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Vineyard Pastor Resigns, Won’t Cooperate With Probe Into Son’s Alleged Misconduct

By Jessica Eturralde
gatlin vineyard duluth
Michael Gatlin has resigned as lead pastor of The Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota (Video screengrab)

Michael Gatlin, who for the past 25 years served as Lead Pastor of The Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota, has resigned, saying he cannot cooperate with an investigation into his son’s alleged misconduct.

When the allegations surfaced last month, the church suspended Michael’s son, former young adult pastor, Jackson Gatlin, and launched an independent investigation. The church has since terminated Jackson, who also refused to cooperate with the investigation, according to an update on the church’s website.

Michael’s wife, Brenda Gatlin, who served as super regional leader (SRL) for Vineyard USA, has resigned her position, as well, amid allegations both she and her husband knew of their son’s misconduct, but did nothing.

In the update, the church acknowledged the new allegations, stating, “There are also allegations that Michael and Brenda Gatlin knew about this misconduct at the time and failed to act.”

While the church updates did not disclose the nature of the allegations against Jackson, one woman claimed in a Facebook post that Jackson sexually assaulted her.

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jackson gatlin duluth vineyard
Jackson Gatlin, former young adults pastor at The Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota (Video screengrab)

“I myself was assaulted by (Jackson Gatlin) as well,” the post stated. “It was of a sexual nature. And the rest of the details will remain private.”

Other women also took to social media in response to Jackson’s suspension.

“I now know that the reason you called me ‘little sis’ was because of how affectionate you were with me in public,” one woman wrote. “Clearly being an adult that was not okay. You passed as a teenager in your 20s so people often overlooked you.

“I sat and waited for anyone that I attended church with to speak up and no one did . . .Tonight I’m calling out anyone who knows anything especially the leadership. If you were there you know, if YOU WERE THERE WE KNOW. SPEAK UP FOR THE VICTIMS.”

The church said they are investigating whether Michael and his wife, Brenda, knew of the allegations when they occurred. One mother claims she told Brenda what Jackson “did” to her daughter:

“The pain and suffering my daughter has experienced in her life due to this man’s actions are inexcusable. Honestly I am exhausted and tired of hearing about his poor parents and his poor wife. I’m exhausted from people caring more about the church and not about the victims.

THEY KNEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I Told Brenda what he did to my daughter!!! !!!!!!!!!” she wrote in a Facebook post.

Upon learning of the allegations, Vineyard Church reported the claims to the police and contracted Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) to conduct an independent investigation. In addition, the board of directors formed a special committee to oversee and enforce cooperation among staff members with the investigation.

Michael initially said he would cooperate with the investigation in a letter addressed to Duluth Vineyard Church.

“I will participate in the fact-finding process and I encourage you to participate in this process as well. I hope to see a full and thorough investigation of these allegations,” Michael wrote in a letter shared on the church’s January 29 update.

duluth vineyard
Letter from Michael Gatlin to The Vineyard Church of Duluth, Minnesota, dated January 29, 2023

However, when asked to comply with the investigation by responding to allegations he knew about the incidents around the time they occurred, Michael determined he would rather resign.

The most recent update on the church’s website announces Michael’s resignation as Duluth Vineyard’s Senior Pastor.

duluth vineyard gatlin
The Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota (Image: Google Maps)

Accompanying the update, the church posted details of his resignation in a video. The video shows John Kliewer, who is serving as staff support for the Special Committee, interviewing Special Committee member Gerry Nierengarten, who told the congregation:

“Recently, the Special Committee became aware of certain allegations of misconduct against Jackson that Michael was apparently aware of at the time. So we directed Michael to provide a statement to the Special Committee detailing his response and the actions he took, if any.”

Kliewer then asked Nierengarten, “What did Michael do when you directed him to tell his side of the story, to give a statement?”

“Even though we’re Michael’s boss, He missed our deadline and [um] never gave us any statement at all,” Nierengarten replied.

She said the Committee gave Michael another day to respond and told him that if he did not provide a statement or agree to be interviewed by GRACE, he faced termination of employment at Duluth Vineyard.

According to the Committee, Michael scheduled an interview with GRACE but later canceled it.

Duluth Vineyard Church is a member of Vineyard USA, a network of 2400+ Vineyard churches. Vineyard has been in the news recently because its flagship church, formerly Vineyard Anaheim, separated from Vineyard USA, taking with it the church property worth tens of millions of dollars. Former members of Vineyard Anaheim are now suing the new church, renamed the Dwelling Place, accusing the new pastors of a $62-million fraud.

Brenda took a position with Vineyard USA in the fall of 2021 and stepped down as one of the senior pastors at the Duluth Vineyard Church.

gatlin vineyard duluth
Michael and Brenda Gatlin (Photo via Vineyard USA)

On its website, Vineyard USA created a page titled, Update Regarding Brenda and Michael Gatlin. The page includes a bulleted timeline and a video addressing Vineyard USA’s handling of the allegations.

“The last 30 days have been really hard on our group of churches in the Vineyard in the US: In light of some very serious allegations and in the midst of an ongoing investigation, Michael and Brenda Gatlin have both resigned from their respective positions,” the video said.

“Brenda Gatlin is resigned as an SRL for Vineyard USA. Michael has resigned as the senior pastor for the Duluth Vineyard as well as from his positions as a trustee on the Vineyard USA board as well as from the board of Vineyard worship.”

The video concluded, “Be praying that everything is revealed and also that God will be near to everyone who’s been affected.”

Despite the resignation and termination of Jackson and Michael, Duluth Vineyard says it will continue the investigation with GRACE and law enforcement to find the truth, helping its community move forward, and do better in the future.

“We are committed to Jesus, number one. We are committed to the truth—and we are committed to putting victims first.”

Jessica Eturralde is a military wife of 18 years and mother of three who serves as a freelance writer, TV host, and filmmaker. Bylines include Yahoo, Huffington Post, OC16TV.



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15 thoughts on “Vineyard Pastor Resigns, Won’t Cooperate With Probe Into Son’s Alleged Misconduct”

  1. Wow. Huge props to the board at that church for actually holding their leaders accountable! That in and of itself is HUGE! Tragic that Michael and Brenda would rather resign than tell the truth, but at least there’s some level of clarity in that. If they had nothing to hide, they wouldn’t have left. I sincerely hope that GRACE is able to conduct a thorough investigation, uncover the truth, and gain some level of justice for the victims.

    1. I believe that “If they had nothing to hide, they wouldn’t have left” is not true. It isn’t black and white.

  2. My wife and I were married in Duluth, wedded in another church.
    We knew people from our past who attended there (whether they are still there, we don’t know).
    It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of this and if this family manages to find another place to sneak in and pastor.

    1. Making derogatory comments or language “sneak in” isn’t helpful. One thing I know about the Vineyard is they have a ministry to the broken.

  3. Kett Katharine

    I wonder if the Gatlins received a severance package upon their (forced) resignation. I also wonder how they can purport to be a man and woman of God when they refuse to speak the truth and seemingly have no care for the victims. Truly heartbreaking.

    1. I strongly believe in listening to credible stories of abuse and investigating.

      That said…. American culture has an outsized number of lawyers who are working overtime to make themselves rich through charging exorbitant fees for lawsuits both necessary and frivolous.

      Against this cultural backdrop GRACE is hired by a church. They come into that community as an outsider and ask tons of questions. Anything a pastor says to GRACE will end up written in a public report. Which also means a pastor’s testimony can be used against them in a court of law. Which add a whole new layer of complication into the investigation.

      I am not saying Gatlins are innocent nor guilty of wrongdoing regarding their son’s alleged abuse. However I think all of us need to be very, very careful about jumping to judgement just because they are not prepared to talk to GRACE right now. There is a reason we have a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven in a court of law.

      1. Personal business??? He was sexually assaulting several women in his congregation. It was abuse of authority. It was spiritual manipulation, coercion, and control. It’s obvious you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid in Duluth Minnesota at vineyard. That church should have been shut down 25 years ago when the gatlins started there as well as the superior vineyard that was planted with the wilsons.

  4. Family Nepotism❗👎🤑

    “11. The LORD said to Samuel, “Look! I am about to do something in Israel; when anyone hears about it, both of his ears will tingle. 12. On that day I will carry out against Eli everything that I spoke about his house – from start to finish! 13. You should tell him that I am about to judge his house forever because of the sin that he knew about. For his sons were cursing God, and he did not rebuke them. 14. Therefore I swore an oath to the house of Eli, ‘The sin of the house of Eli can never be forgiven by sacrifice or by grain offering.'” 15. So Samuel lay down until morning. Then he opened the doors of the LORD’s house. But Samuel was afraid to tell Eli about the vision. 16. However, Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son!” He replied, “Here I am.” 17. Eli said, “What message did he speak to you? Don’t conceal it from me. God will judge you severely if you conceal from me anything that he said to you!” 18. So Samuel told him everything. He did not hold back anything from him. Eli said, “The LORD will do what he pleases.” (1Sa 3:11-18, NETfree)

    1. Rabindranath E Ramcharan

      It says that, yes. But 1 Samuel 3 goes on to say, “22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
      23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.
      24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress.
      25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.”
      We’ll have to wait to see how far the parallel extends. And how the church applies Matthew 18:22.

  5. Family Nepotism❗👎🤑 (continued)
    Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary of the Entire Bible
    1 Samuel
    Verses 11-18

    “What a great deal of guilt and corruption is there in us, concerning which we may say, It is the iniquity which our own heart knoweth; we are conscious to ourselves of it! Those who do not restrain the sins of others, when it is in their power to do it, make themselves partakers of the guilt, and will be charged as joining in it. In his remarkable answer to this awful sentence, Eli acknowledged that the Lord had a right to do as he saw good, being assured that he would do nothing wrong. The meekness, patience, and humility contained in those words, show that he was truly repentant; he accepted the punishment of his sin.”

    So you can do not think nepotism is not coming down in the Bible read the account about Eli and his sons in 1 Samuel ❗

  6. Church leadership answers to nobody except God. At least that’s the standard excuse. Covering up crimes, is itself a crime. Any man who assaults a woman or child is worthy of death. God will indeed judge when the time comes. Until then, he requires that men who love God, love him enough to stand up against wolves and villans. It’s the price that comes with being a man, especially being a man of God.

    1. “The Sons of Eli and Samuel: Children of Priest, Prophet and Judge”

      My whole point was to argue for Meritocracy👍 and against Nepotism👎❗

      A son of a pastor could make a very good pastor himself, but he should prove it at a church that isn’t associated with his father.

      If a pastor breaks civil law I have nothing against it at all his coming before a civil court, by all means he should. A pastor suffering from moral turpitude while not a civil crime is certainly a Christian sin that can’t be overlooked by a father/pastor, board of elders or congregation! 😠

    2. I have always said where there’s an obvious crime–such as sexual abuse of children– it should be reported to the police –first– and the church leaders after that.

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