Months after their lead pastor was asked to resign for allowing his son with an attraction to minors to work with children, Menlo Church in California has fired the worship director of their Mountain View campus for “inappropriate behavior online” years ago that involved a juvenile.
John Crosby, the church’s transitional pastor, along with David Kim, elder board chair, announced in a statement on Saturday that Michael Bryce Jr., the worship director, was terminated effective on March 19 “for demonstrated poor judgement.”
“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,” the Menlo officials said.
While the church did not share any specifics regarding the situation, The Mercury News cited a police log showing that the church was contacted by Menlo Park police on March 16 at about 7:10 p.m. and “a juvenile information report was taken for documentation.”
Executive Pastor of Ministries Sue Kim-Ahn told the publication that “there is an active law enforcement investigation in progress, and we cannot disclose further information at this time.”
Church officials further noted that they are following up with volunteers who worked with Bryce, who is a married father.
“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. Or, if you prefer to contact an outside party, Zero Abuse has generously offered to intake any requests,” officials said.
“We recognize that this news is heavy to receive. It may evoke difficult memories or emotions for many of us. This is a hard reminder that our churches, by the grace of God, are gatherings of ordinary, imperfect people. We are in this together, and our staff and pastors are here for you,” they added.
Last July, John Ortberg, Menlo Church’s then lead pastor, resigned over how he managed his son’s access to children in the church even after he learned of his son’s sexual attraction to minors.
Ortberg was first asked to go on personal leave from the church on Nov. 22, 2019, while an investigation of concerns raised by a third party about a then unidentified church volunteer was conducted. In early July 2020, Daniel Lavery, a trans-identified woman who is Ortberg’s estranged daughter, revealed in an extensive thread on Twitter that the volunteer is her brother, John Ortberg III.
In January 2020, without revealing Ortberg’s relationship to the volunteer, Menlo Church elders said their leader exhibited “poor judgement,” but no harm had come to any minor in the Menlo Church community based on the findings of an investigation.
Ortberg returned to the pulpit last March and apologized for his “shortcomings” in a letter to the church on July 6. Pressure from blindsided members of the church who felt betrayed about the details of Ortberg’s familial connection to the volunteer, however, forced an ongoing supplemental investigation.
The elder board later asked Ortberg to resign based on a “collective desire for healing and discernment.”
“Our decision stems from a collective desire for healing and discernment focused on three primary areas. First, John’s poor judgment has resulted in pain and broken trust among many parents, youth, volunteers and staff. Second, the extended time period required to complete the new investigation and rebuild trust will significantly delay our ability to pursue Menlo’s mission with the unity of spirit and purpose we believe God calls us to,” the elder board said.