John Blanchard, the Virginia pastor who was arrested in a sex sting operation only to have his charges later dropped, is once more stepping away from his duties as lead pastor of Rock Church International in Virginia Beach. In a statement posted Wednesday, the church asked believers “not to condemn.”
“Under the guidance of our legal counsel, We cannot make a statement or comment concerning the accusations against Rev. John Blanchard at this time,” says the statement on Rock Church’s website. “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.”
John Blanchard Steps Away Again
John Blanchard, along with his wife, Robin, is still listed as a senior pastor at Rock Church on the church’s website as of this writing. Blanchard was one of 17 men arrested on Oct. 29, 2021, for solicitation of prostitution from a minor.
After agreeing to meet with a detective posing as a 17-year-old girl, the pastor was arrested and then released on bond. Two days later, he appeared onstage at his church, where he led prayer. At the time, the church posted a statement that contained similar wording as that in this week’s statement, including, “Pastor Blanchard has voluntarily stepped back as lead pastor and from all his ministerial duties until this present situation is totally resolved.”
It came to light in November 2021 that a former assistant had previously accused Blanchard of sexual assault, an incident that allegedly occurred in 2018. Even though the pastor was acquitted after the assistant pressed charges, she says, “It did happen to me. It was inappropriate. Church leadership knew and decided not to remove him from his position.”
Yet on Oct. 11, all charges against John Blanchard were dropped following a request from prosecutors. In a statement posted that day to Rock Church’s Facebook page, Bishop Anne Gimenez, who had taken over Blanchard’s pastoral duties, said:
We have always believed in John’s innocence. His humility and submission to those over him during this time has been a testimony to his character. He has spent the time in fasting and prayer and has invested much of his time in his family and education. We anticipate his resumption of church duties in the near future.
State delegate and attorney Tim Anderson, however, has been drawing attention to Blanchard’s case after obtaining and reviewing the incident report. Anderson said, “In my legal opinion, from what I have seen, there’s no excuse not to prosecute this case. If [Blanchard is] found not guilty or if he’s acquitted, that’s one thing. But to use prosecutorial discretion and say nothing happened here, that’s, in my opinion, an abuse of discretion, especially when they went after 15 other people [following the sting operation].”