,” places the author as the arbiter above those who actually did the investigation” spot on

  18. “Though Ortberg probably doesn’t deserve mention with some of these egregious and repeat offenders, his return still highlights the same problem.”

    Yet, you do… over and over. I agree with the point of the accountability in restoration but have to admit it didn’t bother me that John Ortberg was lumped in with these other situations.

  19. Barbara Disbrow

    Great report. I hope to see more exposure of evangelical leaders such as from this article by Megan Basham. “How the Federal government used evangelical leaders to spread covid propaganda to churches”.

    1. Im struggling with all of this subjective interpretation and judgement of many fallible christian leaders. This is earth and we are all humans. How is it that anyone else gets to define the level of any of these people’s “badness” and determine what is acceptable for their accountability and redemption. It is not up to this platform or any other to set criteria, time frames, punishments, or penance. Contrasting various offenders is offensive. The churches these leaders belonged to acted within their own imperfect guidelines to deal with these scenarios and certainly there may be room for improvement. Im not seeing how its productive for lay people to assess what and when redemption is adequate and who can or cannot re-enter ministry. God is at the wheel here and a sinners forgiveness/redemption is between Him and that individual, not in a public forum.

  20. Julie,

    I see your “call” seems to be seeking “purity” or “holiness” yet, could we not follow Paul’s example, and be imitators of Paul, in which he wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

    “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”

    Perhaps your view is we are too dumb to figure out what is important and what is not, so you will tell us.

    I would prefer that you not lump in all these other people and their circumstances, they are irrelevant. And though you write, “….I don’t think John Ortberg belongs….” so why do that, only to dismiss yourself with..”Yet there needs to be some process—if for nothing else, to assure the public that Ortberg is in a good place and qualified to lead.”

    There were far worse teachers back in Paul’s day, he didn’t worry about creating a “process” it was pretty simple to Paul. We have the word….I’m sure you will disagree, but John Ortberg seems to have made a mistake, and he was somewhat “lynched” over the situation, do you want it to continue?

  21. “Again, I don’t think Ortberg belongs in the same category as some of the others I’ve mentioned.” I wish this sentence was in the first paragraph.

    Respectfully, Ortberg’s situation shouldn’t even be in the same article, much less the same category.

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