Several days ago, news broke that John Blanchard, lead pastor of the 4000-member Rock Church International in Virginia Beach, VA, was busted by police for trying to hook up with an underage prostitute, joining 16 other men arrested who were caught up on the sting by law enforcement. Blanchard was quickly released on bail and appeared at the church service last Sunday, blowing a shofar from the stage and offering a prayer, without addressing it.
A statement on the church website reads
“Under the guidance of our legal counsel, We cannot make a statement or comment concerning the accusations against Rev. John Blanchard at this time. We are all committed to walking in integrity and truth at Rock Church International and will continue to take steps to do so. Pastor Blanchard has 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.”
Though at the time of the arrest it wasn’t widely reported, barely getting more a mention in a couple of local papers, this is not the first time that Blanchard was accused of being involved in some grossly abusive sexual shenanigans. We talked about this in 2019.
In June of 2018, when we were named Pulpit & Pen, we were contacted via email by a woman from Virginia named Jenna Sellers. Jenna was responding to the article Clayton Jennings: Capturing Weak Women – The Saga Continues, which reported that a young woman had come forward . She was the first of many who would later contact Pulpit & Pen with testimony about being seduced by Jennings, a traveling evangelist and internet celebrity. That particular article made reference to an influential friend named “John” that Jennings claimed to have. Jenna wondered if “John” might be John Blanchard, the “co-pastor” of Rock Church International where Clayton Jennings had recently preached.
Jenna is a former member and employee of Rock Church. The subject of Jenna’s email to Pulpit & Pen was “Sex abuse by Clayton Jennings’ spiritual father.” Jenna was not claiming to be yet another victim of Clayton Jennings’ seductions, but a victim of sexual and spiritual abuse by her own pastor, John Blanchard.
You can read that report here, but the gist of it is that Blanchard committed clergy sexual abuse with her, and after a time, once Sellers realized that what was happening was not ok, she reported him for sexual battery, which is a misdemeanor in Virginia.
Blanchard appeared before a Virginia judge in 2019 to answer to charges that he sexually battered her. Members of Rock Church showed up, in the church bus, to support Blanchard. The charges were dismissed by the judge, as sexual battery is a charge that is difficult to prove, especially where a consensual relationship develops after the incident. Sellers shares:
“He ended up being found not guilty, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It did happen to me. Church leadership knew and decided not to remove him from his position…(Afterwards, members of the church)…were forbidden from speaking with me. I lost an entire support system. Every single one of my friends that I spent the last eight years with… I had to walk away from.”
It is unsurprising that this incident was swept under the rug and had no consequences for Blanchard, as Pentecostal churches, on account of their wayward theology, have developed a “touch not God’s anointed culture” around preachers who are believed to be God’s chosen instruments of prophecy. Blanchard kept his position and the whole incident was chalked up to a case of some vindictive liar trying to stop the Lord’s work by falsely accusing him of disqualifying sin.
Now, however, with this new incident, Rock Church has been forced against its will to deal with it. Despite Blanchard “stepping back” as lead pastor, given that he was previously allowed to keep his job and faced no consequences for his previous sexual sins, we would not be surprised if he is restored to ministry in just a few short months time.
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