February 2, 2020

Daniel Lavery statement (Feb 2)

Originally posted as screenshots on Twitter, Feb 2, 2020:

On November 15, 2019 a member of the congregation at Menlo Church disclosed to me that for most of their life, they had experienced obsessive sexual feelings about young children. This person further disclosed that they had sought out unsupervised volunteer positions with children as a method of treating this obsession, including volunteer work at Menlo Church as well as volunteer work that involves overnight travel with minors. Lastly, this person disclosed that although they had never spoken to a therapist about this plan, they had shared it with John and Nancy Ortberg in July 2018. John Ortberg has continually encouraged this person in their pursuit of unsupervised work with children.

That same day, my wife Grace and I confirmed all the above with John Ortberg. We expressed the gravest reservations about this scheme, but were told (1) that pedophilia was like homosexuality; (2) that the most important thing was maintaining secrecy around this affair; (3) that we lacked standing to offer an alternative form of treatment for sexual obsessions with children because of our transitions. John could not offer credible reassurance when I asked whether this person had stopped traveling overnight with children, even though John claimed the two of them had spoken often and candidly. “I’m not sure,” he said.

On November 18th, I wrote to the person in question with the names of therapists specializing in work with pedophiles who want to avoid harming children. I encouraged them to seek treatment, and to resign all volunteer positions working with children, which they did. My wife and I also wrote to my father, encouraging him to disclose every aspect of this affair to the elders at Menlo Church. He did not. On November 21st we made full report of the above to multiple employees and elders at Menlo Church. The following day John Ortberg went on unspecified “personal leave” from his pastoral duties.

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

Menlo Church has recently issued a statement regarding John Ortberg’s “personal leave” from pastoral duties since November 22, 2019. They report that he “exhibited poor judgment that was inconsistent with his responsibilities,” but that “the investigation did not reveal any allegations of misconduct.” John Ortberg has offered a non-specific apology despite Menlo Church’s assertion that no one has done anything wrong. Parishioners and journalists have reached out to me, asking me to explain this apparent contradiction. I cannot.

As a non-churchgoer, I have no position on what an appropriate ecclesiastical response might be, and I’m not aware of the full scope of the investigation. This has been personally devastating, and broken the trust that once existed between myself and the Ortberg family. I have no further public statements to make at this time.

Danny Lavery