A newly released report offers more details about the October 2021 arrest of Virginia pastor John Blanchard. It elaborates on the sex-sting operation that nabbed the lead pastor of Rock Church International in Virginia Beach. The report is prompting backlash from an official who speculates that a deal was involved and that prosecutors abused their discretion.
As part of a sting last fall, Blanchard, then 51, was arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution from a minor age 16 or older and using a vehicle to promote prostitution or unlawful sex. The case, which was continued several times, didn’t reach trial before the felony charges were dropped last month.
Church Leaders has been reporting on the case, including news of a previous sexual assault accusation against Blanchard. In 2019, a former assistant pressed charges against the pastor, who was acquitted.
John Blanchard Denied Wrongdoing
The police incident report contains text messages between Pastor John Blanchard and an undercover detective, who posed as a 17-year-old girl. Police say the pastor used abbreviations that indicated he was seeking sex, and he asked for a location to meet. When Blanchard showed up at a local hotel room, he was arrested.
When interviewed by detectives, Blanchard claimed he just wanted to spend time with the individual and considered the text messages he received as “odd.” The pastor also said money would change hands for time, not for sex—and then only if the person was having a “financial crisis.”
According to the report, Blanchard said he didn’t know the website he had been visiting featured porn. He also denied seeing the message that noted the person’s age. During the interview, Blanchard repeatedly claimed he was innocent.
After charges against Blanchard were dropped last month, Rock Church co-founder Bishop Anne Gimenez released a statement praising his “exoneration…after nearly 11 months of delays and continuances.” She wrote: “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.”
According to his bio on the church website, Blanchard comes “from a background in atheism and a dysfunctional childhood” and has a “heart is to reach a generation with a message of hope through the healing and delivering power of Jesus Christ.” He and his wife, a fellow senior pastor at Rock Church, have two daughters.
Officials React to New Details
Delegate Tim Anderson, a politician representing the Virginia Beach area, pushed back on the church’s statement. He also questioned the prosecutor’s decision to drop charges.