UPDATE: I just received audio of Ortberg’s apology to his congregation on January 25. The audio is posted at the end of this article.
Prominent author and pastor of Menlo Church, John Ortberg, has been disciplined by his church, after failing to protect minors from a church volunteer who told Ortberg he has an attraction to minors.
According to an email elders sent to congregants on January 21, a person serving at the church confessed to Ortberg in confidence that he had an “unwanted thought pattern of attraction to minors.” The person reportedly assured Ortberg that he had not acted on his attraction, and Ortberg referred the person to counseling.
However, the elders said, “John failed to take the required steps to prevent the person from volunteering with minors at the Menlo Park campus and did not consult anyone else at Menlo Church about the situation.”
Today, Ortberg’s transgender son, Daniel M. Lavery, revealed in a tweet that Lavery was the one who reported Ortberg to the elders.
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My statement on Menlo Church and my father; I won't be reading replies to this but I'm grateful to the friends and chosen family who have helped Grace and me through the last few months. pic.twitter.com/elT9I7v9u6
— Daniel M. Lavery (@daniel_m_lavery) February 2, 2020
Lavery said a longtime member of Menlo told Lavery in November that he had “experienced obsessive sexual feelings about young children.” Lavery said the person added that he had sought unsupervised volunteer positions with minors, which included overnight travel.
Lavery said that the same day, Lavery and his “wife,” Grace, talked with John Ortberg and expressed “the gravest reservations.” However, Lavery said Ortberg dismissed Lavery’s concerns, saying that “pedophilia was like homosexuality”; “the most important thing was maintaining secrecy”; and that Lavery and Grace “lacked standing” to offer alternative treatment for sexual obsessions with children because of their recent “transitions.”
Lavery then asked Ortberg whether this person had ceased traveling overnight with children and Ortberg responded, “I’m not sure.”
Ortberg and his wife, Nancy, used to be employed by Willow Creek Community Church, and were one of the first to defend the women who accused former Willow Creek senior pastor, Bill Hybels, of sexual misconduct.
I reached out to John and Nancy Ortberg, as well as the church, for additional comment about Lavery’s assertions but have not yet heard back.
Lavery and Grace reportedly wrote John Ortberg, urging him to disclose every aspect of this situation with the elders, but Ortberg did not do so. Lavery said that on November 21, he and Grace fully reported the situation to “multiple employees” and elders at Menlo. Lavery said that the following day, Ortberg went on “unspecified ‘personal leave’ from his pastoral duties.”
Similarly, the Menlo elders said, “As soon as these concerns were brought to the Board’s attention, the Board acted immediately and consistent with Menlo church policy, informed our denomination (ECO) and retained an independent investigator to look into the matter.”
The board added that the investigation and interviews of supervising staff in student and children’s ministry did not reveal any allegations of misconduct. “Nevertheless, the investigation showed John exhibited poor judgment that was inconsistent with his responsibilities as Senior Pastor.”
In addition, the elders said Ortberg is “saddened” by the risk he brought on the church community and “deeply apologizes for his action and decisions.”
The elders say they have adopted a restoration plan for Ortberg, which involved him returning to work in a limited capacity on January 24. The elders said they hope Ortberg will return to the pulpit in the “near future.”
Lavery, who’s an established author and columnist, is releasing his latest book in two weeks, called, “Something That May Shock and Discredit You.”