July 6, 2020

Elder Board statement (Jul 6)

DEAR MENLO CHURCH COMMUNITY,

Earlier this year, we notified our church members about a decision pastor John Ortberg, Jr. made allowing an individual to volunteer with Menlo Church youth. That situation resulted in the Board placing John on personal leave. Upon learning of this situation, the Board immediately stopped the individual from volunteering, and staff put safeguards in place to prevent any future volunteer involvement. The Board promptly informed our denomination (ECO) and retained an independent third-party investigator to understand fully John’s actions regarding the concerns raised, as well as to ensure the safety of our community, including our youth.

The Board gave the investigator and his team full discretion to investigate the matter thoroughly. The investigation included an interview with the individual who raised the concerns initially, interviews with church members and staff to whom this individual directly raised these concerns (and disclosed the identity of the volunteer in question), interviews with current and former supervising staff across Student’s and Kids’ ministries over the past decade, and a review of relevant emails, documents and volunteer records.

In addition, we informed the church of this investigation and its results last January, and solicited input in real time from the congregation on multiple occasions (including at our town hall meetings), encouraging anyone with knowledge or concerns of any kind of misconduct to come forward with that information. We received no complaints. Nevertheless, should any reports of any level of abuse or misconduct surface at a later date (regarding the volunteer in question or otherwise), we will take immediate action, including as appropriate with law enforcement and are fully aware of our obligations as mandatory reporters.

Recently, a name for the volunteer has been alleged publicly, but no new information has been presented. While the Board and independent third-party investigator have at all times been aware of the identity of the volunteer in question and have acted with that knowledge, Menlo Church has not disclosed the name of the volunteer. In conducting any investigation, and insofar as possible, we seek to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of both the complainant and the subject of any concerns raised to the church.

As we reported earlier, but wish to reiterate here, the investigation did not find any indication of misconduct by the volunteer in question in the Menlo Church community or otherwise, and similarly did not learn of any allegations that the volunteer had engaged in any misconduct of any sort. As we reported in more detail in earlier communications, the Board did determine that John exhibited poor judgment inconsistent with his responsibilities by unilaterally allowing the individual to volunteer with Menlo’s youth, and determined that John should have discussed this situation with the Board. John agrees with the Board’s conclusions on these points and communicated that to the congregation on more than one occasion. After John’s leave of absence starting in November 2019, he successfully completed a Restoration Plan structured and approved by the Board, and returned to the pulpit on March 7, 2020.

The Board is ultimately accountable to ensure that the right safeguards are in place and that the operational policies and actions of Menlo Church staff are consistently followed. All staff as well as volunteers for Kids’, Student’s and Missions’ areas are background screened and have been for many years. Leadership has extended the program to include background checks for all regular volunteer roles, as well. Additionally, all staff is required to go through workplace training and all mandated compliance training. Volunteers also receive “behavior and conduct” training during onboarding. This training is repeated at regular intervals.

The safety and integrity of our community are of paramount importance at Menlo Church, and we strive to hold all members of our community, especially Menlo Church staff, to the highest ethical standards.

In Christ,
Menlo Church’s Elder Board