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Popular US pastor John Ortberg resigns over safeguarding issue involving his son

by Premier Journalist

Popular author and megachurch pastor John Ortberg has tendered his resignation after a safeguarding issue arose involving his teenage son.

Ortberg was placed on leave by the elders of Menlo Church in California in November last year after it became clear that he had allowed his youngest son, Johnny, to continue to work with minors despite him admitting an attraction to children. 

The situation became more complex after Ortberg's other son, Daniel — who was born Mallory Ortberg but has since undergone a gender transition — blew the whistle on the alleged lack of action taken by the church to prevent his brother from having contact with children. The church leadership was reportedly not aware of the situation involving Johnny until Daniel raised the matter with them directly. 

In a resignation letter dated 29th July, Ortberg — who wrote the best-selling book 'Soul Keeping' — said it had been a "wrenchingly difficult" season for his church and expressed "regret for not having served our church with better judgement". 

Ortberg continued: "Extensive conversations I had with my youngest son gave no evidence of risk of harm, and feedback from others about his impact was consistently positive. However, for my part, I did not balance my responsibilities as a father with my responsibilities as a leader. I am hopeful that my leaving can mark a new beginning in our church’s ministry, and will also appreciate your prayers for our family." 

"Although I am sad to have my time at Menlo end in this way, you should know that sadness is not the only or even main emotion in my heart. Far more than that, I will carry the memories of seventeen years of ministry and worship and learning and prayer and tears and laughter and spiritual growth that I will cherish as long as I live. I will be praying God’s healing and unity for our congregation this coming season. I will be praying that God, who placed a cross at the heart of human history, will redeem the pain of this story in all our lives as well.

"For 147 years, from moments of barely surviving to seasons of astounding fruitfulness, Menlo Church has been a steward of the person and message and love of Jesus. That is what matters. I will live in the hope that, through our friend Jesus, the best is yet to come." 

In a statement on the resignation, Menlo church's elders said that Ortberg's "poor judgment has resulted in pain and broken trust among many parents, youth, volunteers and staff" and said that the pastor "needs to focus on healing and reconciliation within his own family" over the next season. 

The elders also announced they would be conducting "a supplemental investigation of Johnny Ortberg’s involvement in Menlo Church and Church-sponsored activities" alongside an "external, independent audit" of the church's existing child safety policies and procedures.

Ortberg's final Sunday at the church will be 2nd August. 

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