A Virginia pastor was arrested during a sting operation to capture individuals seeking sexual relations with minors online and is facing a felony charge of soliciting prostitution.
John Blanchard, a 51-year-old pastor at the Rock Church of Virginia Beach, was one of 17 individuals arrested in the operation, according to an announcement from Chesterfield County Police on Monday.
“During the two-day operation, detectives intercepted suspects who believed they were soliciting sex from minors through online and social media platforms,” explained authorities.
“The suspects 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, according to Chesterfield Police.
Jim Booker, Blanchard’s neighbor, told the Norfolk-based WTKR News 3 that he was surprised by the news of the pastor’s arrest.
“This is a shock to me because I know him fairly well. He’s never given me any indication over the years that I’ve known him that he would be mixed up in anything like this,” said Booker to WTKR.
“I know evil is always present and always trying to take down those who claim Jesus Christ. I’m going to pray for him and be there for him. If he needs someone to talk to, I’m going to be there to talk to him.”
According to the Rock Church’s website, Blanchard has served as senior pastor of the congregation alongside his wife, Robin, since October 2013.
“Coming from a background in atheism and a dysfunctional childhood, John’s heart is to reach a generation with a message of hope through the healing and delivering power of Jesus Christ,” noted the church.
“This message has taken his ministry to dozens of countries all over the world and the USA and to procure a Masters of Divinity Degree from Oral Roberts University.”