Remember that whole controversy last year involving Pastor John Ortberg? The leader of Menlo Church in California resigned in July after it became public knowledge that he allowed a volunteer who admitted an “attraction to minors” to work with children.
Ortberg failed to take action in part because the warnings came from his estranged transgender son… and because the volunteer was his other son. While there were thankfully no reported incidents with the volunteer, it was truly disturbing that he was allowed to travel with children during overnight trips, including unsupervised ones. It was a clear reminder that this church’s oversight ability was a problem.
Now there’s another incident involving the same megachurch.
We are writing to inform you that Michael Bryce Jr, the Mountain View worship director, was terminated from employment at Menlo Church effective yesterday, March 19, for demonstrated poor judgement.
… Earlier this week, we were contacted by someone who claimed that, many years ago, Michael engaged in inappropriate behavior online. The allegation was from several years before Michael joined our staff. When our leaders learned about the allegation, Michael was immediately put on leave. Due to the claim, we contacted law enforcement, and they are undertaking an investigation.
We have now received clearance from law enforcement to communicate about this with you. We are also in the process of following up with volunteers who worked with Michael. We have no reason to believe that anyone was affected at Menlo Church, but if you have any concerns, please reach out to your campus pastor.
There’s no further information about what Bryce did, who he did it with, how old the victim was at the time, or why this was never reported (to our knowledge) before now.
All that said, the church appears to be handling this mostly as you’d hope they would. They put Bryce on leave at first then fired him after learning more, they contacted police ASAP, they informed the church members about the situation as soon as they were able to do so, and they’re requesting any pertinent information from other members who have interacted with him. (The church also gave members contact information for a third party if that made them more comfortable.)
It’s hard to fault the church for not catching this sooner if there were no reports of wrongdoing that might have come up during any sort of background check. I would also caution anyone against blaming the victim for not saying anything until now even if the incidents occurred years ago; people process these things on their own timeline.
What the church has not done yet is tell us what Bryce did (even though they are obviously aware of it). It’s not just about airing allegations that haven’t been vetted by authorities; letting members know what the accusations are might trigger more recollections.
There’s also a big difference between demonstrating “poor judgment” — something that could easily be said about eating a week-old burrito that’s sitting in your fridge — and committing some kind of sexual offense that warrants police intervention. This wasn’t some ethical lapse that only Christians would care about. If secular authorities are involved, this guy did something potentially criminal.
At some point, members of the church also need to figure out how much more of this they are willing to put up with before they leave for good.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Jim for the link)