A Virginia megachurch pastor has resigned his position after being charged with soliciting prostitution from a minor, The Christian Post reports.
John Blanchard, who headed Rock Church of Virginia Beach, was one of 17 people arrested in a sting operation that targeted suspects soliciting sex from minors online. In a statement, Rock Church said Blanchard had “voluntarily stepped back as lead pastor and from all his ministerial duties until this present situation is totally resolved.”
“During this season, Bishop Anne Gimenez will be stepping in as Lead Pastor and sharing the pulpit with Pastor Robin Blanchard,” said the church. “The outpouring of love has been overwhelming and we appreciate all of those who have reached out to be an encouragement to us! We would ask that the privacy of the Blanchard family be respected as they walk through this difficult journey together.”
Rock Church’s statement went on to say that it “condemns sexual immorality of any kind and in any form by its members and leaders,” and is “committed to honesty and integrity in dealing with charges or accusations of sexual misconduct or immorality among its leaders and will support any investigation arising from accusations of violation of this standard.”
“Under the guidance of our legal counsel, We cannot make a statement or comment concerning the accusations against Rev. John Blanchard at this time,” the statement continued.
According to police, the suspects in the sting “communicated with people they believed to be underage members of our community and arranged to meet them at a location to have sexual relations. When the suspects came to the location, they were met by police and arrested.”
Blanchard has been charged with felony solicitation of prostitution and the use of a vehicle to promote prostitution.