A Virginia megachurch pastor who is facing a felony charge of soliciting prostitution from a minor has agreed to step down from his leadership position at his congregation.
John Blanchard, the lead pastor of the Rock Church of Virginia Beach, was one of 17 individuals arrested in an October sting operation aimed at capturing people seeking sexual relations with minors online.
In a statement posted to its website in response to the arrest, the Rock Church explained that 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 also stated 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,” continued the church.
“We are all committed to walking in integrity and truth at Rock Church International and will continue to take steps to do so.”
On Monday, the Chesterfield County Police announced the completion of a two-day sting operation in which they arrested 17 people who attempted to solicit sex from minors online.
“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,” explained the authorities.
Blanchard was among those arrested by authorities in their sting. He was charged with felony solicitation of prostitution and the use of a vehicle to promote prostitution.
According to the Rock Church website, Blanchard had served as senior pastor alongside his wife, Robin, since October 2013, having been installed by Rock co-founder Anne Gimenez.
In December 2019, Blanchard was one of 200 evangelical leaders to sign a letter to Christianity Today denouncing an editorial calling for then-President Donald Trump to be removed from office.