One of the senior pastors at a Virginia Beach megachurch has “stepped back” from his duties after police arrested him and 16 others alleged to have been “soliciting sex from minors.”
John D. Blanchard, 51, has been released from the Chesterfield County Jail in Virginia following his arrest on charges of felony solicitation of prostitution and use of a vehicle to promote prostitution, Chesterfield County Sheriff personnel said.
Blanchard was arrested Friday, the Virginian-Pilot reported, during a sting operation targeting men who authorities say had been chatting online with someone they thought was a teenage girl they could meet for sex. The “girl” was actually a police officer.
Jail staff could not say when Blanchard was released. But two days after his arrest, Blanchard was on stage Sunday morning at Rock Church of Virginia Beach, the livestream recording shows. Church co-founder Anne Gimenez preached and Blanchard’s arrest wasn’t mentioned. Blanchard’s wife Robin invited him up for a brief Pastor Appreciation Month presentation and at the end of the service, he shared “the ABCs of salvation” for the altar call.
Court records didn’t list Blanchard’s case as of Wednesday, and it’s unclear if he has a lawyer who can speak for him.
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Blanchard and his wife have together pastored the Rock Church since October 2013, according to the church’s website. He’s also an officer with Rock Ministerial Fellowship, a Rock Church ministry providing “apostolic covering and a means of accountability” to other churches and ministers.
“Pastor Blanchard has voluntarily stepped back as lead pastor and from all his ministerial duties until this present situation is totally resolved,” a statement posted to the church’s website read. Robin Blanchard and her mother, Gimenez, will share the pulpit in his absence.
“We must remember that redemption, salvation, grace, mercy and healing are all gifts given to the children of God,” the statement continued. “. . . Our assignment as believers is not to condemn, but to be agents of God’s love, healing, justice and reconciliation.”
The church also expressed gratitude for prayers and support and asked “that the privacy of the Blanchard family be respected as they walk through this difficult journey together.”
The statement closed with two Bible quotations and indicated church leaders had received legal advice not to comment further.
Gimenez and her late husband founded the nondenominational church in 1968 when they were traveling to appear on “The 700 Club.” It grew into an “apostolic ministry” with more than 500 churches across the world, according to the website.
Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.
12 thoughts on “Virginia Pastor ‘Steps Back’ After Arrest in Child Prostitution Sting”
RLMAO. Invited to the stage vs hide in shame. Evangelicals. Ya just can’t get any more hypocritical. Thank you all for doing what satan couldn’t do on his own. I see mega church. I just wait for the crimes to occur. And double shame on any member that still tithes or goes to that church.
Innocent until proven guilty, but destructive of so much if case ultimately proven. I find all such events so sad, victim and perpetrator losing so much.
Statement from the church website:
“Under the guidance of our legal counsel, We can not make a statement or comment concerning the accusations against Rev. John Blanchard at this time. We are all committed to walking in integrity and truth at Rock Church International and will continue to take steps to do so. Pastor Blanchard has voluntarily stepped back as lead pastor and from all his ministerial duties until this present situation is totally resolved. During this season, Bishop Anne Gimenez will be stepping in as Lead Pastor and sharing the pulpit with Pastor Robin Blanchard.
As followers of Christ, we must remember that redemption, salvation, grace, mercy and healing are all gifts given to the children of God. Although everyone must address their own convictions and consequences, our assignment as believers is not to condemn, but to be agents of God’s love, healing, justice, and reconciliation. (Romans 3:23-“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”) If we are to walk in eternity with Christ, our position must be one of truth, love, faith, mercy, justice, and forgiveness.
Thank you for your prayers and support. The outpouring of love has been overwhelming and we appreciate all of those who have reached out to be an encouragement to us! We would ask that the privacy of the Blanchard family be respected as they walk through this difficult journey together.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) -Ephesians 2:4-5
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18”
This is such a bad letter. What abut the potential victims as you are toting God’s love. Aske for the privacy of the Blanchard Family to be respected. Bet you are also telling the wife to stay. If I was a victim of the church I would sue for everything you got- just to make a change. Not about the money. This statement shows your church has learned nothing. I am a Christian and this really makes me angry. They are not walking through a difficult time, the guy is a pedophile. They do not change.
“Apostolic covering and accountability,” good gravy. You can’t make this stuff up.
Took the words right outa my mouth
“They parade their sin like Sodom.”
Wait a minute! I thought it was a cabal of blood drinking and sex trafficking liberals and Hollywood elites that were doing this kind of thing. I’m confused. :P
Truly a “To Catch a Predator” moment.
All that’s missing is Chris Hansen reading the pred the chat log and then identifying himself as the camera crew comes into the room.
Who can keep track of the number of our evangelical pastors and preachers who have been caught up in scandal these past 20 years? It’s really breathtaking. Something seems fundamentally wrong to me when it’s most commonly outsiders who most often are the ones who catch these predators. Why can’t the churches effectively police their own?
All the church statement says to me is “Don’t judge me! God has forgiven me! Keep that money coming!”
You should not be talking forgiveness and grace here- what a lie. Think about the potential and real victims. He is a pedophile nothing else. The statement of the church will just show women that this can be done to them without consequences in their church life. As a Christian, churches have to do better. Preaching “forgiveness” at this time if just a way to minimize it, and is actually denial. Do better.
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