John Ortberg investigated over handling of church volunteer who admitted attraction to minors

John Ortberg

Popular preacher John Ortberg was investigated by his church over his handling of a volunteer who disclosed their attraction to minors, a statement by the board of elders said. 

The statement from Menlo Church elders said that Ortberg had broken a "bond of trust", although no misconduct was found to have taken place. 

"In July of 2018, a person serving in the Menlo Church community came to John and shared in confidence an unwanted thought pattern of attraction to minors," the elders said in a statement, according to the Religion News Service.

"The person assured, to John's satisfaction, that the person had not acted on the attraction and sought John's support. John believed the person and provided prayers and referrals for counseling."

Ortberg's son, Daniel Lavery, has released his own statement on Twitter in which he claims that the unnamed volunteer had disclosed their attractions to him last November.

Lavery said that the volunteer had admitted to having "obsessive sexual feelings about young children" for years and had sought out "unsupervised" volunteer positions with children "as a method of treating this obsession". 

This, Lavery said, included volunteer positions at Menlo Church and other volunteer work that involved overnight travel with minors. 

Lavery asserted: "John Ortberg has continually encouraged this person in their unsupervised work with children."

He said that he and his wife Grace expressed the "gravest reservations" about the situation in a conversation with Ortberg but that these concerns were dismissed, with Lavery speculating that this was because both he and his wife are transgender. 

"I have no firsthand knowledge of any criminal activity, and I have real compassion for anyone trying to treat sexual compulsions with accountability and oversight," he wrote on Twitter.

"But the situation they had created was risky, unsafe and unsustainable."

Ortberg went on personal leave on November 22 and Menlo elders appointed an independent investigator to investigate the allegations. 

The elders said that while no misconduct was found at this time, if any allegations of abuse arise in the future, they will be reported to law enforcement. 

"Based on that investigation, interviews with supervising staff across Student's and Children's ministries, and a review of detailed volunteer records, the Board has not found any misconduct in the Menlo Church community, and the investigation did not reveal any allegations of misconduct," their statement reads.

"Nevertheless, the investigation showed John exhibited poor judgment that was inconsistent with his responsibilities as Senior Pastor."

They added that Ortberg "deeply apologizes for his action and decisions, and is committed to the safety and integrity of our community and to ensuring that such a situation does not arise again". 

According to the statement, Ortberg will return to the pulpit subject to the approval of the board following the completion of a "restoration plan".

The church said that the volunteer in question no longer works with children and that its child protection policy forbids volunteers from being alone with children.

Ortberg is reported to have apologised to the congregation on January 25.  

He could not be reached for comment.