July 17, 2020


Congregants of California’s Menlo Church are reeling after learning a youth ministry volunteer confessed to being attracted to minors. What makes the matter even more shocking is the volunteer is Senior Pastor John Ortberg’s son, who told his father about his pedophilia two years ago. Despite the confession, congregants were not officially alerted about the situation until January of this year.

According to HuffPost, John “Johnny” Ortberg III denies acting inappropriately towards children, and no one has brought any allegations against him claiming otherwise. Johnny, who is in his early 30s, told his father about his attraction to children in July 2018, assuring his father he had never acted on the attraction. Pastor Ortberg believed his son.

However, Pastor Ortberg never reported his son’s confession to Menlo Church’s governing body. Further, he failed to try and stop Johnny from volunteering with the children at Menlo Church and local student Ultimate Frisbee teams.

Menlo Church is centrally located in a Bay Area neighborhood and draws about 6,000 attendees weekly across their six campuses. Congregants of Menlo Church now question Pastor Ortberg’s integrity in the matter and question whether his lack of openness should have him removed from the church’s leadership.

“Fundamentally, we did not provide the transparency that our community deserves and as a result have eroded the trust some of you place in our leadership,” Menlo Church’s board wrote in a statement to the Menlo Church community. “We are writing you today to show how we’re moving forward as a community.”

Whistleblower Aftermath

The news of Johnny’s pedophilia came forward after a whistleblower, Pastor Ortberg’s estranged older son Daniel Lavery, leaked the secret to the media in June. Lavery claims his brother confessed to him in November 2019 that he had struggled with pedophilic attraction for years and sought to treat his condition by volunteering with children.

Johnny was removed from volunteer opportunities after Lavery’s report, and Pastor Ortberg was placed on personal leave, then a “restoration” program. He resumed preaching on March 7, 2020.

Menlo church’s board, comprised of nine elders elected by the church body, informed the church’s denomination, ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians about the allegations after Lavery’s report. While an investigation was conducted around Johnny Ortberg’s behavior around children, many found the investigation to be flawed. Johnny’s identity was concealed during the investigation, and investigators failed to conduct interviews with Ortberg himself, parents of children who had contact with Johnny, or his fellow volunteers.

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