Presbyterian pastor accused of covering up child sex abuse defrocked after investigation

Pastor Jared Olivetti
Pastor Jared Olivetti | RP Global Alliance

A former pastor in Indiana accused of mishandling allegations that an underaged family member sexually abused several children at his congregation has been defrocked following an investigation and trial by the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America. 

Jared Olivetti, who once pastored Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church of West Lafayette but resigned amid allegations of mishandling abuse in January, had his ordination officially revoked last week.

Olivetti, who resigned along with three church elders, has also been removed from the "privileges of Church membership," according to a report from The Indianapolis Star.

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As a result, Olivetti cannot serve as an elder or participate in the sacrament communion.

A notification sent to the Presbyteries of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America stated that Olivetti didn't attend the trial or the verdict reading as officials delivered the unanimous decision from the denomination's national governing body.

In December, The Indianapolis Star published a report alleging Olivetti had been protecting a teenage relative from an investigation into claims of sexually abusing up to 15 children on and off church property between 2019 and 2020. 

At least eight victims from multiple families belonged to the congregation. The eight victims reported being touched over and under their clothes, oral-genital contact and penetration committed by the boy in the church. A Tippecanoe County juvenile court order states that the boy was found to be delinquent on multiple felony charges of child molestation. He was sent to a residential juvenile detention facility. 

Revelations of Olivetti reportedly interfering with the church's response to the allegations led both the synod and regional body to investigate the claims of sexual abuse at Immanuel Church. A Synod judicial commission found the pastor guilty on charges of failing to conduct himself "in a way that was above reproach ... resulting in distrust and disunity within the church," according to The Indianapolis Star.

He was also found guilty of  "threatening dishonor in the name of Jesus Christ, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church, and himself."

Olivetti, along with Immanuel elders Keith Magill, Ben Larson and David Carr, resigned their leadership positions at the congregation in January in response to the allegations.

Olivetti was also suspended by the RPCNA's synod judicial commission, which noted in a public letter that the suspension did not technically indicate Olivetti's guilt, but rather "acknowledges the gravity of the accusations against Mr. Olivetti."

Ken de Jong, Immanuel's provisional moderator, told the congregation in January that the resignations came "very reluctantly," adding that they were done "specifically to encourage the growth and development of this congregation."

Earlier this month, the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery held a meeting to handle multiple business matters, among them the situation at Immanuel church amid the church trial.

"The current moderator of the Immanuel congregation also reported on the life and ministry of the church, purporting spiritual unity in the congregation as well as a season of growth despite pains," posted Pastor Nathan Eshelman on Facebook.

"The tensions were obvious between the congregation and some in the presbytery, but the presbytery did express love to Immanuel Church and their new ruling elders committed to working with the presbytery towards healing the divisions. We all look forward to these divisions being healed."

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