February 1, 2020

Menlo Church correspondence with individuals (Feb-Mar)

If you would like to include your correspondence here, send it to me and let me know what you would like redacted and how you would like to be identified (or unidentified).

Menlo Church & Congregant Ruth Hutchins

Ruth, Feb 1

Dear Beth,

My husband [REDACTED] and I are members at the Mountain View campus and after reading the email from the Elders a couple week and hearing John’s statement last weekend, we still have many questions. Is there a good time we could meet, either in person or over a phone call? I know you must have a lot of demands on your time right now. Would it help for me to send you questions ahead of time?

Thank you, Ruth and [REDACTED] Hutchins

Elder Board, Feb 1

Hi Ruth,

The email went to 17,000 people, so I hope you can understand that I am not conducting individual meetings right now.

One observation I have is that almost all the answers are in the original email and people have missed the content. If you send your questions, I’ll do my best to give you a timely answer.

Warm regards,

Beth

Ruth, Feb 1

Hi Beth, no worries, I completely understand. I offered in case it would be your preference. My most pressing questions are these:

  1. The email said an independent investigation was engaged around the time of John going on leave in November 2019.
    a. Who was the independent investigator retained?
    b. Was this entity retained by Menlo, ECO, or someone else?
    c. What was the scope of the investigation?
    d. When did this investigation begin?
    e. When did the investigation complete, if it is complete? How many hours were spent?
    f. Will the investigation results be available for review?

  2. The email mentions interviews with Menlo supervising staff but not interviews with volunteers or parents.
    a. Were any parents interviewed by the investigator?
    b. Were all parents whose children were in the affected age groups informed of the potential risk (without naming names)?
    c. Were they given information on signs to observe in their children and/or information on how to speak to children about this issue?

  3. The email said Menlo was approached by a third party and John was subsequently put on leave on Nov 22.
    a. When did the third party contact Menlo?
    b. Is it true that this person first told John he should disclose what he knew to the church and John refused?
    c. If so, what was John’s reasoning?
    d. Did the person who came to John have a preexisting relationship with John and share this information as a peer? Or was John acting in a clergy/counselor role?
    e. Did John not advise this person to stop serving with children?

My main concern is this: if John could make a mistake in judgement like this, who else would make the same mistake? One thing that would greatly put my mind at ease would be if Menlo got a GRACE Child Safeguarding Certification and worked with a GRACE consultant on next steps: https://www.netgrace.org/safeguarding-certification [ed: now https://www.netgrace.org/safeguarding-initiative]

GRACE is the best in this area and if we are following recommendations from a GRACE consultation, I will feel confident we’re doing as much as we can.

Thank you, Ruth and [REDACTED] Hutchins

Board, Feb 2

Hi Ruth,

I will attempt to answer many of your questions.

The investigator was a private, third party investigator, retained by Menlo Church. I must say I was highly impressed with his expertise and professionalism. He was thorough and didn’t hold back from asking tough and thorough questions. He interviewed multiple parties to find inconsistencies, biases, justifications, anything not revealed to the Board. We are pleased that the investigation found no misconduct or allegations of misconduct.

The Board started immediately and we were able to commence the investigation about 10 days after we heard from the third party that there was a volunteer with unwanted thoughts of sexual attraction to minors. The investigation results are not available for review because this would risk the privacy of the person who came for counseling. Parents and volunteers were not interviewed. All parents who have children registered in our programs (I believe that is a requirement before parents can leave them during any service) were notified by the previous email you received. This was sent on the day following the email to the broader congregation. Parents were invited to reach out to Sue Kim-Ahn or staff in Kids or Students for more information.

The third party notified Menlo Church Thursday evening, November 21 and John was put on leave Friday morning, November 22 until the completion of the investigation. John referred the volunteer to have outside counseling but did not ask the volunteer to stop serving with Kids/Students.

Ruth, you are the second or third person to recommend the GRACE certification. I will review this with our ministry leaders and see if we can get that in place.

Thank you for reaching out with questions, sharing your concerns, and sharing the suggestion of GRACE.

Warm regards,

Beth

Ruth, Feb 2

Hi Beth,

Thanks for your prompt response! I appreciate that the elder board acted so swiftly. Can you share who the investigator was? What training or expertise does he have in the psychology of pedophilia and child sexual abuse? How long had the person been serving in Menlo Kids before speaking to John in July 2018?

Ruth

Board, Feb 2

Ruth,

We are not sharing the name of the investigator. But I can tell you the investigator is nationally respected.

We have full records of the time the volunteer served at Menlo Church. We are protecting any additional information to protect the privacy of the volunteer who came for counseling.

Again, we are pleased that there were no findings of misconduct or allegations of misconduct.

Beth

Ruth, Feb 3

Dear Beth,

I understand your perspective, but unfortunately saying “there were no findings of misconduct” means very little without knowing who the investigator was and how they investigated. What is your reasoning for hiding the investigator?

If you still think you can’t share the investigator, then can you at least answer some questions about why I should trust the results of this investigation? You already said that parents and volunteers were not interviewed. You already said that parents of children in this person’s classroom(s) were not notified separately that their children in particular had been at risk.

  1. What is the investigator’s experience with cases of pedophilia/CSA?

  2. Did the investigator interview the third party who reported to you?

  3. Did the investigator interview supervisors/peers of this person at other organizations where this person has worked with children?

If your private investigator does not specialize in pedophilia/CSA, please get a consultant who does – I recommend Jimmy Hinton: https://jimmyhinton.org/speaking/.

I really hope we can get this right as a church.

Ruth

Board, Feb 4

Hi Ruth,

I cannot answer any more of your questions on this topic and would like you to direct them to hholiday@menlo.church.

For all the resources you are sending to create a stronger, healthier Menlo Church, I am most grateful.

Warm regards,

Beth

Ruth, Feb 4

Hi Heather,

I have a few questions about the recent news that I hope you can help me with. I know the recent emails from the church said that an investigation found no misconduct, however, after Willow Creek, I feel it’s my duty to verify. As a preface, I don’t want to know anything about the identity of this volunteer - my concern is child safety.

1- What group conducted the investigation? (So I can verify that they are independent and qualified to handle the complex psychology of pedophilia/child sexual abuse)

2- What was the scope of the investigation? (Was the third party who reported to Menlo interviewed? Was the volunteer’s non-Menlo work with children evaluated? Did the investigation solicit feedback from parents/volunteers who had been in the room(s) affected over the years? Basically: given our attendance records & other info about children this volunteer worked with, what steps were taken to verify that none of the children on this list were affected?)

A redacted copy of the investigation summary report would probably answer all my questions.

Thanks in advance,
Ruth

Heather Holliday, Feb 4

Hi Ruth,

A third-party investigator had full, independent license to pursue misconduct information related to our shared concerns and conducted as thorough a process as deemed necessary. 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. As the investigation was led by a third-party, and due to the subject matter of the investigation, further details are confidential at this point.

Thanks,
Heather

Ruth, Feb 4

Heather, identifying the investigator is the bare minimum for the process to be credible. There are no good reasons to hide this - only bad ones. Menlo has been my church home for over ten years and I’m praying that this is only a communications hiccup and not something deeper.

Ruth

Ruth, Feb 15

Dear Session,

I’ve spoken this week to my campus pastor (cc’d), but unfortunately he didn’t have much concrete information. John said that the purpose of this restoration period is so that we can ask every question needed to rebuild trust. Therefore, I’m writing to you again.

Daniel Lavery has made serious allegations about John, first privately to you on Nov 21, and as of Feb 2, publicly. These allegations go well past what was in the Jan 21 email and include:

A. That the volunteer was working with children specifically because of his or her attraction to children

B. That the volunteer’s work with children (at another organization) involved overnight travel

C. That John was aware of both A and B

D. That John and the volunteer spoke “often and candidly”

E. That when asked on Nov 15, 2019, John did not know whether or not the volunteer had stopped overnight travel with children

F. That the volunteer did not go for therapy and John knew this

G. That John told Daniel that pedophilia is like homosexuality

H. That John told Daniel the volunteer’s situation needed to be kept secret, including from the church

I. That John (through intermediaries) told Daniel the volunteer might commit suicide if Daniel told the church

J. That John was asked to disclose this situation to the church and he would not

I’d like to know why these allegations weren’t mentioned in the Jan 21 email to the church? Do you contest any of these allegations? Which one(s) and on what grounds? I asked you about this last allegation in my original set of questions and you wouldn’t answer it then. Will you answer it now? Why didn’t John disclose the situation to the church himself?

Thank you,
Ruth Hutchins

Board, Feb 15

Hi Ruth,

To answer your question, “Why didn’t John disclose the situation to the church himself?”

John exercised poor judgment in not disclosing the situation to Menlo Church and when the elders learned of this, they immediately put John on leave, asked the volunteer to stop serving at any Menlo events, and started an investigation.

I believe that actually answers the majority of your questions.

Warm regards,

Beth

Ruth, Feb 15

I’m sorry, could you please be clear? Are Danny Lavery’s allegations A-I true?

Board, Feb 15

Ruth,

Please reach out to Heather Holiday at hholiday@menlo.church with your additional questions.

Beth

Ruth, Feb 16

I’m hurt and disappointed by how Menlo is handling this. This kind of stonewalling is not right.

Ruth, Feb 15

Dear Heather,

Daniel Lavery has made serious allegations about John, first privately to the church on Nov 21, and as of Feb 2, publicly. These allegations include:

A. That the volunteer was working with children specifically because of his or her attraction to children

B. That the volunteer’s work with children (at another organization) involved overnight travel

C. That John was aware of both A and B

D. That John and the volunteer spoke “often and candidly”

E. That when asked on Nov 15, 2019, John did not know whether or not the volunteer had stopped overnight travel with children

F. That the volunteer did not go for therapy and John knew this

G. That John told Daniel that pedophilia is like homosexuality

H. That John told Daniel the volunteer’s situation needed to be kept secret, including from the church

I. That John (through intermediaries) told Daniel the volunteer might commit suicide if Daniel told the church

J. That John was asked to disclose this situation to the church and he would not

Are these allegations A-J true?

Thank you,
Ruth Hutchins

Ruth, Feb 19

Hi Heather, still waiting for your response. Thanks,
Ruth

Heather Holliday, Feb 20

Hi Ruth,

Thanks for your message and concern with this issue. At this point, Menlo Church has shared all information it can related to this matter. Any updates will be shared with the entire congregation.

Thanks,

Heather

Ruth, Feb 20

Thank you. When will the next congregational update be?
Ruth

Ruth, Feb 28 (via Town Hall Question Form)

How can you put Menlo Church in this position? This is not good stewardship. ******’s name will come out and then it will be obvious why John was protecting him and why you are protecting both of them. All that needs to happen next is for a victim to come forward and the church will be ruined, and rightly so. How can you take that risk in good conscience?

Board, Mar 2

Hi Ruth,

Thank you for sharing your sentiments again.

Warm regards,

Beth Seabolt

Ruth, Mar 3

(Follow up email after in-person meeting)

Hi Scott, thanks for meeting today. I wish I’d known you would be there; I would have come with questions prepared. As I said, I am not looking for the identity of the volunteer. My concerns are with John’s actions: first and foremost, his actions toward the volunteer, which I do not agree constituted good therapy, and second toward Danny Lavery. I am also concerned with how the church’s actions and messages are being perceived, regardless of good intentions. Of course, the minutes were heavily redacted, so there was not much information there. I would welcome a chance to speak to John and hear more specifically why the church does not believe Danny Lavery.

Ruth, Mar 4

Subject: Please answer the question yes or no

Did John know the volunteer was trying to treat his pedophilia by volunteering with teenagers?
Did John encourage this volunteering?

Board, Mar 4

Ruth,

Thank you for taking the time to come by the church office yesterday. It was good to meet [REDACTED]- he is such a precious gift with a great smile. As we discussed, as elders we, like you, take very seriously our obligations to the safety and security of all the members of our congregation and seekers, especially families with children and those whose lives have been touched by abuse or misconduct. We’re also pleased that you agree to protect the identity of the volunteer. That seems like a lot to agree on.

As it relates to your continued queries around John and his handling of the volunteer or his relationship with Danny - those are not topics on which we or John have anything further to share. As for the court of public opinion, we are confident that we’ve been as transparent as is wise informed by counsel, and accept that some will inevitably try to twist, criticize, and/or misconstrue whatever we say based on their own agenda or perspectives.

We are grateful for the volunteer work and contributions that your family has brought to Menlo in Mountain View and are hopeful that the answers we have been able to share respectfully and lovingly will be sufficient for you to process these events and move on, even if we end up agreeing to disagree on a few points.

Best,

Scott Arnold, elder

Board, Mar 4

Subject: Fw: Please answer the question yes or no

No and no.

The elected elder board worked tirelessly to balance John’s time of repentance, restoration, and return. While we are aware that the time frame or decision making will not be pleasing to everyone, the bulk of our feedback is delight and relief that John is returning to the pulpit.

The Elder Board