John Ortberg is a popular Christian author and has spent the last 17 years as the pastor of Menlo Park, a megachurch in the San Fransisco Bay Area. Before that, Ortberg had served as the teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. But today, Ortberg announced his resignation, effective August 2.
The impetus of Ortber’s resignation is a complicated story that has unfolded over the last several months. In November, it came to light that a youth volunteer at Meno Park had confessed to Ortberg an “unwanted thought pattern of attraction to minors.” To my knowledge, there’s no evidence of any illegal activity ever occurring on the part of the youth leader, but Ortberg (1) failed to remove this leader from a position where he was working with students and (2) kept this secret from the elders of his church.
Both of these were abysmal failures of leadership and judgment on Ortberg’s fault. At the time, I was of the opinion that it was hard to justify him remaining as the pastor. Those were very serious failures. Ortberg had learned of the volunteer’s attraction in 2018.
After a few weeks of being on leave, the church’s leadership cleared Ortberg and he returned to the pulpit.
The reason why this had become known in was not because of a sudden desire on Ortberg’s part to be transparent. Rather, it came to light in February that Ortberg’s daughter (who identifies as a man) informed the church’s leadership.
As the story continued to unfold over the past few months, it was revealed earlier this month that the youth volunteer was another one of Ortberg’s children. This might have explained why it wasn’t disclosed. If it had been dealt with properly in the beginning, there were a lot of constructive things which could have been done. Instead, it’s brought down a very gifted pastor, it put students at risk, he failed to look out for his son’s best interest by allowing him to remain in a vulnerable position. He tried to keep it secret, but now the whole situation is known by far more people outside of his church.
It’s a terrible situation all the way around.
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